germination &/or the duration w/ what wattage: Hot Peppers

bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)March 5, 2005

I realise youre gonna hate this post. IÂm not in the mood to make a project of this post yet. If you can: What light and watts do I need. (for the germination &/or the duration)

Will they fruit, will they stay alive.

In Toronto, I want to grow hot peppers, beginning from seed, in pots year round, indoors and out. I want to try maybe six different varieties from seeds my first time, taste them, after I develop a "suicide wing sauce", keep 1, 2, or 3 plants going forever.

I do know I will need to control heat and light, in the right combination. I know I need light and heat indoors for the seeds to come up before the first frost date. Then if I want to keep the same plants alive indoors in the winter (or even possibly to finish their fruiting in the fall) IÂll need more light, but not necessarily more i.e. as long as heat is over 70°F.

I am thinking of using a light to add heat as well. I am thinking of a carboard box lined with tinfoil and the light fixture inside until transplant.

I am contemplating whether to start new seeds each spring -OR

I am contemplating whether to try to just get enough of a lighting unit to keep the plants alive during the winter(which I donÂt know requires any light), or to try to just get enough of a lighting unit to allow to them to fruit throughout the winter too, until outdoors again in the spring.

So I had a short phone Q&A and this is what I learned, or was told:

It is iffy whether or not a 2 x 20W fluorescent light (A dual 24") will be able to contribute to the heat reqÂd to help in initial germination. And 40W plant fluorescent is not enough power to do anything in the winter except keep a plant alive.

It was hinted that I possibly stick to 125W or more or a different quality of bulb. A T5: ring a bell?

What is the ballast? Do some not have a ballast? Do I need a ballast? Is the ballast the thing that is gonna give me the heat? One link states "Solid state electronic ballasts (no copper windings) do not emit heat, noise or vibration."

What the heck is a ballast. I have seen a 24" plant and aquarium bulb and "fixture" 33W single bulb for cheap  like Because of the small number of seeds I need to germinate I am not particularly "interested" in spending excessively on lights and for that matter pads to germinate that I donÂt need. However, I may want to keep these plants going. Is there a fine line between . I do not know specifics about how much, or in what combination I need heat and light. Money is a key consideration, until I realise I need to spend it. I can, butÂ

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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)

Actually I want taint the quotient with an also.
Scotch Bonnets ain't so bad after all, since last night.

Since I know I can buy Bcotch Bonnets locally during the winter, and I may not be interested so much in all the power consumption, what then is the Wattage or lighting req'd just to keep special plants alive during winter, as well as the original, non-cheap-heating pad solution.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2005 at 8:15PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

I'll answer the techie questions first, then try to give some advice.

A ballast is an electrical component that controls the voltage and possibly the frequency of the electricity supplied to the bulb. Yes you need one, but a fluorescent lamp fitting will generally include a ballast. Ballasts last a lot longer than the tubes themselves. Ballasts do create some heat. More efficienct electronic ballasts create very little. Magnetic ballast tend to create more heat and they are also prone to buzzing and flicjkering because the lamps operate at a low frequency. A ballast must match the bulb, you can't just stick any old tube in any old fitting. Ballasts usually work with a small range of different tubes, but may not be equally efficienct with all tubes.

T5 fluorescent tubes are somewhat popular in some growing circles because you can get more light from a narrow tube, meaning you can cram more tubes into a particular space to get a higher light intensity. Otherwise they are no better than other tubes and worse in some respects. T5 tubes are quite expensive and the commercial grow lights can be ridiculously expensive. Check out Tek Lights for an example of too much money and not enough common sense.

Starting your seedlings will be relatively easy. The two 20W tubes will probably be sufficient. Whether the heat is enough will depend on how warm the room is and how well insulated the propagator is. I am currently using 40W of fluorescent light to provide heat and light in an enclosed box. Temperatures get up above 80F in a room which is at about 70F. Once you have germination you will need to keep the tubes very close to the top of the seedlings, or buy stronger tubes.

For growing mature plants, I need a little help. Hot Pepper plants are like two feet tall, maybe three feet? And they are full sun plants when outdoors, so your two fluorescent tubes are going to be completely inadequate. Just to get them through the winter I would suggest you need a minimum of 20W of fluorescents per plant. To get fruiting, you probably need at least double that.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 11:52AM
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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)


more of what lights, & a little more on heat. I think I'm only looking at a few permanent plants. A dual tube regular 24" long 2 x 20W with reflector seems to get 70° to 80° for germination, and may do what: 1-3 of these plants? I'll be more specific and have questions:

I think I would be the coolest guy on the block to say I have to grow my own peppers for my killer wing sauce preference. I have tried all kinds of commercially available sauces (a liter of Tabasco is to drink), and I need major heat not available anywhere but in the hottest of fresh peppers. So I have found where I can purchase a tray of fresh Scotch Bonnets (which are near the hottest of all; maybe half by average) and depending on the source, they vary from weak (useless) to hey, I need some ketchup here. Additives to the sauce may or may not be necc., and the taste may vary. I want to know the consistent heat too. So I have narrowed down, through research - incl. 'Hot Peppers' forum, the hottest on the planet, but their are factors, of course. They are Red Savina, Chocolate Hab, Devil'd Tongue, Caribbean Red, Red Fatali, in no order. I will mail order the seeds of these 5 peppers, which are not avail as plants here. Scotch Bonnet is available as a plant also here in Toronto. And I've got Scotch Bonnet seeds.

I may also do small flower seeds, whatever, but that's another story - pansies...

In order to get a taste of these 5 or 6 pepper varieties, I'll need to start more than one seed each, and probably start at more than one time. Say 6x2x2= 24 8oz. styrofoam coffee cups. The size of a case of beer. With the size of enclosure I was planning I will have some room for the pansies. eg 24" long.

But in the long run, after I have tried them all, I will probably only want to keep tied to one or two plants in pots 365 days a year, as long as they last. If they die, I'll start again with seeds of the same type/source. I can always buy trays of fresh SBs. Hmm, I also may not know which ones I prefer to keep alive more than one year for some years.

I understand some may grow 3 or even 4 feet, and last 3-6-10 years. I DON'T know. Never seen one.

In regards to the box for germinating. In my head I have pictured (at this moment):
A cardboard box, about the size of a 20" TV set, and maybe 15" high. Inverted to easyily lift off. Holes for spying, temp gauge, ventilation. On a board. All lined with tin-foil. The light suspended for adjustment. May cost....nothing.

Any good?

I am curious now about using the same fluorescent for heat also. I have recently seen a picture of an incandescent, in a similar box, with 25 cent garage sale type-fixtures. A 15 or 40W regular light bulb puts off a lot of heat as you can tell with your hand. I know you need the fluorescent when they poke through the ground, and to get them to the next outdoor growing season.

Now what to do with those styrofoam cups for drainage and how to cover them before the seedlings poke through? And I'm really not clear on what it is to keep them alive or keep them fruiting to the next outdoor growing season.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 6:44PM
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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)

I've got an old 18" single tube fluorescent fixture, and I can add incandescent for heat. I could use just 12 80z cups, But can I get 18" tubes that are good. For my purposes I have been reading, but don't know whether a bulb is a bulb, or what I can do with this old fixture, because of its electriical properties. Or if it itself would even keep a single plant even alive for the winter.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 7:21PM
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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)

woops, forget to ask what type of 2x24" will bring 70° to 80°. Do I need to research the units ballast type, electrical properties etc. A HD is close by. If I buy, I could easily buy there, a single 2x24" for now, and create a reflector if I needed. I'm still in the dark about warm, cool... for my limited needs.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 7:26PM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

Okay, Peppers are heat loving, sun loving plants.

If you seriously need to grow them indoors, you need to go vertical with the light array.

These plants grow about 24 inches high or so, average. (Don't over-fertilize, they hate that.)

So, to keep that 24 inches of foliage happy, just having a flourescent fixture hanging overhead won't do. The top two inches of leaves might be okay but the rest will starve.

You could use some of the HD lights from overhead, but I don't know jack about them.

So, if I were to try to keep a few plants happy through the winter I'd buy 24 inch fixtures and overdrive them... and I'd set up the fixtures in a semi-circle for each plant so they were blasted with light from behind, left and right.

In the US, there's a sale going on at Home Depot. I bought ten Commercial Electric fixtures for $4.04 each. As a Mr. Fixit, I'd use tin snips to cut these down to 24 inches rather than pay more for regular 24 inch boxes.

Then, the SL-15 ballasts in those fixtures would be easy to overdrive for 2X or 4X the amount of light you'd normally get from a 24 inch tube.

Don't go crazy with the cardboard box thing. True, peppers LOVE heat, but they need CO2 also and blocking that off will kill them.

And remember, for stocky, healthy plants you need a fan to provide a breeze. Just like us, plants don't get strong and healthy without exercise.

Do you have any natural light? No ?

If this is in a basement, you can use 5/8 inch plywood to make a semi-circular frame to attach the fixtures to, and do what I did, which is get a $20 winch and some pulleys to raise and lower the fixtures.

Smooth. Crank the handle, worm gear turns, lights rise 1/4 inch per revolution. Exactly the level of control I wanted.

Now, as to the subject of taste. Yours. As I recall, the sensation of spiciness, 'heat', comes from Type B nerve endings in the tongue.

I know someone who can eat hot peppers raw without noticing and saw him dump two tablespoons of chili powder on chili.

I suspect he was born with impaired Type B nerve endings and is just insensitive to 'heat'. And perhaps you two have something in common there.

Just remember that you could kill your neighbors before you got a hot sauce strong enough for YOU.

I get seed catalogs that list some truly nasty hot peppers.

Some will be classed as Ornamentals because no sane person could eat them.

You could start there, I'd think. Or try this one. GW won't allow linking to their site.

"THE WORLD'S HOTTEST PEPPER PODS, the Tepîn---actual size!

Dremann's Hotness Scale for the tiny Tepín=20,000-64,000 with seeds removed, which means one ounce of dried pepper pods will produce a detectable hotness in 20,000-64,000 ounces of salsa! "

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 1:23AM
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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)

The non-ventilated box is pre-sprouting to accomplish heat. Shouldnt they also be covered until sprouting within the box? What is the CO2 thing. I though I was closer to wrapping my styrofoam coffee cups in plastic wrap than ventilating pre-sprouting. I know via to uncover after sprouting, and to apply some breeze, but then again, I think they still need the elevated heat even so, therefore need to stay in the box, until hardening, No?.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 3:08AM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

"I think they still need the elevated heat even so, therefore need to stay in the box, until hardening, No?."


Plants feed off Carbon Dioxide in the air.

Greenhouses have to recirculate outside air four times an hour because the plants can use up all the CO2 in the air if the air is still.

Which would lead to the plants suffocating.

If you want to push germination, plastic wrap works. Even hard to germinate seed will go BANG ! if you cover the seed flat with plastic wrap.

Most brands of plastic wrap are vapor permeable, so a little CO2 can diffuse through the film. It isn't needed until the seeds pop out leaves anyway.

After that, pull back the plastic wrap to let the seedlings breathe. Warmth is fine for pepper plants as long as you don't over-do it.

Hardening is weeks away from seed germination. Staying in the box would be death.

With the caveat that if you built a grow-box like the MariJuana guys do, with moisture control, light, a fan, intake vents and exhaust vents, and a CO2 source, well, sure, the plants would probably LOVE that.

Of course, in the good ol' USA, owning a grow box might, just might, get you a visit from Johnny Law.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 9:40AM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

You can grow stuff for ages inside a box. Its not hermetically sealed, is it :) I have a hotbox for seedlings that like it hot, full of cactus and succulents at the monent. Made from good old white chipboard with a removable glass front, no need for reflectors. Its about the size you want, I use two compact fluorescent bulbs to light and heat it. Its hard to get powerful fluorescent tubes in very short lengths and by the time you've bought the fixtures and ballasts its hardly worth the effort.

As for heat, a 40W fluorescent tube puts out the same heat as a 40W incandescent bulb, more or less. It also puts out about 5 times as much light.

By all means, put the trays or pots in plastic bags, or wrap them with plastic film, to germinate the seedlings. Humidity is the first thing that seeds need. I imagine peppers don't want to grow in high humidity for too long, but I don't really know.

I don't know anyone who has any problems growing plants in a closed propagator. I know some people who grow cacti inside plastic bags for over a year without trouble. You certainly won't have trouble with your seedlings running out of CO2 unless you go to huge trouble to seal the box. Larger plants use more CO2 but they aren't going to be in the close box. A room full of three foot plants might need extra ventilation, but it sounds like you only want to keep a handful of plants indoors. Some dedicated growers (usually of illegal crops!) enrich the growing space with CO2 to increase growth. I supect that would be counterproductive with peppers.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 12:29PM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

I found a couple of links on this subject.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 3:50PM
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bentley_on(PHZ2k 6a)

You guys are right behind me. I only have the minimal of requirements, but they are legitimate. (tell me if this is correct):

start seeds in M-G seedling soil with the little dinky jiffy thingies about the size of an egg. Soak thoughoughly with water very hot. Put the plastic lid on to keep the moisture in, and water in only when the soil becomes dry. Keep warm (70° to pref. 85°F), but don't worry about light.

when they poke through scoup them out and move to M-G potting soil and styrofoam cups, with a little hole poked in the bottom. Keep the heat as before, and begin supplying light 10-16 hrs/day. Covering the tray as a whole is not possible with cups, but it is not neccessary to cover each cup as long as the heat is kept up. Not sure about the watering at this point.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 12:14AM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

" Covering the tray as a whole is not possible with cups"

If you seriously want to create a super-humid environment, I've seen these plastic dish covers with elastic bands. You stretch them and snap the cover over the dish or cup.

Maybe try it on a couple of seedlings and report back how well it works.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 3:17AM
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