My little indoor hot pepper garden
I'm in Zone 3, not really pepper-country. Average highs now (Nov. 12) are below freezing, even in mid-summer our average highs are about 75F (24C) with night lows about 50F (10C). I've had some good luck outdoors with hot Hungarian Wax peppers before, but haven't tried much else. This past summer I tried container gardening on our deck with ornamental hot peppers and that worked well, I finished the last of the peppers a few days ago.
I thought it would be good to try some other container-peppers next summer, so bought some seeds from Pepper Joe's plus bought some "Thai bird chilis" from a local supermarket and selected the most ripe chilis to dry and harvest the seeds. I wanted to test what might grow well in containers in cool conditions.
My indoor growing spot is two 4-ft. shop lights in the basement (2 fixtures, 2 tubes per fixture, one cool-white, one warm-white), on for 16 hrs per day. This is all covered with a white sheet to trap heat from the lights. Right now the temp in the covered growing area is about 75F during the day and low 60s at night. As winter sets in the day temp should remain about the same, but the night temp will drop into the mid to high 50's. Here's a pic of the covered set-up:
P.Joe's seed packs contain about 10 seeds per pack and I really bought them for next outdoor season, so was only willing to commit 2 or 3 seeds to test under grow lights this winter.
--My few seeds of "Firecracker Chile" didn't germinate, which is too bad since they are said to be good for containers so would have been good to evaluate.
--The "Charleston Hot Pepper", said to be 15" tall with heavy yields, so also a good container option, had one plant germinate but it was sickly and soon developed mottled brown leaves and was discarded.
That leaves me with just 3 hot pepper varieties. The supermarket "Thai bird chilis", were planted Sep. 8, and had 90% germination, with strong growth. They grow so strongly that I have to clip them frequently to try to force them to bush out. Maybe I can force them to be a bushy indoor plant, but I think they want to be a very tall pepper, so probably not a great choice for indoor or container gardening. Too bad, as they have a nice taste and a fierce heat. Here's how they look on Nov. 12, 65 days after planting (and after numerous clippings):
"Thai Sun peppers" -- Planted Sep. 28, the seed was so tiny that I didn't hold out much hope, but 2 out of 2 germinated. They grew slowly at first, with thin stems, and I sprayed one with a fungicide when it looked like "damping-off" disease might kill the main stem. Right now I think these have the most promise -- they branched strongly without any pinching needed to promote branching, and they are now putting out flower buds, which no other variety is doing. And this is just 45 days after planting the seeds:
Close-up of the buds:
The other variety I still have is "Tobasco". I have two plants, one rather sickly that might be composted soon, and another with more vigour that might be worth keeping:
If I can ask a question... what causes the mottled appearance (and brown spots in more advanced cases) on pepper leaves? I saw this on the Charleston Hot peppers before I ended up tossing them. And it is visible on the Tobasco peppers now:
Is this a disease?... viral, bacterial, fungal? Is it a nutient issue? Is it a cold-intolerance issue? An insect issue (I don't see any insects, even under a 10X loupe). An insecticide issue? (I treat each potted plant with fungus-gnat dust because I have issues with those bugs).
Anyhow, I'll update things in a month or so to let people know how my little indoor garden is doing.