Growing hydroponic Chilli, Planting, Care, Harvesting
Today, we go through growing hydroponic chilli or how to grow hydroponic hot peppers. This includes hydroponic pepper varieties, hydroponic chilli planting, Hydroponic chilli care and benefits of hydroponic chilli gardening. Since countless centuries, home gardeners have been cultivating Chillies due to their pungent aroma and the hot and spicy flavor they put in any dish. There are a number of varieties of Chillies known by various names in the different region all over the world for their characteristic spicy flavor. The earlier climatic and growing season was a constraint for producing a large number of Chillies but thanks to new gardening techniques Chilli plants can be effectively grown all year round in indoor and as well as the outdoor growing environment.
It is, in fact, a widespread delusion that all plants need soil for growing. The soil, in reality, acts only as a reservoir of nutrients from where roots of growing plants withdraw the essential nutrients. Watering the plant dissolves all the nutrients present in soil so that the plant can absorb them effectively. This misconception guided researchers to displace the requirement of soil by water and they named the technique HYDROPONICS which has been originated from Greek words hydro= water, ponos= work which simply means water working
In growing hydroponic chilli method, the soil is not used and the roots of the plants are just suspended in liquid nutrient solutions or mixtures containing growing media like gravel and rockwool.
Benefits of Growing Chillies with Hydroponics
By adapting the hydroponics technique, you facilitate growing plants to accomplish a higher growth rate and yield more fruits as compared to conventional methods of cultivation.
Hydroponics is also the ideal soil-less plant cultivation technique when growing your pepper plants outdoors is not the favored option. With hydroponics, you can enjoy growing Chilli plant even in four walls of your home.
Other advantages of hydroponics comprise of:
- A great number of plants can be grown in a smaller space as compared to conventional methods.
- It makes the best use of water and supplied nutrients and thus is a more efficient way than traditional methods.
- There is no trouble in dealing with weeds.
- There is no headache of crops getting infected by soil-borne diseases.
- It is often found more economical and rewarding than conventional gardening.
- It is an easy and fun DIY (do-it-yourself project) and a good substitute
- Hydroponics makes it possible to grow varieties which would be impossible to grow in time in cold climates or out of its biological growing season.
- helps you to understand the nutrient requirements of the Chilles and other plants more efficiently
- Better regulation of the growth and taste by adjusting the applied nutrient ratios
Best hydroponic system for pepper plants
Let us find out now which hydroponic system is suitable for growing Hydroponic chilli.
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Static Solution Hydroponics growing Hydroponic chilli
In this method, containers filled with the static nutrient solution are used for growing plants.
The solution is gently aerated with air pumps so that the roots get oxygen and stagnation is prevented.
As with aquariums, In this case, the solution is changed at least once a week. Basically, it’s adjusted so that a beneficial concentration of nutrients is maintained. This type of hydroponic setup can be used for single plant cultivation usually and an ideal system to start with.
Continuous Flow Hydroponics for growing Hydroponic chilli
This method is more advanced than static solutions and is used in larger setups involving several plants.
In this type, the solution is pumped continuously around the plant roots.
The systems can also be equipped with automated sampling and nutrient level adjustments.
Nutrient Film Technique for growing Hydroponic chilli
The Nutrient Film Technique is the most common of continuous flow type growing techniques.
Here the plant’s roots are positioned in sealed narrow gully through which a shallow film of water is flowing.
Such an approach supports a thick root system and also allows roots to access oxygen from above the water stream.
This makes it the most efficient hydroponic nutrient method. However, the system can be delicate, causing starvation and death of plants on account of reduction of flow.
NFT hydroponic system is often a top-notch choice of setup for advanced and experienced hydroponic growers whether using the science of hydroponics at home or at commercial levels.
Medium Based Hydroponics Systems for growing Hydroponic chilli
There are many different types of substances which can be used as the growing medium which provides anchorage and support for growing effectively in any hydroponic system. There are a number of growing medium available in the market or in online stores.
A growing medium like Baked Clay Pellets have the main benefit that they are pH neutral and do not contain any nutrient value means they are inert, which allows the grower to have complete control over the nutritional environment in which the roots will grow up. They are reasonably cheap and practical to use.
Rockwool (sometimes known as mineral wool) is one of the most preferred and popular mediums used amongst Chilli growers. The main benefits are that is can hold large quantities of water and air at the same time while providing the plants’ nutrients and supporting the roots. As earlier discussed it is this ability to hold and provide abundant oxygen to the roots that make it a good choice for hydroponic growers. The one limitation is that naturally, it has a high pH level; however, this is easily calibrated with a conditioning solution readily available in stores.
Both aquarium gravel and sand can also be used and can be utilized with cheaper homemade nutrient solutions. However sand does not drain particularly well and both these growing medium become heavy making them not particularly practical to use.
For better understanding and ease here is the list of different growth medium suited for the different hydroponic system
- Expanded clay pellets – deep water culture, NFT, Drip systems
- Coco coir – passive hydroponics
- Rockwool – Drip, Flood and drain systems
- Perlite/Vermiculite – NFT, Drip system, also used with other growing media like Coco Coir.
Types of Chilli to be grown in Hydroponics
As mentioned earlier on the basis of pungency, spiciness, and usage there are various types of Chillies known all around the world.
Have a look at this quick list to find out which are just hot and serves your purpose
- Bishops Crown mild
- Summer Heat (Jalapeno) hot
- Inferno hot
- Chilli Pepper ‘Heatwave hot
- Joe’s Long hot
- Tabasco very hot
- Demon Red very hot
- Tropical Heat scorching
- Prairie Fire scorching
- Naga Jolokia/ghost pepper very hot
As you may know well that the ‘heat’ in Chilli peppers can actually be measured using special units called Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This unit measures the capsaicin pigment in the
peppers. The capsaicin pigment that is responsible for the fiery sensation in your mouth and/or stomach after eating Chilli. It is measured as one part capsaicin per 1,000,000 drops of water
(Say about 1 gram per 700 liters of water) this will be rated as 1.5 SHU.
So, Chillies can be rated as follows:
- Starting from 0 SHU (like paprika) to 2,500 SHU (Tabasco sauce)
- 2,500 SHU to 5,000 SHU (present in Jalapeno)
- 5,000 SHU to 50,000 SHU (aji, cayenne, Tabasco,)
- 50,000 SHU to 100,000 SHU (in Rocoto)
- 100,000 SHU to 500,000 SHU (in Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Red Savina)
- 500,000 SHU to 1,000,000 SHU (in Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich)
- Pure Capsaicin up to 16,000,000 SHU is present
By using techniques modern gardening like hydroponics your chili plants will grow up more quickly due to the easy availability of necessary nutrients producing greater and higher quality yields. Hydroponic pepper nutrient formula is readily available in the market and horticultural stores, all you need is right hydroponic setup and just dissolve nutrient solution in water and your plant is good to go. Few Chillies are such spicy they can set your taste buds to melt down. Following Hydroponic super hot peppers are being cultivated worldwide successfully in the hydroponic system.
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- Hydroponic cayenne peppers
- Hydroponic jalapenos
- Carolina hydroponic peppers(Carolina reaper was named the world’s hottest Chilli pepper by the Guinness World Records in 2013)
Capsicum annum: Annuum literally means annual, but strictly speaking this is not so correct since, under the right conditions, these Chilli plants can be kept for years. This variety of Chilli is the easiest one to grow. Most common Chillies belong to this variety:
Bell Pepper (paprika),
jalapeño, cayenne pepper, Serrano and all ‘waxed’ peppers. The flowers are creamy white.
Baccatum means ‘berry-like’. In a few regions, this variety is known as Aji. They have quite a fruity flavor. These Chillli plants can grow very large in size, and a height of 150 cm can easily be reached. It may not be the most suitable plant for indoor growing, but it is easy to grow, so very suitable for beginners. The flowers of this Chilli variety have spots present on their petals. This class includes a variety like the following:
Famous as very tasty, hot chili pepper which gives amazing yields
The aroma is like fresh tasting super aromatic habanero.
Great for all kind of hot cooking. Ideal for even beginner growers as this one is very easy to grow.
A Super prolific variety which produces quite hot, aromatic pods with a pleasant taste.
Ideal for beginners as it’s a great producer in almost any conditions. These beautiful pods ripen from light green to dark yellow/orange.
These peppers were originated in the Amazon region in South America and the Caribbean. The Chillies that belong to this variety are of the hottest of them all: the habanero, Red Savina, Madame Jeanette, and Scotch Bonnet. C. chinense wants a humid environment because they are a tropical variety. They grow rather gradually, require a relatively long summer and can take a long time to germinate. The leaves are rather wrinkled and multiple fruits develop at every node of the plant. Their aroma is also slightly fruity, very much similar to apricots.
Frutescens means ‘bushy’ or ‘shrubby’, which describes the vegetation of this variety quite accurately. The flowers of this plant are greenish. They are quite compact with many branches and grow up from 30 cm to 120 cm tall, depending on the weather conditions. The most renowned Chilli belonging to this group is Tabasco and Bird’s Eye Chillies.
Meaning of Pubescens is ‘hairy’, and this also describes the plant quite accurately. The flowers of this plant are purple and the seeds black. Because they originated in the mountains, they can withstand colder conditions quite well. The peppers belonging to this variety is the Rocotos, which bear a resemblance to sweet peppers – that’s something to remember to avoid mistakes. This variety needs a long time to grow and flower plus a great amount of light every day. Above all, the temperature margin for growth is limited, so, all in all, this is not really an easy crop to grow.
How to get started with hydroponics for growing Chilli
Propagation or growing Tray
Growing media such as vermiculite or Rockwool Starter Blocks
Growth nutrient solution
pH testing equipment such as Test Drops or Litmus Paper or a Digital Tester
Container for mixing the nutrient solution
Water (tap is fine in most applications)
Grow lights if required
The first step in sprouting or germinating pepper seeds is to give them a presoak. This means you should soak your seeds in water overnight to start the germination process.
The next step is to prepare your growing medium. Rockwool starter plugs are best suited soilless cultivation; the growing media require a presoak before they are ready to receive the seed.
Using your pH, set the pH of your water to 5.5- 6.5 for the favorable results. Make sure to stir the solution properly before taking your adjusted pH readings. Once your pH is set to the correct level, it is time to soak your media. 10 seconds is sufficient for Rockwool.
Once your media is soaked it can be transferred to your grow tray. Propagation media should be moist but not soggy or else your seeds may rot due to deoxygenated condition.
Now that your tray is full of growing media, it’s time to insert your presoaked seeds. The best practice is to place three seeds per propagation plug. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4″ and packed gently to ensure coverage.
However, make sure that the media does not dry out (ideal seed temperature for germination is 80-85 Degrees Fahrenheit). Ensure that there is no standing water in the bottom of your tray and then the propagation tray/dome can now be placed in a sunny location or under a grow light to speed up the germination process.
Once your Chilli plants have sprouted and begin to grow, the strongest of the three seeds should be left to live, and the weaker plants uprooted from each propagation plug. This can be achieved by simply clipping the weaker plants with a pair of scissors at the base.
You can check this How to Grow Tomatoes in Hydroponics.
The key in germinating most Chilli varieties is temperature and humidity if the temperature and humidity are not maintained as demanded then germination is inhibited.
The temperature you need to maintain in this germination stage is 18-28 degree Celsius
The humidity in the growth phase is as equally important and the requirements are 72-100% Relative Humidity (RH). This helps soften the seed coat, allowing the radicle to emerge and form into a taproot.
Chilli grows finest in big containers or pots, so once your seedling is ready to be transplanted hydroponics systems, specifically (DWC) Deep Water Culture, ebb flow system can be used for further growth. Chilli grows extremely fast in hydroponics set up and can easily exceed 1m in height and width approx. 6-8 weeks right from the seed.
These rockwool cubes should be presoaked for 24 hours and drained before planting. Keep these cubes wet by using a grow nutrient formulation of half strength and pH between 5.5 and 6.0 at a temperature ranging between 75 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit until the first leaves become at least an inch long. Subsequent to this phase, immerse the rockwool cubes entirely in the full-strength grow nutrient solution and after some time, properly drain the blocks, transplant the seedlings to rockwool slabs or grow baskets making sure the plant’s roots are constantly immersed in water enriched with nutrients. Feed your growing plants with bloom specific nutrients as the buds begin to emerge. Prune the plant to two main stems and shoots from all sides. This will fetch you late but higher yields. Pollinate the indoor-bloomed plants by gently shaking or with the help of pollinator brush during the driest time of the day.
Growing of Hydroponic chilli need warm temperatures, 73 to 79 degrees F during the day and 66 to 70 degrees F at night and nutrient solution 2100-2450 ppm for hydroponic peppers for optimum growth. They also need 18 hours of light per day at around 5500 lux if grown indoors using hydroponics; if grown outdoors maintains the partial shade. You can use 30 watts of high-intensity discharge (HID) lights for every square foot of growing space, which provides the right spectrum for growth. Decrease the water supply during fruiting to increase the heat of the chilies. Watch out for pests and diseases like TMV and stem rot.
Hydroponic Chilli Care
The pepper plants will have to be pruned from time to time by pinching off a few stem buds once the plants achieve about 6 to 8 inches in height. Make sure you know the difference between a stem bud and a flower bud. Peppers produce multiple small flowers. Removing some of these flowers will make your plant dedicate more energy to developing bigger vegetables rather than a lot of smaller ones.
Early season pepper plant pruning must be done when the plant is one foot tall and should stop once peppers have set. Generally, pepper plants have a ‘Y’ shape branches by pruning create smaller and smaller Y shapes jutting off of the main stems.
By the time the plant is a foot tall, you will be able to observe the strongest branches on the plant. Cut back any smaller branches, as well as suckers. Be watchful not to damage the main stem, which will cause the plant to perform poorly. Removing some of the flower nodes early will force the plant to devote more energy into the remaining flowers, resulting in larger and healthier fruits.
In a natural setting, plants are pollinated by an arrangement of wind and insect activity. Indoor gardens require artificial or manual pollination if the plant is to bear fruit. Once the buds open you should gently shake it on a daily basis to help with a good amount of pollination for more flowering.
- Decrease the water supply during the fruiting period in order to increase the heat of the chilies.
- Flower Drop in Chilli Plants is the most common problem. Common factors causing flower drop are as follows:
- High Temperatures
- Low Temperatures
- Excessive Nitrogen fertilizer
- Lack of Calcium and or Magnesium
- Excessive water
- Improper Lighting
- Poor air circulation (which will affect the extent of pollination)
- Pot Size too small.
When the plant is struggling to develop flowers and has insufficient green foliage involved in photosynthesis it will regularly abort flowers. Regardless of what and how much nutrients are present without adequate foliage to synthesize food the plant will not produce healthy flowers and will drop whatever it has produced.
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The high-temperature condition can also cause blossoms to wither and fall off, this commonly occurs when temperatures exceed 90 F for prolonged periods.
- During its flowering stages, Chilli plants need slightly high amounts of Magnesium and Calcium. This is usually present in commercial nutrient formulas marketed in name of bloom or blossom formulas. A lack of these compounds does on occasion cause blossom drop although it is not a major cause.
Harvesting of Hydroponic Chillies
Your Chilli plant will produce ripe fruit usually 2-4 months after sowing though a slight deviation may be seen depending upon the variety grown. Harvest Chillies as and when they ripen to encourage the plant to produce more Chillies.
To harvest Chillies simply pluck or cut them off the plant with scissors or a sharp knife. Chillies can be harvested when they are green or red depending upon your purpose.
Saving Chilli Seeds
When you’re harvesting your Chillies why not save some seeds from your favorite Chillies and store them away in a Seed Storage container. You just need to Follow our simple steps for saving your seeds for next planting:
Make sure the Chilli is fully ripened before picking
Using a sharp knife cut the pod in half exposing the seeds
Scrape the seeds away from the flesh take care do not damage the seeds
Dry the seeds in a dark in a well-ventilated space
The seeds are ready to be stored once they no longer bend, store in an airtight container in a cool dark place until needed
Drying your Chillies is a great way to preserve your plentiful harvests and perfect for intensifying the flavour of your Chillies.
Air drying your Chillies is an ancient and effective method of preserving Chillies for later use. Chillies can be hung up and dried in a warm, dry well-ventilated environment. Later these Chillies can be ground into red Chilli powder commonly used in making dishes as a spice.
That’s all folks about techniques and benefits of growing hydroponic chilli.
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