Month Old Bonchi’s and Hydro Videos

I can’t believe the time has past so fast. The peppers are growing faster!

Don’t feel like reading? Well I’ve recorded a video of this weeks update:

This week I was able to top all the peppers. By cutting the very top of the branch, a technique known as topping, you encourage the pepper to back-bud and for the stem to thicken. In most times those back-buds will turn into new branches.

Here you can see some back budding on the Numex Twilight variety, that I topped several days ago. The new buds are still quite small and look almost like the first leaves the seedling grew.

Numex Twilight Pepper, 1 Month Old, Kratky Hydroponics
Numex Twilight Pepper, 1 Month Old, Kratky Hydroponics

Last week I was able to top the fastest growing plant, the Marbles variety. It’s easy to see how fast the peppers are growing; its got plenty of new leaves. Looking underneath the leaves you can see how new branches are forming and growing from the main stem.

Many of the varieties are starting to show their individual characteristics now. Some varieties have darker colored leaves than others, for example. Some leaves are also more rounded, whilst others are longer and more triangle shaped. This is most evident when viewed side by side:

Marbles and Starlight Pepper Leaf Comparison

Some of the peppers are much slower growing than others. The Bolivian Rainbow variety with its purple leaves is easily half the size of his siblings, if not smaller. You can see him in both the photo above and below:

I topped him about two days ago, and you can see very small back budding starting to form (the lighter green leaves).

Birds Eye Baby and Bonzi Seedlings That Just Germinated

Finally, I started some new seedlings of the varieties that didn’t seem to germinate last month. So far Birds Eye Baby, Bonzi and Chinese 5 Color pepper varieties have germinated. That makes 13 total varieties of peppers growing, including the larger jalapeños.

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.

Week 2: Plagued By Algae and Mold

At the end of last week’s post I mentioned how I had noticed some algae growing on my rock wool. This week saw the growth of algae, and mold, go rampant.

Mold and Algae Growing on Rock Wool
Mold and Algae Growing on Rock Wool

Whilst I have dealt with algae before, never have I had it this bad! Something has changed within my growing environment; I suspect that as the weather outside turns warmer, the plant room now reaches an overall warmer temperature. This could be a contributing factor.

Unfortunately it seems that some of my seeds did not germinate, and most likely will not. Chances are I will discard the algae infected rock wool cubes and do a big clean.

Another means of combatting mold and algae is to increase airflow. Currently I have clear caps on the cups to increase moisture levels (seeds germinate better in high humidity). I may begin to remove the caps overnight so that they have time to dry out and get airflow, and return the caps during the day when the lights are lit so not to dry out the seedlings too much.

Seedling Dying. Too much algae?
Seedling Dying. Too much algae?

So far only one of my seedlings seem to be loosing the battle of life. It’s not too uncommon for seedlings to not survive, so I can’t be certain whether this is the cause of algae or not (it most likely is however). Initially the cotyledon leaves started to wilt, but it started to grow its first true leaves. However you can see that even those have begun to wilt as well.

Marbles Week 2 Bonchi Chilli Pepper Seedling
Marbles Week 2 Bonchi Chilli Pepper Seedling

It’s not all bad news. Some of the seedlings are growing quite well despite the algae. The Marbles variety seedling has grown its first true leaves.

I have a total of 9 seedlings growing their first set of leaves. There are 3 seedlings that appear sick (like above). And finally there are 3 seeds that never sprouted.

Honestly if 9 of the seedlings survive and grow into trees, I will be happy.

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.

How to Speed Up Seed Germination With Stratification

I’ve been having trouble getting my spinach to germinate. This prompted research Seed Germination Temperatures. I learnt that it was just way too hot in Kuwait for spinach to germinate at the moment. Furthermore some seeds need to be exposed to frost, or low temperatures, to germinate. Yet many countries doesn’t experience frost… and thats when you should “stratify” your seeds.

Stratification is essentially emulating frost temperatures with modern technology such as fridges and freezers. It’s a great option if you live in countries that just don’t get cold enough to otherwise germinate the plants, yet not so hot that the plants can’t grow as seedlings.

Seeds that take 2-3 weeks to germinate will often germinate faster when stratified first. Too slow of a process could mean that the seeds don’t get the ideal moisture from the soil (if growing hydroponically this usually isn’t an issue), and reduces the risk of growing mould and other diseases (can be an issue when growing hydroponically).

Here is a great video from YouTuber MIGardener that talks about how and why to stratify your seeds.

I attempted the technique that MIGardener teaches (video above), and it worked! I was about ready to give up after 3 attempts to get my spinach to germinate had failed.

My grow room is now reaching around 26°C (78°F) during the day; when the temperature is at 77°F rates drop to about 30% and can take a week or longer. Using the stratification technique allowed me to grow the seeds earlier than normal (whilst it was still too warm for the seeds to normally germinate), and gave me a 100% success rate!

Have you tried statifying any seeds? What is your success or failure stories for seed germination? Share with me in the comments below.

Transplanting Seedlings for Hydroponics Tips

A lot of people use hydroponic machines to start seedlings. Some people will start seedlings to transplant outdoors, and others will start seedings to transplant to larger containers. This post proves that I’m no exception: I just transplanted my San Marzano seedlings into their final Kratky hydroponic home.

Each method of transplanting has its own risks, as discussed below. By far the biggest risk of all is killing your innocent-baby plant. But if you follow the tips listed below, you will minimise the risk of being a plant slaughterer.

Also know that not all plants should be transplanted as some plants can’t handle root disturbance well, like spinach. You should only ever transplant healthy plants.

From Hydroponics to Soil

This is one of the most common methods to grow your plants; starting your delicate seedlings indoors and then planting in your garden when they are old enough to fend for themselves.

You should only transplant once roots have emerged from the bottom of the grow medium. If you wait too long then you risk stressing your plants.

Use grow medium that can be planted outdoors; trying to remove the plant from grow medium can be quite damaging to the roots. I tried separating my lettuce seedlings from the grow medium, and they definitely experienced shock.

Help your plants grow new roots, fast, by using root growth hormones. Whilst I haven’t used hormones on my own plants I have read online people recommending SUPERthrive Plant Vitamin Solution and HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel.

Keep your soil well watered for a few days. You want the soil slightly damp, but not holding so much water that root or mould will grow. If your soil is well draining then consider watering a couple times a day.

You can also add a diluted nutrient solution to your water to help the plant get any extra energy it might need to grow new leaves and roots. This can be the same nutrients that your seedlings were growing in. Don’t give them full strength nutrients yet, as too much can actually harm your plants.

From Soil to Hydroponics

It is possible to transplant from soil to hydroponics, though many hydroponic growers like to keep their grow areas sterilised. Introducing dirt grown plants into a grow room can also bring the risk of unwanted bugs and diseases, potentially harming other plants (or even loosing all your crops!). I have personally lost entire crops from an exposure of an aphid infected plant, and so now I will only grow new plants from seeds.

Let your plant’s soil dry out prior to transplanting; dry soil is much easier to clean any dirt from the roots than wet. Once you have removed as much dirt as possible, then submerged the roots into a bucket of water and rinse any remaining residue. The roots need to be as clean as possible; dirt will contain bugs, algae, and can even damage some hydroponic pump systems.

Place your plant into a net pot and gently pull any long roots through the net pot holes. If the roots are fragile and just break, it’s better to keep them inside the net pot than risk damaging them. cover thoroughly with grow medium like clay pebbles. You need to ensure that no light can enter into your water reservoir.

Depending upon your hydroponic setup, make sure that air is still getting to the roots. Many people will use an air-stone to oxygenate your plant roots. If you are doing the kratky method then you should only submerge the lower roots and net pot, keeping at least half above the waterline to avoid drowning the plant.

Finally, your plant is going to go into shock, potentially a lot. It may look like you’ve killed the plant, with lots of leaves falling off or browning. Give it time and in most cases the plant will recover, anywhere from two days to a couple weeks. You may lose the original leaves as the plant will often abandon preserving those to focus on more important root growth.

From Hydroponics to Hydroponics

This will often be the easiest way to transplant seedlings, if you have planned out your plant growth before hand. The time to transplant is when the roots begin to emerge. Hydroponic roots are very fragile, so if they extend beyond the net cup then they are almost guaranteed to break.

If you know that your plant will need transplanting, try starting the seedlings in the final grow media such as rock wool. Simply transplant the entire cup or simply lift out the plant from one cup and transfer contents to a larger cup, adding more clay pebbles to block out any light.

Don’t make my mistake and wait too long: I transplanted some lettuce from peat moss (started in my Aerogarden) to cloning collars. The process or removing the lettuce seedlings from the Aerogarden net cups and washing out the peat moss caused them to mostly lose their fine roots. They looked dead for the first few days. It took them nearly a week to recover and start showing new growth.

Have you transplanted plants before? Share some of your tips in the comments below.

Growing Swiss Chard in Kratky Hydroponics – Update: Week 1

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests
Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Image Courtesy of Botanical Interests

It’s been one week since I planted my Swiss Chard seeds in my Kratky hydroponic container, and its time to see how they have grown! The variety is Bright Lights.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

Please excuse the dusty lid; whilst my plants are growing inside, we still get quite a lot of dust from dust storms, and just general air. I also noticed that my paint hadn’t fully cured and was slightly sticky, thus catching all those little dust particles.

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

4 out of 5 of my Bright Lights Swiss Chard plants sprouted, and have grown enough to remove the little grow dome (salvaged from some used Aerogarden Bounty pods).

Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1
Swiss Chard Grown In Kratky Container, Week 1

One net cup did not sprout anything at all, even though I planted three seeds in each cup. In itself I would consider this just bad luck, but in the kale bucket beside this one the same outer cup didn’t grow there either.

The rock wool medium is wet, so the seed should be getting enough moisture to germinate. Perhaps there is too little light reaching these outer cups? I have switched the outer cup with an inner cup in the hopes that it gets the light needed for a slightly later blooming, but so far nothing.

Do you have any idea why just one cup might not germinate? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Seed Germination Temperatures

A bit over a week ago I planted some spinach seeds, and sadly they didn’t germinate. I began a bit of research as to why. Despite my spinach varieties being hardy to warm weather, they still need cooler soil to germinate! The adult growth stage can handle warmer temperatures but the seedlings are too vulnerable still.

I began to wonder what I could grow with my current temperatures. It’ll also be handy to know the minimum temperatures for when the seasons change.

Whilst my plants aren’t being planted in soil, instead hydroponic is usually planted in rock wool or peat moss, the germination temperature should theoretically remain the same.

Optimal °FOptimal °C
Amaranth, Red Leaf68-7520-24
Basil, Purple Petra65–8518-30
Basil, Genovese70 – 9021 – 32
Broccoli45 -85 7-29
Cucumber, Lemon70–9021-32
Kale, Nero Toscana 65–8518-30
Lettuce, Little Gem (Romaine)40-755 – 24
Lettuce, New Red Fire60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Sails60–7016-21
Lettuce, Red Salad Bowl50-7210-22
Pepper, Cayenne65-9518-35
Pepper, Jalapeño 65-9518-35
Spinach, Matador50–7510-24
Spinach, Lavewa50–7510-24
Spring Onion68-7720-25
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights75–9024-32
Swiss Chard, Lyon50 – 7510 – 24
Taisai, Pak Choy50- 8010 – 27
Tomato, Marmande VR60 – 7015 – 20
Tomato (Cherry), Supersweet 100 FT75 -9021-32
Tomato, Sam Marzano70–9021-32

I measured my Aerogarden water and it’s hitting a maximum of 85°F (30°C)! No wonder my spinach never sprouted, its ideal temperature is 50-75°F (10-24°C). Its just way too hot for them.

I’ll have to wait a while for the weather to get a bit cooler before I can sprout spinach; in the meantime I can try growing some Bright Lights Swiss Chard and Nero Toscana Kale.

Can You Germinate Seeds In Cloning Collars – The Experiment

I’ve seen some Youtube videos and articles where they grow their hydroponic plants in pool noodles. They claim to get high harvest yields, and they regularly talk about the benefit of being able to reuse the pool noodles.

Plastic Pool Noodles
Plastic Pool Noodles

I was concerned about the safety of using pool noodles; as we know plastic can leach chemicals and micro-particles into the water and plants (and eventually you). This process is often sped up with exposure to high temperatures… and Kuwait set a world record for the highest temperature in the world reaching 52.2°c (126°f) in the shadows and 63°c (126°f) in the direct sun!

Instead we bought a cloning collars and net cup pack as these have been specifically designed to grow plants and food.

After I bought the collars I realised that there weren’t many people online saying you could start seeds in the collars; they are generally used for transplanting cuttings from older plants.

I decided to do an experiment on whether I could grow seedlings in cloning collars.

I’m starting this experiment on Aug 7, 2019.

The Seed Added To The Cloning Collar
The Seed Added To The Cloning Collar

I sterilised the cloning collar and the container with hot water.

If you look closely you can see the Lemon Cucumber seed in the middle of the cloning collar. I’ve inserted it so its very close to the bottom of the collar (I’m holding it upside down), but far enough in that it hopefully doesn’t fall out.

My Test Grow Chamber
My Test Grow Chamber

Apparently seedlings will grow best when exposed to high levels of humidity. I wanted to make sure that my seedling could get as much light as possible at the same time. So I found this old Ikea air-tight plastic container. It has a de-gas spout which I have kept closed.

Fingers crossed that this container won’t grow algae since my nutrient rich water is also exposed to light.