On Saturday I started some Chilli seeds. They are currently in heated propagators in a grow tent where the temperature is controlled to be between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius. I expect the seeds to germinate in the next week or so
These seed have been started at least a month before I would normally start my season. This is something I have tried previously, but have never been able to achieve the results I wanted. My seedlings germinated easily enough, but after that they didn’t grow well at all.
This year I have decided that I will harness every bit of knowledge I have about growing Chillies to find a better way of doing things. I want to control every part of the propagation and growing stages to the Nth degree and find out whether this has the desired effect.
When it comes to plant growth there are two things above the ground that need to be considered. The first is the temperature and secondly is the amount of light. Light is the energy that powers a plants growth through photosynthesis. Without it, plants would be able to grow
Now, my theory is that seeds don’t know what season it is when they germinate. If the conditions are right (i.e. moisture, heat etc) a seed will germinate. From there, the amount of light a plant receives will determine how well it will grow. Temperatures also need to be conducive to growth
Getting the conditions right
My idea is to emulate exactly what happens in nature using artificial means like grow lights, heaters, propagators, heat mats and a variety of growth lights
If the plants are kept warm in a heated environment like a grow tent and are placed under grow lights that are programmed to go on and off at regular times, I can see no reason why the plants will know that they are not in the growing season that they normally respond to. If the conditions are the same there is no reason that they shouldn’t.
After the seeds I have started have germinated I will remove the top from the heated propagators and switch on my grow lights. Unless I do this the seedlings will become leggy when they start searching for a light source . I will also switch on a fan in my grow tent to assist with air flow. This is to assist in preventing damping off, which has presented a problem in the past.
To get the seedlings to the size that they will be potted on for the first time I will use T5 fluorescent lighting. The disadvantage of using these lights is that they have a lower light intensity than their LED counterparts. They are great for starting seedlings, overwintering Chillies, and growing some low-light-tolerant Chillies like Thai Birds- Eyes , but you will get better yields under LED grow lights. LEDs are also cheaper to run
So, after the plants reach about one inch, I will move the plants into another grow tent with LED lights where I can control the emission spectrum. It set the lights for strong vegetative growth using the VEG setting I have on my Phlizon PHD9 LED lights. These are 900w, full spectrum lights. These are new lights I am trying out so am not sure how effective they will be.
I will set my grow lights photoperiod to the same length of day that we would experience in June (when plants normally get taken outside permanently after hardening off). I will also switch on a fan in this grow tent to avoidn assist oo prevent with air flow. This is to assist in preventing damping off.
Taking into account that the Vernal or Spring Equinox starts on the 20th or 21st of March I will set the lights once the seeds have germinated to go on at about 07h00 and switch off at 20h00 (this will represent a 13 hour day . In January I will set the lights to go on 05h30 and go off at 20h00. In February the lights will go on at 05h00 but now they will go off at 2Ih00. From there the starting time will remain the same but the length that the lights will be increased by an hour a month until they get sixteen hours of light a day.
Considering that many Chillies use the length of the day to judge when to flower or set seed. Different varieties of plants will react to day length in different ways. For this experiment I will only use Superhots as they have a long seed to maturity growing period. The Chillies I am planting are Carolina Reapers, Carbon Bhut x 7 Pod Cross Chillies, 7 Pot Yellow Bubble-gum’s and Trinidad Scorpion Butch Ts It will be interesting to see what effect early starting will have on these varieties
I will be taking these plants permanently outdoors n June (after they have been hardened off). However, if I was to keeping growing them indoors, I would need to consider that different types of Chilli plants need different levels of light to produce fruit. For instance, if I was growing Jalapenos or Habaneros under fluorescent lights, I may see healthy leaf and stem growth but few flowers and Chillies. However, under the same lights, a Thai Birds-eye Chillies (which fruit under less intense light) could produce dozens of pods.