Week 3 Bonchi Peppers Update

Most of the seedlings are growing well; I am no longer worried about them surviving. Only one seedling is still fighting for life; with only a single tiny miniature leaf.

Charapita Seedling Fighting For Life, Amongst the Algae Infested Rockwool
Charapita Seedling Fighting For Life, Amongst the Algae Infested Rockwool

I have 10 seeds that are still alive; one seedling died and four seeds never sprouted.

The algae was still rampant, and in many cases had started to develop a slime. It had to be dealt with.

To combat the algae I have

  • Added diluted hydrogren peroxide H202 on the Rockwool and in the tank. Interestingly it fizzed and bubbled slightly on the Rockwool.
  • Sprinkled food grade diatomaceous earth powder on the Rockwool, as it discourages gnat flies and algae growth.
Week Three Bonchi Seedlings
Week Three Bonchi Seedlings

The steps I have taken seem to have had an effect overnight; the next morning the gnats seemed to have disappeared from the grow room.

Marbles Seedling Before Topping
Marbles Seedling Before Topping

The Marbles variety seedling has grown a number of their first true leaves. Since it has several full grown leaves I am able to “top” the pepper. That’s when you cut off the top of the main stem to encourage the pepper plant to grow alternative branching and leaves.

Marbles Pepper Seedling, After Topping
Marbles Pepper Seedling, After Topping

Topping also encourages the trunk to thicken (and we want thick trunks with bonsai).

The Bolivian Rainbow pepper also surprised me this week with it’s leaves starting to turn purple!

Bolivian Rainbow Starting To Turn Purple
Bolivian Rainbow Starting To Turn Purple

I’m excited to see this variety grow larger. Many of my peppers are similar looking when not fruiting, and the Bolivian Rainbow variety will give a nice variation to my collection.

Finally this week I replanted the pepper seeds that did not germinate initially:

  • Bonzi,
  • Birds Eye Baby (this is the seedling that died),
  • Chinese 5 Color,
  • Italiano,
  • Orange Habanero.

Evolving Net Cups

Original Hydroponic Lid and Net Cup Design
Original Hydroponic Lid and Net Cup Design

After days of trying to get my net cup design to work in Fusion 360, I gave up. I just could not figure out how to get the software to create the design; not surprised as I am a relative beginner with this software.

So after taking a break and brainstorming with my husband, we came up with a simpler new design:

Second Hydroponic Lid and Net Cup Design for Ikea Nypon Pots
Second Hydroponic Lid and Net Cup Design for Ikea Nypon Pots

As you can see in the photo above, I was able to actually model this one.

The main change you will notice is the new watering hole; it’s drastically smaller. The old design had a sloped and large hole, to aid watering direct from a can or pail. Depending upon the shape of the tree the watering can would require a long and thin spout, to fit under any branches as well as to provide controlled-slow flow of water. The larger hole took up quite a significant amount of space, especially if you printed the lid for a 12cm Ikea Nypon pot (I plan to use the 15cm version).

The new design however can be watered from any bottle or watering can, as it’s designed to be used with a sloped funnel. Yeah I got to make that now too…

I still have a water float, just like the first design. I expect this to undergo some testing when the 3D printer finally arrives – how well does it float, at what point on the stick can I mark water level lines?

I then came across the Tie Pot, and it bought about a second design for my hydroponic pot lid. I can’t use bonsai wire to save my life – more specifically, every time I do use it I tend to break off branches or kill my trees. However I have found that I can tie branches and encourage directional growth fine that way. Biggest issue with the tie technique is you don’t have anywhere to anchor the wire… and the Tie Pot design provides a perfect solution!

Hydroponic Bonsai Ikea Nypon Pot Lid, Version 3
Hydroponic Bonsai Ikea Nypon Pot Lid, Version 3

I added ties to my design. It totally makes me think of a ship wheel, or a steampunk design.

I think it’s going to look really slick with the filament I have ordered to print my pot lids with – Prusament Mystic Brown.

Prusament Mystic Brown
Prusament Mystic Brown Example

I can just imagine the pot now printed. Lightly dry brush some gold paint along the raised edges to give extra effect… I’m excited.

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.

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.

Growing San Marzano Tomatoes in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 9

I think my San Marzano tomatoes are one of our most highly anticipated crops, and also probably the most difficult to grow so far. Last time I posted I mentioned how they had just started flowering, and fruit was beginning to develop, as well as how we were fighting an edema issue.

The tomato bushes are now massive – actual bushes. I cant even get a proper photo of the entire plant in my grow room; the camera doesn’t have a wide enough lens.

Can you believe that I cut off a whole armload of branches off this plant every couple days?! Its insane just how fast they grow new leaves.

Fighting Blossom Drop

San Marzano Tomato 9 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato 9 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

The tomato is still flowering, a lot. The biggest issue is I have blossom drop. There are a couple reasons for blossom drop such as incorrect temperature and humidity, or that they are not pollinating correctly.

I have checked my temperature, and the grow room is sitting in the ideal range. So I suspect that perhaps the flowers aren’t pollinating as well. I did get sick and stop using the electric toothbrush method as often, so in the future I am going to be a bit more precise in application – vibrate those leaves until you can see the pollen dust emerging from the flower heads.

Fruiting

San Marzano Tomato 9 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics
San Marzano Tomato 9 Weeks Old, Grown In Kratky Hydroponics

In the last post we had the subtle-hints of fruit emerging. Well it’s safe to say that they have emerged!

We have about 14 tomatoes growing so far. Not as many as I had hoped for, but as mentioned above we had an issue with blossom drop. There are plenty of flowers on the plant with many more emerging regularly, so hopefully we will be getting more fruit over the coming weeks.

Growing Strawberry Temptation in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 2

I have a lot of greenery growing, but not enough fruit… yet. Two weeks ago I planted some Strawberry seeds; the Temptation variety. I mean… I’m very tempted to eat strawberries… (bad joke, I know).

They don’t look like much, but these seeds are currently a 7 week effort to get growing!

A while back I learnt that some seeds won’t germinate at warmer temperatures, and in fact need to experience freezing temperatures in order to leave dormancy. You can mimic these temperatures by storing your seeds in the fridge. This process is called stratifying. So for the last month I have had a variety of strawberry seeds just chilling away in the fridge, literally.

To see the seeds actually germinating is really quite rewarding. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be able to grow any. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how these grow over the coming weeks.