By Alex DymonWinter is still upon us, but this has no bearing on your ability to grow delicious hot peppers in the comfort of your own home. Whether you are growing indoors from sprout to harvest, or simply starting off your seeds for the outdoor season, both can be accomplished with great success. In part one of this series I will discuss the best methods used for sprouting your pepper seeds. Although it is possible to sprout your seeds in soil, we will be focusing on the hydroponic methods in order to take advantage of the many benefits of hydroponic growing. These benefits include increased growth rates, faster maturity and fruit production as well as increased yields.
What you will need:
- Propagation Tray
- Propagation Dome
- Growing media such as Jiffy 7 or Rockwool Starter Blocks
- Growth nutrient such as DN Gro or DN Organic Gro
- pH testing equipment such as Test Drops or Litmus Paper or a Digital Tester
- pH down such as Phosphoric Acid
- Container for mixing nutrient solution
- Water (tap is fine in most applications)
- Optional: Seedling Heat Mat and Thermostat, Thermometer/Hygrometer, Fluorescent Grow Lamp.
Lets get started:The first step in sprouting pepper seeds is to give them a presoak. This means you should soak your seeds in water overnight to kick start the germination process. A shot glass or similar device works well for this practice. Remember to separate seeds based on variety in order to be able to identify which plant is which down the road. The next step is to prepare your growing medium. Jiffy 7 propagation plugs are best suited to soil or soilless growing as they have fine particles which can become loose and clog or soil active hydroponic systems. Rockwool starter plugs can be easily transplanted to either soil, soilless or hydroponic gardens making them the most versatile. Both of these types of growing media require a presoak before they are ready to receive the seed. Using your pH tester and your pH Down, set the pH of your water to 6.5 for the Jiffy 7 method or 5.5 for the Rockwool method. Do this by first testing the pH of your water and then adding a few drops of pH down and retesting until your pH is in the correct range. Be sure to stir the solution well 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 and the Jiffy 7's will require more time to expand since they come in compressed form. Once your media is soaked it can be transferred to your propagation tray. The Jiffy 7's will require some shaping and removal of excess water before they are placed in your propagation tray. Propagation media should be moist but not soggy or else your seeds may rot. Now that your tray is full of propagation media, it's time to insert your presoaked seeds. Best practice is to place three seeds per propagation plug. If your seeds are far more valuable than the cost of the propagation media, you may elect to plant only one seed per plug. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4" and tamped gently to ensure coverage. Sometimes it is necessary to tear off a small piece of Rockwool from the edge of the cube to cover the seed. Once seeds are planted and tamped, they are ready to be sealed in their propagation dome to establish a warm humid environment to aid in germination. A Seedling Heat Mat can help speed up the germination process, however, be sure that the media does not dry out due to the added heat (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 lamp to speed up the propagation process. A general rule of thumb is that a single T5grow lamp can be sufficient to sprout seeds, however, multiple lamps will produce better growth once germination has occurred. Suggestion: Coloured small paper clips make for excellent plant identifiers. Other low cost items can be used as well, just be sure that they do not absorb moisture such as wood or paper or they will be prone to grow mould while sealed in your propagation dome. Note: some pepper seeds can take up to 4+ weeks to germinate. Once your peppers sprout and begin to grow, the strongest of the three seeds should be left to live, and the weaker plants culled from each propagation plug. This can be achieved by simply clipping the weaker plants with a pair of scissors at the base. It is not recommended to grow more than one plant per plug as they will compete for resources for the rest of their lives. Also at the time of germination, the vents on the propagation dome should be progressively opened each day to slowly expose the seedlings to the less humid atmosphere. Once the first set of true leaves appear (not the first set of rounded leaves called cotyledons) it is time to apply your fertilizer at 1/4 strength. For DN Gro this means 1.5 ml of part A and 1.5 ml of Part B to one litre of H2O. Only water once plugs become dry and light weight, however do not wait too long for your delicate sprouts to wilt or the damage may be irreversible. Congratulations, if you made it this far then you are well on your way to producing a healthy pepper harvest! Stay tuned for the next installment which will focus on the lighting and growth methods available to grow these sprouts to the size required for an abundant harvest! If you require additional information on seeds and germination click the links below:
by Cindy R
In previous articles we have explored various types of sex! Now don't rush out to find the pornographic back issues of seed catalogues. If you weren't fortunate enough to have read the articles we were talking about plant sex! (Exciting if you're a grower but not too sexy if you're expecting porn!)
Sexual reproduction, the germination and propagation of a seed, and asexual reproduction or cloning are two excellent procreation methods used for plant duplication.
We have successfully created a proliferation of new plant material either from seed or cuttings. Our objective now is to keep the plants healthy and productive in a hydroponic environment. A healthy root zone and strong pest resistant vegetation will help to produce an abundance of flowers and fruit.
Plants are what they eat, therefore the nutrient solution you feed them plays a very important role in determining the success of your crop. There are twenty mineral elements that are essential to plant growth. Years of studying these elements have led researchers to hydroponics by combining these water soluble nutrients in specific amounts to meet various plant's needs.Mineral Elements
|Macronutrients are required in large amounts|
|Carbon||C||Component of all organic compounds|
|Oxygen||O||supplied by air & water|
|Hydrogen||H||Basic building block of hydrocarbons|
|Nitrogen||N||Part of chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins|
|Phosphorus||P||Used in photosynthesis and almost all aspects of growth|
|Potassium||K||Activates enzymes, used in formation of sugar and starch|
|Calcium||Ca||Used in cell growth and division, part of cell wall|
|Magnesium||Mg||Part of chlorophyll, activates enzymes|
|Sulfur||S||Part of amino acids and proteins|
Base nutrients are the most important nutrient choice with your plants.
Two part formulas work better than one part formulas. In one part, there are many agents in the formula that cause build ups and especially in hydroponics systems will lead to clogged tubing. With two part formulas, the agents are not present as they are not necessary. This also means that the nutrients are made more readily available for the plants to intake.
Also be sure to look for a nutrient with no dyes or additives. These are not beneficial for your plants and can often do more damage than good. From our testing, we have found that Dutch Nutrient Formula takes care of all the plants needs in the healthiest way...remember...they are what they eat!
© Copyright 2013 Homegrown Hydroponics, Inc. All rights reserved
by Cindy R
Hydroponic cultivation is well recognized as a superior method of agriculture. Plants are fed their exact nutritional requirements and are provided with absolutely ideal growing conditions. Consequently, plants thrive.
Having witnessed the substantial improvements in plant quality and yield delivered by hydroponic cultivation scientists have taken a keen interest in further developing this field. The school of thought is "If we can make it this good, we can make it even better!"
These eager minds with their unquenchable desire for perfection have succeeded in taking hydroponic agriculture to a new dimension. The development of some very important new products has made significant changes to hydroponic crop production. Other products, that up until recently have strictly been used for commercial soil farming have successfully been adapted for use in hydroponics.
It is possible to fine tune plant nutrition by supplementing the twenty mineral elements required for plant growth (and contained in good quality hydroponic nutrients) with biostimulants and nutrient conditioners. Biostimulants contain natural hormones, vitamins and rare trace elements that stimulate normal biological functions in plants. They are best administered as a foliar spray to optimize absorption or as a seed soak to enhance germination. For example presoaking seeds in a biostimulant blend of humic and fulvic acids, ziatine and amino acids will ensure a better percentage of germination and cutting success while dramatically decreasing germination times.
Nutrient conditioners complement biostimulants when used as a supplement in hydroponic feeding methods. Scientifically developed combinations of hormones and micro-nutrients will energize the microbial activity, promote cell division and lateral bud development as well as delay the aging process of plant tissue. Employed as an additive to fortify a traditional nutritional regime, nutrient conditioners enhance a variety of functions such as root development, vegetative growth and fruit and flower production. A nutrient conditioner containing cytokinins may be added to a hydroponic reservoir to enhance root development. While nutrient conditioner containing a blend of vitamins and other growth stimulants will help maintain photosynthesis during flowering and promote plant vigor.
All plants require a balance of N-P-K and trace elements to grow. There are many variables that influence a plants' ability of utilize these nutrients adequately. pH and temperature will greatly effect nutrient uptake. Through a supplemental feeding plan of biostimulants and nutrient conditioners the grower will ensure that plants receive a naturally balanced diet which can help compensate for micro-nutrient deficiencies caused by temperature variations and small pH fluctuations. While making sure plants receive the maximum nutrient uptake biostimulants and nutrient conditioners will also protect plant health and discourage insect infestation.
The initial presoak biostimulant should have additional nitrogen and potassium to compensate for the sudden acceleration in growth that it will provoke.
Humic and fulvic are chosen for their agronomic value.
They help facilitate faster nutrient uptake and accelerate stem and leaf growth. They are responsible for natural chelation of micronutrients and enhanced macronutrient uptake. Fulvic and humic acids are bi-products of humus. Humus shale was created by the degregation of organic matter deposited over 75 million years ago and is currently being considered for organic certification.
Ziatine (Cytokinic complex) a derivative of seaweed, found in microbes and plant exudes,activates seeds out of dormancy, improving early germination and growth. Ziatine enhances root growth and plant metabolism and stimulates cellular division. It is known to regulate enzymatic and metabolic activities and enhances absorption and nutrient transportation.
The natural amino acid, Glycine Betain is the most powerful antistress agent. It guards against temperature variation, cold, draught, flooding and osmotic stress. It is credited with promoting better nutrient absorption within the plant and activates root growth.
Trace elements will protect plants and increase the rate of penetration of foliar nutrients. They ensure complexation, a natural method of absorption.
The synergy of these organic components combined in a presoak provide a healthy and vigorous start to virtually all plant life.
Biostimulant foliar sprays and nutrient conditioners added to a regular nutrient feeding schedule during the vegetative stage can alter the duration of vegetation and aid transition to the bloom cycle. The vegetative stage of a plant's life is a crucial period for building strength and storing nutrition to support flowering. Calcium and magnesium are needed for vegetative growth and are essential chlorophyll building blocks.
I.P.A. (WHAT IS IT and WHERE DOES IT COME FROM???) improves the systemic transportation of nutrients. It activates photosynthesis while stimulating the root system. Glycine Betain is also very helpful in the vegetative stage.
During the flowering stage the absence of nitrogen and potassium will shift plants from vegetative to reproductive growth mode. A synergetic blend of of IPA and Glycine Betain with phosphorous and potassium will safeguard plants and continue to support strong growth when used as a foliar spray. Adding a nutrient conditioner specific to flowering and containing a bulking agent will maximize blooms and increase fruit and flower size and weight.
People are encouraged to eat a well balanced diet with at least seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day. With today's stressful lifestyles and hectic schedules, Health Canada has recently acknowledged that this is an almost impossible expectation for the majority of people. Therefore, they have recommended, as extra insurance, that all adults supplement their diets with a mineral rich multi-vitamin, once a day.
High quality hydroponics nutrients should be able to adequately supply a plant with everything it needs providing all other growing conditions are optimal. This is seldom the case. Unexpected environmental changes or other hiccups in regular routines often lead to nutritional deficiencies which will send a plant into shock, stunt growth and cause other stresses. Supplementally compensating with hormones and vitamins will provide extra insurance that plants will be able to withstand the stress and flourish in less than optimal conditions.
© Copyright 2013 Homegrown Hydroponics, Inc. All rights reserved
by Cindy R
One of the highlights of early summer is the sweet juicy taste of a fresh picked strawberry. Hydroponic strawberries are making a big impression! Grown without soil, in a nutrient solution hydroponic strawberries are the taste of the future.
Canada consumes far more strawberries than its annual production of approximately 30 million tonnes. The bulk of imports come from California and Florida which provide Canadians with fresh berries year round.
Strawberry growers worldwide fumigate the soil with methyl bromide before planting to control soil-borne insect pests, diseases and weeds. The fumigation is essential to meet the demands for top quality fruit and high yields. However, methyl bromide has proven detrimental to our ozone and in 2005 faces a worldwide ban. It is estimated that banning methyl bromide will cut in half the annual production of field-grown strawberries in California and Florida. For the consumer this will mean an increase in the all ready astronomical prices for the fresh berries, out-of-season.
Growing strawberries hydroponically eliminates the need for methyl bromide. Many commercial growers have all ready switched to this method of cultivation.
Hydroponics is rapidly becoming recognized as the most productive and efficient form of food production. Whether produce is grown indoors under artificial light or outdoors in sunlight hydroponic cultivation offers strawberry growers many advantages.
One of the major benefits of growing strawberries hydroponically, aside from the magnificent taste, is that they can be grown at an elevated height. This has proven to be a great benefit to commercial growers as the picking rate is much faster and less fatiguing and cultivation of plants is easier.
Yields per plant are higher and losses are lower in hydroponics than in soil. Crops can be grown on poor land and weeds in the crop are virtually eliminated. Gardens can be vertically tiered to maximize the use of space. The sky's the limit on how high you want to stack your gardens.
Strawberries are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae, genus Fragaria) which also includes other fragrant and flavourful species such as apples, pears, plums and cherries. Originally the succulent berries were called strew-berries for the way the runners and berries grew strewn across the ground. However, as so often happens with the English language, the name gradually evolved to strawberries.
Strawberries are not really berries or fruit in the "botanical" sense (i.e., the end result of a fertilized plant ovum). A strawberry is actually an "aggregate fruit" -- the "real" fruit are the objects we think of as the "strawberry seed" -- properly called "achenes" -- which are fruits in the same way that a raw sunflower seed with it's tough shell is a fruit. The "berry" is actually an "enlarged receptacle" and is not reproductive material. As a result, strawberries must be picked at full ripeness, as they cannot not ripen once picked.
Rich in vitamin C, iron, potassium and fiber strawberries have also been credited as having cancer fighting compounds. For hundreds of years homeopathic practitioners have incorporated strawberry plants and fruit in the treatment of anemia, diabetes, rheumatic gout, and kidney and liver complaints. Fresh strawberry removes tarter and teeth stains, soothes sunburn and lightens freckles. Strawberry liqueurs, preserves and jellies are widely used worldwide. The average American consumes more than 1.4 kg. (3lb.) of strawberries per year.
|Serving Size: 8 medium strawberries (147g)|
|Calories 45||Calories from Fat 0|
% Daily Value*
|Total Fat 0g||
Saturated Fat 0g
|Total Carbohydrate 12g||
Dietary Fibre 4g
|Vitamin A 0%||Vitamin C 160%|
|Calcium 2%||Iron 4%|
|*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.|
Growing strawberries hydroponically at home can produce enough berries to feed a family of four for a full year. Production doesn't need to stop seasonally as a hydroponic system can be set up outdoors or indoors with artificial light.
A hydroponic system can be tailored to suit almost any growing application; strawberries are well suited for hydroponic cultivation. Perfect water and nutrient levels can be easily maintained to produce plump, juicy, unblemished fruit.
There are different categories of strawberries. The ones most commonly found in our hemisphere are the long-day-type. They flower in response to the long daylight hours of June, fruit in July then flower again, usually yielding little or no fruit from the second flowering.
Temperature has a major influence on strawberry physiology and can override day length as the control mechanism for flowering. If temperatures drop too low vegetative growth is inhibited causing poor flower and fruit formation. Conversely if temperatures are too high strawberry plants will wilt and stop producing flowers and fruit.
Strawberries grown from seed will usually take two to three years to mature, not the ideal situation for hydroponic growers. Early in the season, after risk of frost is over, purchase cold-stored runners from your local nursery. Always use runners that are certified virus tested. Cold stored runners are off-shoots of a mature strawberry plant (also known as a mother plant) that have been snipped off and rooted, forming a clone of the original strawberry plant. They are kept in cold storage through the winter. Ideally the runners you choose will be in flower or have buds visible.
Determine which hydroponic gardening method will be suitable for your location and number of plants. Ebb and flow or flood and drain works well for a large number of plants, however, it is totally immobile once set up. Smaller, multi-tiered deep water culture, NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) or drip irrigation gardens seem to be the preferred choice for both hobby and commercial growers.
Carefully remove the runners or new strawberry plant from its container. Remove as much of the earth as you can by gently shaking and massaging the roots. Submerge the entire root system in a bucket of cold water for about ten minutes then rinse roots under cold running water to remove any remaining dirt. Be very careful to inflict as little damage as possible to the roots and tiny root hairs as too much breakage will seriously stress plants and impair growth. Dry or brittle leaves and roots should be removed at this time.
It is important to keep the roots moist while planting. Exposure to the sun or wind will quickly dry out the tender rootlets. This drying will cause failures in the establishment of the planting. A convenient way to keep the roots moist is to wrap them in wet burlap and then carry them in a pail or basket.
Line the bottom of a hydroponic mesh pot with a sterile growing media. Leca, expanded clay pellets or heydite, crushed shale rock work very well for strawberries. There are many other media available, discuss which one works best for the type of hydroponic garden you'll be using with your hydroponic merchant.
Presoak all media in pH balanced water for at least ½ hour prior to using. Dry media will act like a sponge and suck all moisture from plants roots.
Carefully place one strawberry plant in the pot with roots splayed over the media. Add enough of the growing medium to fill the pot making sure the crown of the strawberry is well above the surface. The crown requires light and fresh air as this is where new leaves and flowers grow. If submerged, the crown will rot causing the entire plant to die.
Insert the pot into your hydroponic garden and follow the instructions. Make sure plants receive a good water-to-air ratio and that roots are never left standing in still water or solution. A feeding regime with a standard 2-part bloom nutrient formula should provide all the nourishment that your strawberry plants will require to grow robust and flavourful berries. pH should be maintained between 5.8 and 6.2 to ensure maximum nutrient uptake.
There are several different types of strawberries suitable to various climates and zones. The long-day-type typically grown in northern regions are light and climate sensitive. Flower and fruit production is triggered by the long hours of spring and early summer light received by the plant. Once introduced to a warm climate, plants will continuously produce an abundance of flowers. Temperature also affects fruit's flavour and sugar content.
Conditions can easily be simulated indoors, out-of-season. Once plants have finished fruiting and produced runners, clip the runners from the mother plant and root using conventional rooting methods. Treat mother plants as annuals as they will not winter well in a hydroponic garden.
Once cuttings or runners have established a good root system, they must endure a chilling process. This may be done by placing rooted cuttings in a garage or cold cellar where temperatures remain between 0 and 5 deg C. Chilling may last anywhere from 10 days to 5 months depending on when your next crop is desired.
Introducing the chilled cuttings to a growing environment at staggered times will yield a delicious supply of fresh berries year round.
© Copyright 2013 Homegrown Hydroponics, Inc. All rights reserved