Zone 3 winter pepper garden, pic heavy

don555(3a)February 9, 2012

With the ground outside frozen since early November and not likely to thaw until early April, I grew peppers under shop-lights in the basement this winter. I'll need to start reclaiming that space for spring bedding plants in a few weeks, here's how my winter peppers have done up until now. These were planted as seeds from early September to early October, and grown entirely under shop-lights in my basement. I don't think I'll plant any of these 3 varieties for outdoor growing this year, but the Thai Sun will definitely be on my list for indoor growing again next winter.

First off, here's an overview of my light set-up with the peppers:

This variety -- my tallest plant -- I'm calling Thai Hot. It is actually a Thai pepper that I bought at a local supermarket in late summer and ripened indoors until the pods dried up, then I collected the seeds. It is a very vigorous and upright grower, and since I can buy it at a local grocery store I'm not particularly inclined to grow it again. But all of these pods I tried to fertilize with compact Thai Sun plants, so maybe the seeds will grow something interesting? Anyway, planted Sept. 8, I pruned it aggessively to limit its height and never moved it beyond a 4" pot. It set 18 pods, which are just starting to ripen now:

Next are the tobasco peppers... planted in early October and now only beginning to set fruit. These guys are slow! They are also far hotter than I was expecting... I picked one of the pods, chewed it up thoroughly, then realized how hot it was -- I had to melt half a tray of ice cubes in my mouth to numb the heat until it faded. Maybe I'm a heat-wimp.

Closer up:

And now my favorites, the Thai Sun. Planted in late September and moved up eventually to 6" pots, these guys have to be the perfect indoor hot pepper plant. They are small peppers, but very hot, and produced in absolutely crazy abundance under flourescent shop-lights. My sweethearts:

I grew two plants of Thai Sun... this is one of them:

And this is the other:

Now it's time to think about outdoor peppers... which in zone 3 means thinking about a very limited number of varieties...sigh.

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Wow...awesome work. I think I will try this next winter.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 6:23AM
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I have to agree that that Thai Sun is a cool looking plant. Really neat that you got all those plants to grow so nicely indoors.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:38AM
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Hmmm - I might have to try that next winter too. My grow lights just hang there in my grow room idle until I start sowing seeds in Jan/Feb. Might as well give them lights something to do!!

Nice pics, I'm jealous!!

Thanks for sharing

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:43AM
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What kind of bulbs are you running?
T8 or T12?


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:10AM
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Don, very very nice pics!!

I will be growing Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Tepin and Poblano pepper, but still very cold over here.

Wondering if the plant on the garfield pot is a Drosera?? I love those plants, I wanna grow my very own. :)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:15AM
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That is a very nice looking thai sun. I have three, and though its hard to tell from a picture, your fruit seems quite a bit larger... I've been working on a cross with mine (it has every bit as many fruit normally though) and have kept the flowers trimmed off, save for the ones that I crossed (which are nearly ripe little peppers now).

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:17AM
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Great Winter garden!! Those Thai Sun's sure are pretty!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:59AM
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Thanks for comments! It's nice to have even a small indoor garden during the months when everything is frozen up outside.

Bruce -- those are the smaller flourescent bulbs... T8 I think. They are 32 watts, supposedly as bright as the older 40 W bulbs, but I haven't tried to measure that or anything. Each of my 2 shoplight fixtures holds 2 bulbs so I put one warm-white and one cool-white in each fixture to extend the light spectrum without having to resort to expensive "grow lights". I have tried grow-lights in the past, and my sense is that things do much better under the warm-white/cool white combination.

luisito8m -- good eye on the Drosera (sundew)! I was wondering if anyone would catch that :) Fungus gnats are often an issue when growing indoors... I don't know that the sundews are having much impact on overall numbers, but at least the sundews are certainly well-fed!

Jsschrsrcks -- The Thai Sun peppers are pretty small, ranging from about to half an inch to an inch.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 2:18AM
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Mine are smaller still... My biggest one - IE the time I cut all the flowers off save for one, and kept them off until one flower turned into one ripe pepper - was almost a half inch.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 2:44AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Woderful winter garden, Don. I never thought of growing plants to maturity under my basement lights, but I am wondering about the timing for your lights to be on. Were they on 24/7? What were your hydro bills like? We have had 'smart' meters istalled here and our rates are very high. In prior years, I have had my lights on 24/7 but this year, I may have to limit it to 12 hours (the off-peak cycle). I am wondering if that will be enough.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 3:37AM
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Very true! I am growing Moss Rose and Bunching Onions indoors until the cold goes away (till transplant) and they are pretty much full of fungus gnats.

Where did you get your Drosera from?? Would you recommend me a seller?? :P

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 10:09AM
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Oops, guess I haven't read this thread for a few days...

northener - My lights are on 16 hrs per day (on a timer) from 7 am to 11 pm. Haha, I can tell you are from Ontario because when I lived there we always called electricity "hydro". Now that I'm in Alberta, it's called "power". Amusing east-west distinction aside, I've never calculated the power cost... but 4 bulbs x 32 watts = 128 watts. x 16 hrs/day = 2048 watts per day, or about 2 kilowatts. I think we are paying 13 cents per kW now, so that's 26 cents per day. (Usually power is more like 10 cents/kW, so it would be 20 cents per day). I don't know how that works for you with prices determined by smart meters and cycle demand.

luisito8m - 5 or more years ago I was a member of the ICPS (International Carnivorous Plant Society) and belonged to it for several years. Along with my $40 annual membership I got access to 12 free packs of carnivorous plant seeds from their seed list (or maybe it was $1 per pack?... or $1 per pack after my free dozen?... don't recall exactly). Anyway, that's where I got my carnivorous plant seeds from, and I had the best success with the various Drosera species. Last spring I was cleaning up my gardening space in the basement and I came across a partial pack of old D.capensis seeds. The seeds are as tiny as dust so I held out little hope for them to still be viable, but planted them all, and almost a year later they've grown into what you see in the photo. So I recommend ICPS as a good source, but it does involve a $40 annual fee to join. Next in line I'd probably try ebay, paying careful attention to the feedback from the sellers customers. I tried various seed companies long ago for numerous carnivorous plants, but was almost always disappointed with the results. Stick with the little guy who grows the plants themselves.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 2:01AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

I love the pics, they all look beautiful!

I'm using the same light set up, Don....are you using 1 shop light/2bulbs per shelf?

Does your cover sheet touch - drape directly on the tops of the shoplight?

On automatic lighting - how frequently do you visit? I worry about fire, but I'm a worrywart....

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Thanks. I'm using two shop lights (4 bulbs) that are suspended with two chains each from ceiling joists, over a tabletop. I raise the shoplights with the chains as the plants grow, meaning I can have the shoplights at different heights. (I can also raise or lower each end of the lights if I want to have tall plants at one end of the light and shorter plants at the other.)

Yes, my cover sheet does lay directly on top of the shoplights, then drapes down over the edges of the table. (I use shorter sheets or old towels to wrap around the end of the lights to enclose that area.) I understand your worry about fire but I've been using a similar setup for decades without any problems so have gotten over most of the worry. I use a thin sheet, and would never use a something thick like a wool blanket. The sheet is meant to trap heat though and does warm up the area where the plants grow by about 10 degrees F warmer than outside the grow area, so presumably it warms up at that much or more where the sheet actually contacts the shoplights. It doesn't seem to be actually hot though. As for how often I check my grow area -- usually once or twice a day, but sometimes not for two or three days.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 4:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Awesome work, Don!

I love the Thai ornamental looking varieties. Perfect for container culture.
Could that first Thai be a Black Dragon perhaps?


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 4:37PM
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Hey, any chance I could get a few Thai Sun seeds from you, I really like the looks of those plants of yours and might give one a shot this summer but if not, I am sure i would like to try a winter plant like yours next fall.

I have a few varieties if you want to trade, check my list.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 5:37PM
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hi im new to growing and i love your setup! im hoping to do the same. i want to grow some peppers indoors over the winter here in toronto! i was jut wondering what soil mix you are using? also fertilizer and how much?


    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 9:28AM
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