Week 1: Germinating Bonchi Seedlings

A week has passed since I planted my chilli pepper seeds, and already there is growth! I have 10 out of 15 seeds showing life. Not bad, especially considering I was worried about the potential heat my seeds endured during shipping. Some seeds can take months to germinate as well, so there is time.

Week 1 Birds Eye Baby Chilli Pepper Seedling
Week 1 Birds Eye Baby Chilli Pepper Seedling

I currently have 5 cotyledons, which are the plant’s first leaves.

There are 5 seeds showing rooting activity, though they have yet to develop their first cotyledons.

Unfortunately algae has managed to grow on my rock wool. The presence of algae suggests my materials were not fully sterilised. Sometimes this is avoidable, such as using bleach when cleaning the bucket and net cups. Sometimes its unavoidable, such as being introduced through your water supply. I’ve generally found that the algae doesn’t do any harm as its isolated to the rock wool and not the water inside my buckets, however I do suspect that if the seeds haven’t developed root by the time the algae takes over, they are unlikely to grow due to deprived oxygen.

Bonchi Era Has Begun: Planting Seeds For The Future

My seeds finally got delivered! Of course that meant it was time to clear out my hydroponic grow room and plant lots of seeds. Chilli pepper seeds.

With some clever organising I was able to make space for 15 net cups. Since the Fatalii seed packets come with an average of 7 seeds per variety, I decided to try only germinating one seed at a time. The seeds I planted are:

  • Aji Jobito
  • Bird’s Eye Baby
  • Bolivian Rainbow
  • Bonzi
  • Carapita
  • Chinese 5 Color
  • Habanero, Orange
  • Habanero, Pink
  • Italiano
  • Marbles
  • Mini Bell Pepper, Orange
  • Numex Twilight
  • Pimenta Caixo
  • Starfish
  • Trepadeira Werner

If you want to see photos and more details of each variety, you can check out my previous post Bonsia’s in Kuwait? Let’s Try Bonchi instead!

Bonchi Chilli Pepper Seed Planted In Rockwool
Bonchi Chilli Pepper Seed Planted In Rockwool

There isn’t much to show right now, as I have just planted the seeds into their respective net cups. Even so, it can be helpful to know how fast or slow the seeds germinated. Fingers crossed within a few days, or weeks, I’ll get some growth showing.

Bonsia’s in Kuwait? Let’s Try Bonchi instead!

It’s hard to grow bonsai’s in Kuwait. Not many stores sell semi-mature trees, especially a variety of species, or the materials needed. Also many tree varieties have specific needs that are difficult to meet in our climate.

Then I came across the practice of bonchi’s – growing bonsai’s out of alternative plants such as peppers. The greatest benefit is that pepper plants can grow incredibly fast; you can grow a complete bonsai from a seed within one to two years. After all, who wants to wait forty years or more for a bonsai plant to grow! Also, many pepper plants turned into Bonchi will still bear flowers and fruit- making them very pretty.

One of the leaders in the field of bonchi’s is Fatalii (buy his seeds here); he’s a Finish guy famous for cultivating many different varieties of peppers. He’s even grown his own unique varieties! I haven’t found a website or company that grows such a range of pepper species. It didn’t take me long to order several different varieties in order to start my own Bonchi plants. Some plants are mostly ornamental, though almost all will bear flowers and fruit that are edible.

All the pepper varieties I have ordered are considered ideal for making bonchis, and are classified as easy to grow indoors/in pots. These are the varieties that I have ordered:

Aji Jobito

Aji Jobito Pepper Fruit
Aji Jobito. Photo courtesy of Fatalii.

Fatalii describes it as a “very, very mild habanero relative has a great aroma! One of the best mild varieties there is. Perfect for people who want just the taste without the heat.”

Orange Mini Bell

Miniature Red Bell Pepper Fruit
Red Mini Bell Pepper, Photo courtesy of RareSeeds.com

Think of your local store bought bell pepper or capsicum, only miniature in size! It’s so cute! The variety I ordered predominately produces orange bell peppers. On the Scoville Heat Units scale, bell peppers score a 0 and are considered sweet.

Birds Eye Baby

Birds Eye Baby Pepper Bonchi
Photo courtesy of Fatalii.

One of the first photographic examples of how a pepper can be turned into a bonchi – a photo that made Fatalii famous.

These peppers are considered hot, hitting around 30,000-50,000 SHU.

The leaves of this variety are rather small, so it’s a perfect option for anyone wishing to create the look of a bonsai tree.

Bolivian Rainbow

Bolivian Rainbow Pepper Bonchi

A couple more photos that made Fatalii famous, showing the beauty of a pepper plant being made into a Bonchi.

Bolivian Rainbow Pepper Bonchi

The Bolivian rainbow variety is often used for ornamental reasons – from the photos you can probably guess why. The peppers themselves are actually edible, with a SHU score of about 30,000-50,000. That’s 4 to 12 times hotter than your store bought jalapeño.

Bonzi

Bonzi Pepper Plant, Image Courtesy of Fatalii.
Bonzi Pepper Plant, Image Courtesy of Fatalii.

This species grows as a very small bush, so it is a perfect option for bonchi. The fruits tend to be quite small, and point upwards.

Cabaca Roxa

Cabaca Roxa Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii
Cabaca Roxa Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii

These are my second hottest variety of peppers; they are considered extremely hot at 50,000-100,000 SHU. That’s 4-20 times hotter than a store bought jalapeño!

Cabaca Roxa Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii
Cabaca Roxa Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii

The peppers look really gorgeous, typically looking like a cherry (rounded and bright red), and fruiting in small bunches.

Charapita

Charapita Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii
Charapita Peppers, Image Courtesy of Fatalii

These is probably my smallest pepper fruit variety, and I’m quite excited to see them grow! They are described as “candy looking”. The plant produces hundreds of pods, and is considered to be highly fruitful.

Chinese Five Color

The Chinese Five Color pepper is another hot variety with a SHU of 30,000-50,000. However it is often grown as an ornamental due to its gorgeous colours. Just like the Bolivian Rainbow (above), this variety will bear fruit that ranges from purple, to yellow, to orange, and finally to a red.

Habanero, Orange and Pink Varieties

The habanero is one of those peppers everyone has heard of. But did you know they grow in different colours? And did you know that the different colours do not have the same heat levels?

The orange habanero has a heat level that you have come to expect from peppers – sitting at 100,000-350,000 SHU!

The pink habanero however… this pepper is perfect to carry around a party and to eat hole, impressing others at your ability to maintain perfect composure when eating something so hot. The pink habanero, despite its name, has very little spice what so ever! It’s closer to a spice level of a capsicum than it is to a jalapeño!

Italiano

Italiano Pepper, Image Courtesy of Fatalii.
Italiano Pepper, Image Courtesy of Fatalii.

The italiano pepper variety is suited to growing in small containers, making it a perfect option for Bonchi.

What attracted me to this variety is its fruit – the peppers are small and long, and grow in clusters that point upwards. Very pretty!

Jalapeno

The Jalapeño is the most common pepper that people buy at the stores fresh. We really enjoyed growing and eating our last plant (before I killed it to make room for other plants – oops I didn’t know I could make it a Bonchi then).

Marbles

Another very pretty variety of peppers; just as the name suggests, these fruits look exactly like marbles. The fruit are quite small, only getting to be about 1/2″ in size (1.3cm)! It is an ornamental variety, but the fruit apparently still can be used in cooking.

Numex Twilight

This variety is another ornamental designed to catch your eyes. Just like several other varieties, the fruit will shift from purples to reds as it ripens.

Omnicolor

The Omnicolor Pepper Variety. Image Courtesy of Fatalii.
The Omnicolor Pepper Variety. Image Courtesy of Fatalii.

Apparently the omnicolor variety are very popular among pepper growers; its easy to grow, and has a unique taste that works great as dried flakes or powder.

Pimenta Caixo

This is another pepper that grows fruit in clusters. From the photos, it appears that this fruit doesn’t hang as much as other varieties, but rather forms closer to the branch stems.

These peppers are considered extremely hot with a SHU of 50,000-100,000.

Starfish

Starfish Pepper. Image courtesy of Fitalii.
Starfish Pepper. Image courtesy of Fatalii.

This plant produces very uniquely shaped pepper fruits – they look quite like stars!

These peppers are medium hot at SHU 30,000 – 50,000.

Size of leaf on a Starfish Pepper. Image courtesy of Fatalii.
Size of leaf on a Starfish Pepper. Image courtesy of Fatalii.

Unfortunately the leaf size of this pepper variety is quite large, so its not generally suited to Bonchi methods. It doesn’t mean we won’t try!

Trepadeira Werner

Trepadeira Werner Pepper. Image courtesy of Fatalii.
Trepadeira Werner Pepper. Image courtesy of Fatalii.

Another interesting looking fruit; the Trepadeira Werner peppers look very much like cherries!

These are considered mild peppers, with a SHU score of 1000-5000.

So which seeds will I be planting first?

I love that the Bolivian Rainbow has fruit that’s long, clusters, and points upwards. More importantly, I love the color variations. Because of this, it gets preference over the Birds Eye Baby and the Italiano.

The Marbles variety has gorgeous little round fruits, which are such a unique shape compared to most other varieties. Closely behind this variety is the Charapita, with the miniature yellow ball shaped fruits.

Since I’m not a huge fan of spicy food (yeah I know, I’m growing spicy peppers…) I will definitely be planting the Miniature Orange Bell, the Pink Habanero, the Aji Jobito and the Treeadeira Werners.

The Starfish variety was a personal preference of my husband, so I’ll definitely start growing soon.

Ikea Nypon Pot.

Coming up in a future post, I will talk about how I will convert my Ikea Nypon pots into hydroponic containers, suitable for growing a hydroponic bonsai or hydroponic Bonchi in.

The Current State

Things are finally starting to settle down, post holidays and new pets. (How has this new cat got so much energy?!)

It’s finally time to fully reassess my current grow room and how my hydroponic plants are fairing. This means chopping down unwanted plants, pruning the “new” growth back severely, and planting new produce.

The Basil

We still eat a decent amount of basil, and thankfully it’s one of the easiest things to grow hydroponically.

I pruned back all my basil to their lowest junctions. This keeps each bush nice and compact, and encourages more foliage growth and less long branching. The 400g (yes that much!) that I have pruned back is currently being dehydrated and consumed fresh in smoothies.

I’ve decided to expand the types of basil varieties I now grow to include Piccolino, Thai and Purple basil. All very delicious, and all with their own tastes.

The Strawberries

I lost track of exactly which variety germinated and grew; but I believe I they were the Florian F1 and Elan’s.

These plants are a bit of a hit and miss for what’s growing. For a while they were my most prolific growers; the amount of foliage per plant caused me to repot half of the plants as they were just too crowded.

Since we have such limited space in our grow room, we killed all but 6 plants (two plants each bucket). So far they aren’t producing in big batches, but smaller batches on a regular basis. My husband and I regularly pick at them throughout the week.

The Tomatoes

San Marzano

The San Marzano tomatoes are gone. Destroyed.

We were getting rather bland tomatoes. A bit of research has led to some interesting insights; if the parent plant produces bland tomatoes, the seedlings will too. Many people sell seeds for San Marzano, but many on the market are harvested from bland tomato varieties. If you plant to grow this species, I suggest trying a tomato from the parent plant first.

Marmande

Instead we have planted Marinade Tomatoes. I’m glad I did. They are less fussy about water and nutrient levels, they don’t have half the blossomed rot issues, and the tomatoes they produce are some of the best I’ve eaten in Kuwait! They are super fleshy, so perfect for all varieties of meals, and have a sweeter taste to them that’s just yummy.

Tiny Tims

Considered a dwarf variety, this plant variety grows to 12 inches (30cm) tall! He’s so little! He produces miniature fruits in clusters that are only 3/4″ in diameter a piece (that’s 2cm!). He’s a determinate species – so it’ll be one harvest and replant.

Red Centiflor Tomato

Another compact and “miniature” variety of tomatoes, perfect for hydroponics and container gardening. This species is considered “very rare”. But they are so cute!  They will produce up to 40 tomatoes per cluster (compared to 2-3 typical on San Marzano trees). They also have apparently an extremely heavy yield.

The Lemon Cucumber

I destroyed this beast. He produced two or three fruits only. He produced a zillion flowers, almost all male. I mean… flowers everywhere!

On top of that, we discovered that I was pretty allergic to this plant. Touching it in any way gave my skin rather bad rashes; and to fertilise the flowers you had to get elbow deep in vines! It was not an ideal situation.

The Lettuce

We have three lettuce plants growing constantly in a bucket, and they provide ridiculous amounts of lettuce leaves for salads and sandwiches. I don’t think I have ever eaten so much lettuce in my life.

The Rhubarb

My husband had rhubarb pie a while back, and got addicted. Problem is its really hard to source here in Kuwait. So of course I’ve planted him some in our hydroponic garden… four pots worth of it. It’s literally taking over. Good thing its easy to grow and I like the taste of rhubarb. Its a slow grower, so expect it to be around for a while.

The Peppers

Now this is one I am very excited about. I have come across the concept of Bonshi. Not bonsai, but bonshi. It’s the practice of growing pepper plants with the same techniques as bonsai. They can be highly ornamental with their coloured fruit and flowers, whilst also being quite edible. I’ve loved the idea of growing bonsai since I was like 12, so this idea was great!

It’s pretty hard to do bonsai in Kuwait since I haven’t found suitable training pots, display pots, soil mixtures, and even plants (most are mass produced nursery stock that would require many years of growth to become display ready). A normal bonsai tree can easily take up to 30 years to grow from seed!

But pepper plants, and bonshi, can be produced within 1-2 years. They are suitable for indoor climates (unlike many traditional bonsai plants), and their fast growing nature is absolutely perfect for beginners and impatient enthusiasts (ahem, me).

So of course I researched pepper plants, and both 18 total varieties to grow. More on this in another post.

Updates and Upcoming

If you follow my blog then you might have noticed that I have been absent a little bit lately. I tend to schedule posts about a month in advance, and even still I haven’t posted in quite a while…

I’ve been busy. I went on holiday. Busy? Busy living life. It’s amazing how fast time passes.

I also got a second kitten!! The new little girl has certainly kept me busy the last few days. She’s currently has her own room as we are going to be introducing her slowly to our other cat. I’m probably going to write a couple blog posts on how to integrate an introduce two cats together. I did a lot of research.

I’ve also had to reassess the plant grow room; its gotten a bit out of hand. I’ve been regularly watering, but pruning hasn’t been done in a long time. Some plants have grown… excessively. Other plants have now been completely gutted. Expect a few update posts.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics – Update Week 8

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 8 Growth
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 8 Growth

When I first planted the Jalapeños they were probably the least exciting plant for me; they were my husband’s request. I’m not a huge fan of spicy-hot, and for me Jalapeños can fall into that category depending upon ripeness.

Having watched the plants grow the last two months has been really rewarding, and to see the fruits getting so large… I am now quite excited to harvest. Jalapeño poppers, anyone?

Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 8 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics
Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 8 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics

The peppers are still a little bit small to be picked. But its amazing to see how much they have grown in one week! Imagine if humans grew this fast; have a baby and nearly two months later they are nearly adults…

Have you tried growing Jalapeño peppers hydroponically? I’d love to know how your peppers tasted. Let me know in the comments below.

Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Week 4

Growing Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week4
Growing Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week4

This week saw an exciting change in our Strawberry Spinach plants. Firstly, the leaves have gotten quite a lot larger throughout the week. I could probably start harvesting the leaves around this point, but my main focus is on whether this plant will produce berries – harvesting leaves would encourage the plant to focus on vegetative growth rather than fruit growth. Which brings me to the exciting part… I can see berries developing!

The berries are minuscule; about the size of a pin head. But they are there! Along most of the stalks, usually in the crooks between main branch and the off shots, are little tiny berries. They look somewhat like miniature green raspberries.

Since my grow room lacks fresh grown fruit, I am very excited to see that the plants are beginning to produce. We are still in the process of finding that nice equilibrium of vegetables to leafy greens to fruit ratio; currently we have too many leafy greens, whilst our vegetables are very slowly producing and our fruit is rather lacking.

Have you grown a Strawberry Spinach plant before? I’d love to know if you liked how it tastes, and if you got many berries from it? Let me know in the comments below.

Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Week 3

I’ve been really excited to see my Strawberry Spinach plant grow to maturity since I first discovered it. I love both strawberry and spinach, and apparently this plant is a perfect blend of both those passions: the leaves taste like spinach whilst the fruit taste like strawberries. Intriguing, right?

If we compare growth between week two and three, its clear that they have grown significantly… Much more than I had expected to be honest. That’s one thing I love about blogging; I get to look back at the growth progress of my plants and just be constantly astounded.

Growing Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 3
Growing Strawberry Spinach in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 3

There isn’t any sign of the fruit yet, but the plant is really quite young. It can take anywhere from 45 to 60 days to mature, and its currently only 21 days. I suspect that if we are lucky in about two weeks we may see some fruit development.

Until then, I might try some of the leaves in salads. I want to keep as many leaves as possible on the plant as I suspect the fruit grows directly on the stems rather than creating their own stems.

Do you know if Strawberry Spinach creates stems for the fruit, or if they grow directly on the leaf branches? Let me, and others, know in the comments below.

Growing Strawberry Temptation in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 3

So far in my experience plants will germinate in a flourish – a little rush to get one or two leaves out – and then they will stagnate for a week or so. Its during this time of stagnation that they usually focus on root growth. Last week our strawberries had barely broken the rock wool surface, featuring only their dicot leaves.

Growing Strawberry Temptation in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2 Growth
Growing Strawberry Temptation in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 2 Growth

This week is different, in the sense that something only 1.5cm (just over 0.5″) could be different:

It was quite hard to get my camera to focus clearly on such small details, but you can still see that the Tempation Strawberries are now going through a growth spurt. On all of the seedlings they are beginning to grow their second set of leaves.

It’s going to be quite a while before my plants will bare fruit, but I am still very happy with their progress; previously I had several months of attempts to germinating the plant with little success. The only method that worked in the end was stratify the seeds in the fridge for over a month. To get this far is quite an achievement!

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics – Update Week 7

It’s an exciting time in our household! We have babies! Jalapeño babies, that is.

Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growth
Growing Jalapeño Peppers in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growth

Here is our primary Jalapeño plant; we have two plants but this guy here is definitely the largest. He is 15″ (40cm) tall from base to highest leaf. Typically Jalapeño plants will grow to be about twice that height, so my little guy is only a teenager. The plant is often called an annual, however if kept in ideal temperatures (not exposed to frost) they will keep growing and producing.

Jalapeño Pepper Flower, Grown in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growht
Jalapeño Pepper Flower, Grown in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growht

Over the last couple weeks our Jalapeño plants have been flowering. Since we are growing indoors with no bees or insects to pollinate, I have to do it myself. An old toothbrush head on the electric toothbrush really helps save the day; the vibration is just enough to get the pollen shaking loose.

Jalapeño Pepper Flower, Grown in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growht
Jalapeño Pepper Flower, Grown in Kratky Hydroponics, Week 7 Growht

As the flower gets older, it starts to wilt. But its what emerges from beneath the aged flower petals that’s the most exciting part:

Baby Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 7 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics
Baby Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 7 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics

I aided this guy by very gently removing the old petals; only a couple petals were left attached, and the fruit was mostly visible. You can see some of the left over pollen on the fruit. Each fruit appears to be about 1.5-2cm in size (0.5″ give or take).

Baby Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 7 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics
Baby Jalapeño Pepper Fruit, Week 7 Growth in Kratky Hydroponics

We have multiple fruit starting to appear. I count four peppers so far, with several older flowers that are beginning to bulge. I don’t want to go disturbing the flowers yet in case I break them off, or ruin the chance for them to bear fruit.