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Hydroponic Peppers

Posted by rick_in_va 7 VA (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 27, 09 at 10:00

I have never tried hydroponics but would like to investigate it. Apparently some have had great success growing peppers with those methods, such as Willard3.

I have an in-ground vegetable garden, but I grow most of my peppers in containers to avoid contamination and rotation issues. Also because I have too many pepper plants and I need the garden space for other vegs. I am planning to build a small outdoor greenhouse using polycarbonate sheets this summer (I got them free as salvage - lucky dumpster diving in a construction area!)

How much work and attention is required for hydroponics as compared with regular container gardening? And what about costs? I would very much appreciate any info or links.

Rick


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

The equipment is expensive compared to containers and soil but will last for many seasons. The work is much different from soil. Much of the work is setting up your system and mixing up nutrients. If you have a large enough reservoir you can go for a week or longer before adding water and nutrients. The more you spend on equipment, monitors and timers, the easier it gets. It's hard to justify the expenses compared to soil, but ultimately you can save time, space, and water.

One major difference vs. soil is that there is less of a buffer for mistakes. Overfeeding, wrong pH, res running dry, etc... All these things will kill hydro plants very quickly. Soil can suffer a drought and still come back.

Depending on the hydro system, it may also be difficult to grow a variety of different peppers. If you want the best tasting harvest you will need to flush with plain pH'd water first, this is harder to do if you have other plants in the system that aren't yet ready.

In any case, although it's more complicated and expensive it's becoming more common. In a limited space, hydro will produce much more fruit with less mess. Last year I had 3 peppers and 1 basil plant in individual 5 gallon "bubble buckets". They peppers were huge and outgrew the system before harvest. I learned that I was feeding them too much nitrogen, and I needed a larger reservoir, and a better system for adding water and nutrients.

This year I'll be using a drip system with at least 20 peppers in coco coir. For a setup like this you need a reservoir, pump, tray, containers and coco coir.

The hydroponics forum on this site is full of information, and google helps with anything else. Be aware that most of what you will find is not about growing peppers, but the system is what's important.

I like to build and experiment, so I haven't gone with a packaged system. If you have the money to spend, there are some great looking systems out there. If I was starting from scratch and wanted to be up and running ASAP there is a system called the Eurogrower that looks very good. The cheapest diy system is probably "bubble buckets" or DWC. You can do this with buckets or a rubbermaid container, air pump + stone, net pots and hydroton. Google "DWC" and you will find everything you need to build your own.

Hope this helps, I'm just a beginner, but I've done a bit of research. Honestly though, If I had the space then I'd prefer large containers of quality soil + drip irrigation.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

I built a DWC system for 20 bucks and if you want you can use the bucket and air stuff for a compost tea brewer. I have a Habanero white in mine right now and I dont think it has grown at all but it hasnt been in long


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

Peppers have done extremely well outdoors (keep an eye on evaporation) in my General Hydroponics waterfarms. The small (4 gallons?)square one with a circular drip ring. A single set up w/ media (hydroton expanded clay pellets) and Triflora nutrients goes for $45-60. An easy design to create for yourself at home as well.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

I would like to chime in here and ask whether peppers grow hydroponically have the same heat and flavor of soil-grown peppers.

My family comes from New Mexico where peppers rule. The general census that I have been taught is that before harvest peppers should be watered only enough to keep them alive in order to develop the heat and flavor.

If this is true, how to hydroponic peppers taste compared to their water-restricted neighbors?


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Flavor of Hydroponic Peppers

Hydro peppers can never dry out, so it's harder to stress them for flavor development. When there's a medium holding water like rockwool or coco, you could probably hold back on water a little bit, but you risk salt build up. Last year, my nutrient concentration changed quite a bit as water evaporated and I added back water or nutrients. I think the ppm swings caused them to develop a good amount of heat. An expert hydro farmer (which I am not) would be able to play with their nutrient mix and irrigation cycles to develop more flavor.

In my limited experience, soil wins for heat, but hydro for production. This year, I'll be trying different things because my goals are quality and variety, not quantity.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

I would say the pods have been somewhat milder than their counterparts I grew in the ground during the same seasons. Last year I grew a Jaloro yellow jalapeno (seemed very mild) and a Caribbean Red (slightly milder than normal, but still had spice). Maybe I'm tripping, but that's how I recall it.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

There is much better control in hydro than dirt and you can control taste, watering schedule, feeding schedule and etc.

You don't have to grow in hydro, but it's easier and more productive to grow in every respect in hydro.

I grow in both dirt and hydro and have lots of data.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

I have only been growing peppers in hydro for two years or three seasons. I grow only hydroponic now. I started out doing both. I had peppers in soil and in hydro. Over the first few seasons I was happy I did both as I killed most of my hydro peppers. However, now that I have a system, the hydro is much better.

My system is simple as I do DW in buckets. I start most of my peppers out in the larger peat pellets. These expand up to four inches in height, and are larger in diameter than the regular peat pellets.

Once I have several sets of leaves on the plants, I wash off the peat, and move them into hydroponic. I use what is called an atrium drain cap which allows me to use tomato support poles to help support my plants. I use grow rocks as I found over time the rock wool seems to retain nutrients and cause issues with my plants. I start out the plants at .35 EC, and when about 12" tall I increase to .40 EC. As the plants reach 2' tall I then increase EC to .50. Once the peppers are about 3' tall I increase the EC to .75, but this is the max EC I use. If the plants use the nutrients in a few days, I increase the size of the bucket.

I start all my peppers out in hydro in 2 gallon plastic buckets. I use one 4" air stone per bucket. Volume is the key to the air. I like the white sandstone air stones as they do not create back pressure on the air pump. I typically move the plants to 5 gallon buckets when they are 3' tall or when they use all the nutrients (.75) in less than four days.

I use only the GH Flora Nova BLOOM nutrient solution from transplant until grave. I get huge crops off each plant, more than in any other situation. Currently I have over 75 Jalapenos on one plant and it will not stop flowering!

Currently I am growing Jalapeno, Habanero, Tabasco, Golden Bell, California Bell, Goats Weed, Sweet Cayenne, Sweet Paprika, Santiago, Picante, Greek Pepperocini, Hot Portugal, Lemon Drop, and a few more I cannot remember right now.

I will post some pics here in a few days as I am way behind on updating my pics for this years garden.

I also have a beefsteak, brandy wine, and grape tomato plants growing with Garlic, Onions, Cilantro, Dill and Corn for fun.


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

mrpepper, What do you do about lights?


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RE: Hydroponic Peppers

Thanks for the post mrpepper. Last season, I did almost the same as you; DWC in hydroton using Nova bloom. I tried transplants in rapidrooters, Jiffy pellets, and rockwool; no major difference between the three. I didn't even remove the peat from the Jiffy. I'm eagerly awaiting your photos because staking the plants is difficult in my netpots. I don't have an EC meter so I just winged it. I think I'm running this years crop (also switched to flora series) a little hot at the moment, but I think they will be fine once they really start to grow. I'll have to try the white airstones, the pumps and airstones are two things I don't like about DWC. By the way, how do you keep the airstones from floating?


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