Using grow lights

Using grow lights for more

The Chilli growing season in the United Kingdom is very short. Unless you grow fast growing varieties or Chillies that are cold weather tolerant, it is virtually impossible to take Chillies from seed to maturity in summer alone. It is essential to start seeds indoors well before then.  Many growers start as early as January, and others (me included) start even earlier.

While Chilli seeds can be started in the dark, once they have germinated, they need a source of light.  Unless this is done, the seedlings will become leggy. While this source of light might be a sunny windowsill. I find that grow lights work the best for me.  They not only allow me to start my seeds early, but also are a far more reliable way of doing things.

Besides providing a light source for seedlings, I have now found a new use for grow-lights. In a previous post, I mentioned I am experimenting with grow lights to determine if they speed up ripening. I have lots of Chillies on my plants right now, but I am concerned they may not mature before the end of the season. The experiment is currently in progress. However, it is too early to conclude whether this will help. We will need to wait a bit longer for that.

One thing about doing this experiment has got me thinking more about how to use grow lights in general. There is no reason why grow lights can’t be used, not only to start the season earlier than I might have, but also to prolong it. In this way, I can increase the harvest that I can achieve. It certainly seems like an opportunity not to be missed.

Starting and ripening Chillies

Some background

I previously only used grow lights for a couple weeks after my seedlings germinated.  Previously, they would only have been under the grow lights until their first potting on. I would then move onto a sun facing windowsill until it was time for them to be hardened off. This, however, is about to change. The race against time to get my Chillies ripened got me thinking in a different direction

This year, I started the season too late. I started a month later than usual. Starting late has made me concerned that my Chillies might not ripen before the end of the season. Not only has this made me decide to place the lights under grow lights to see if I can ripen them more quickly, but it also changed my mind when I will begin starting seeds.

I usually only contemplate this at the end of January. Still, even then, sometimes it can be touch and go whether the Chillies will ripen in time.

From now on, I will begin seeds far earlier. It will be months rather than weeks earlier to avoid the problems I have had with ripening

The only way to start seeds this early will be with grow lights, tubular heaters, and heating mats. The seedlings will also be housed in grow tents. It will be essential to do this if I want to keep them at the optimum temperature they need for vigorous growth. This temperature is twenty to twenty five degrees Celsius range.  Besides doing this, I will use a timer to ensure they are only under the lights for eighteen hours a day. Seedlings need darkness for at least eight hours a day to grow

How will I use grow lights now?

At the beginning & the end

For next season, I have decided to start seeds for the superhot varieties immediately. This is a full five months earlier than I started last season. The superhot types have a seed to maturity period of over 120 days from potting on. That is in the region of four and a half months! In the case of Carolina reapers, it can be far longer.  One also has to consider that plants grow slower in winter. This too will add to the time it will take to get the plants to maturity.

I will start the rest of my seeds in November or December. In this way, come the start of the season, I will already have plants that will have passed the seedling stage.

The only way to do this will be to raise these plants entirely under heated, grow lights until about April next year. I will then move them onto a sun facing windowsill in our conservatory or lounge

I hope that by doing this, we will get a far longer season and a bigger harvest, because the plants will reach maturity sooner. The sooner they start producing, the sooner I can start harvesting. The more I harvest, the more they will produce. Add this to the extended season that using the grow lights to ripen the crop will bring; we could be talking about a substantially increased yield. That will certainly mean I can make more hot sauces, flakes, jams and chutneys and other great food with Chillies 

This all goes to show that in facing one difficulty, new opportunities always present themselves. When you grow Chillies, curved balls are thrown at you all the time. It’s part of the fun working out how to solve the problems.  There is never a dull moment in this game!

Final note

Exciting stuff! Interesting times lie ahead. All this means I will learn all I can about grow lights. I will cover what I have learned in an upcoming post.

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