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Beginner w/ First pepper garden - 2x2 tent grow - 150 watt - Coco Coir and GH Flora Nutrients

Hello and Welcome to my first pepper grow journal. I am not a gardener and I don’t have access to a garden, so I am limited to growing in my basement. I WELCOME INPUT, SO PLEASE JUMP IN IF I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG. I will be using a 2x2x6 grow tent to keep the plants warm and reflect more light. I have a 150 watt ViparSpectra LED for the space. I see that most of the pepper plants that I ordered are only expected to grow 2’ tall, so I’m hoping to squeeze four plants in the tent. This will put them 12” apart which is a little too tight I suspect. I will buy a larger tent (3x2 or 3x3) if it gets too tight (and if I enjoy this new hobby). I’ve been doing a lot of reading and preparation for this hobby….i hope it proves to be a rewarding hobby. My supplies and seeds will be here within a week.

Here is the growing space.I know it’s not much space to work with, but I can always add a second tent if I enjoy growing peppers and need more space as they get larger.
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Here are most of the peppers that I ordered. I was originally planning to grow Shishito, Thai Chiles, Sweet mini bell peppers and lunchbox peppers. However, I saw so many pepper varieties on this forum that I decided to order more exotic seeds and try a few. I am undecided as to which 4 I plan to grow first. I am still waiting for my germination equipment to arrive (heating pad, humidity dome, starter soil), so I have a few days to decide. The more I research this topic, the more I’m amazed by the variety of peppers available.

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I am planning to use these self feeding pots for my peppers. I need to have the ability to ignore them for a day or two at times. I’m hoping these feeders help keep them watered and fed automatically. The medium I am using is Coco Loco mixed with perlite. It’s a fast draining coco medium that allows for faster growth, but it doesn’t provide many nutrients. I will be feeding General Hydroponics Flora Series (Gro, Micro and Bloom), CalMag and seaweed extract, both of which work well with wick feeders.

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More details and photos next week when I have the seeds in their propagator.
 
Day 4
1/20/2024
Pepper Varieties with growing sprouts: 1 of 11
Summary: Seedlings struggling with seed husk removal, more transplanting activity, LED recommended heights reference.

One degree outside today! Glad to be hiding in the basement with my garden. At least we are free of any snow.

The Shishoto pepper seeds in the grow tent and in the propagator are still alive and several more have popped up. I now have enough that I feel confident about having two plants survive for the final transplant. So, I transplanted a few more seedlings to free up an entire row in the propagator. This will allow me to plant one additional pepper variety. Here are my choices…seeds arrive next week. I’m torn between the Dragon’s Toe and the Bishops Crown as they’re both likely to stretch my heat tolerance a little. The scotch bonnet is still out of my league, but I do want to try making a hot sauce with a couple of scotch bonnet peppers soon.

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Several seedlings in the grow tent appear to have seeds still attached to their leaves. One is even bent fully over due to the weight of the seed husk. I’m misting the plants every 15 minutes to try to soften that shell and help them out. My hands aren’t steady enough for performing any surgery here. Tent is looking good except for the temperature….not as warm as I would like (71 degrees F) even with the heat mat. I added more carpet under the heat mat hoping to add more warmth. Humidity has been around 65% with the water pan and fabric pots acting like wicks.

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There are still 5 or more seedlings in the propagator. This will be a good test to see if seedlings survivor ok under the humidity dome. I’ve added a fan to the dome to replenish the air every two hours for 30 minutes. I’m misting the top of the propagator daily.

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And finally, a resource for my grow that I found online. Here are the grow light distances for my LEDs. I’ve moved the lamp down to 20 inches and 40% power. When I measure with a lux meter, I am giving them 1500 lux worth of light. I’ll keep increasing the power or lowering the lamp every day until we get to 5,000 lux.

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You might want to give @CaneDog's helmet-head trick a try. Going forward, try planting your seeds a little deeper.
I don't use the covers. I have heat mats and lights and just watch the soil moisture closely.
I don't use the covers. I have heat mats and lights and just watch the soil moisture closely.
Thank you for the advice! I will leave future seedlings in the propagator for a while longer and see what happens.

Canedog’s process looks like a great way to go. I manually removed two seed husks and buried one using this approach. Thanks Downriver and Canedog! The rest of my seeds are buried deeper than these….hopefully not too deep. Again….thanks!



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Day 7
1/23/24
Pepper Varieties with growing sprouts: 5 of 11. (4 new varieties today). Planted on Day 0.

I was initially worried that I buried my seeds too deep (maybe 3/4 inch) as I was using a small pointed tool that came free with some seedling trays. However, I’m seeing good seedling action here on Day 7 since I planted. I almost didn’t see any of this activity on first inspection. Most are still small hoops awaiting to lift out their leaves. Only the Aji Rico is truly above soil and approximately 1” tall. I am seeing one sprout from each variety except for the previously sprouted Shishitos.

Sprouting varieties: Lunchbox mix, Sweet jalapeño, Satan’s Kiss, Aji Rico and Shishito. I planted 5-6 seeds for each variety hoping for one mature plant from each….seemed like a good likelihood, but perhaps I overplanted. I overplanted the Shishito peppers big time as I only want to grow two of her. I’m using several of the Shishotos to dial in the tent heat and humidity….and I might try planting one in a container on the back deck.

I am using small fiber pots filled with coco and immersed in the tray of water to maintain humidity. I also have a fan blowing on them. They act like big wicks and are raising the humidity from 40% in the house to 65% in the tent.

Here is the Shishito tent. I have been feeding from the bottom, but I think the pots have become too wet so I moved them to a raised tray. Unless I really screw up, I feel good that I will have my two mature shishito peppers.

The seedlings in the propagation tray had significantly more height to them and looked healthier than those from the grow tent. I discovered that my LED setting on the propagation station was more intense than the tent. I lowered the propagation LED level to manufacturer recommendations (level 1). Confirmed height of light in the tent at 20 inches and increased LED intensity to 50%. (60% is recommended). This provides 11,000 worth of lux. I am running the light for 14 hours per day in the tent whereas I was running the propagation station led 24/7 up until now. I do question though if these recommended light settings are conservative given the better growth I saw under the higher LED intensity and longer lighting period. I will gradually increase intensity, but I would bet that peppers love more light than the typical plant given their native geographies.

I am worried that I might have erred by not rinsing my coco after buffering with a 7.5 ml/gallon solution of CalMag and that this could burn the roots. So this is also a test of this medium mix to determine if I need to rinse my coco before planting too many more seedlings. Once I use up my coco coir bricks, I’ll be buying prebuffered Canna coco and saving myself the work.

Hopefully more seedlings to report in a few more days.


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Day 8
1/24/24
Pepper Varieties with growing sprouts: 7 of 11. (2 new varieties today). Planted on Day 0.

Off to a great start. I may not get 100% germination, but I should have enough peppers to fill my ten containers. Next time I will try soaking seeds in black tea prior to planting to see if it improves germination rates….that sees pretty common. But I’m pleased with the germination speed considering that I planted them without any presoak.

Summary: Now 7 of my 11 pepper varieties have sprouted by day #8. I’m still planning to keep one of each. For a few varieties, this growth is much faster than expected according to chat GPT. Below are the estimated germination times by pepper variety. I had buried these seeds 3/4 inch deep and I’m having a lot fewer issues with seed husks being stuck to the starter leaves than I saw with my shallow seeds from the Shishito peppers. Lesson has been learned….thanks again to Downriver for pointing that tip out.

Next week if I get more germination, I intend to remove the humidity dome and move the propagation tray into the grow tent. I don’t know how long to leave these seedlings in the propagator, but I’m finding it difficult to transplant these one inch seedlings without a strong rootball.

Germination station lighting set to 1, heat mat set to maintain soil at 83 degrees, medium is Fox Farms Coco Loco. Edit…add that I am misting with solution of seaweed extract, RO water, 3ml/g of CalMag and .25 ml/g of Flora Series nutrients. Ph to 5.8.

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1. **Shishito Pepper** (SPROUTED in 3 weeks - too cold to germinate initially)
- *Germination Time:* 7-14 days

2. **Biquinho Red** (1 sprouted on day #8)
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

3. **Sweet Heat** ( 1 Sprouted Day 8)
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

4. **Satan's Kiss** (1 Sprouted day 7)
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

5. **Aji Cachucha**
- *Germination Time:* 10-14 days

6. **Patio Fire & Ice**
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

7. **Jalapeno Sweet** (Sprouted 2 on day 7)
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

8. **Aji Rico** (Sprouted day 6)
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

9. **Fresno**
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

10. **Bulgarian Carrot**
- *Germination Time:* 10-14 days

11. Lunchbox Peppers (Sprouted day 7)
 
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Day 9
1/25/24
Good Morning. We were 5 degrees last week and now we’re expecting 60 degree weather next week? Wow! What a nice break in the middle of winter. My dog and I will get a lot of walking in these next few days.

More seedlings and several tiny mushrooms growing! 13 new seedlings today. Still missing one pepper variety for my tent. 10 of the 11 varieties have at least one seedling, so I’m hopeful. The only missing pepper is Aji Cachucha (an Amazon purchase 🤦‍♂️) with zero seedlings. It’s only day 9, so I expect more seedlings to appear.

My research (nothing scientific here….just YouTube videos) is indicating that directly sowing dry seeds into soil is only about 30% effective which would mean that I should only expect 1-2 seedlings per variety. I’m hoping to beat that number. But I will do more research on seed preparation techniques to improve germination in the future. I’m misting the top soil but not drenching the medium. I am also feeding from the bottom. I’m using a 575ppm (1.2 ec) solution with seaweed extract, CalMag, flora series nutrients to feed. I’m in Coco Loco now and I will transplant them to a mix of primarily coco coir, perlite and a little Coco Loco in 2-3 weeks.

My biggest mistake that I’ve made so far is that I didn’t know that I should research seed suppliers. It sounds like that is a critical part of the process in reading other grow logs. I will buy more reputable seeds in the future and make these seeds work for this year. These seeds are mostly from one large seed supplier and a few Amazon seeds. I’m sure I’ve made a lot of other small mistakes that I will learn from as this grow progresses.

A quick look at the germination station today and the mushroom farm that is starting.

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Here is the latest summary and average germination times. i planted 6 seeds of most pepper varieties.

1. **Shishito Pepper** (SPROUTED in 3 weeks - too cold to germinate initially…Amazon seeds.
- *Germination Time:* 7-14 days

2. **Biquinho Red** (2 sprouted on day #8….one is a seed head. Hoping to grow two of these plants, so I want a few more seedlings.
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

3. **Sweet Heat** ( 1 Sprouted Day 8…now we have 2 seedlings by day 9
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

4. **Satan's Kiss** (1 Sprouted day 7…Now 3 of 6 have sprouted
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

5. **Aji Cachucha**. No activity….Amazon seeds
- *Germination Time:* 10-14 days

6. **Patio Fire & Ice**. 2 of 6 sprouted today
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

7. **Jalapeno Sweet** (Sprouted 2 on day 7…up to 4 sprouts today
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

8. **Aji Rico** (Sprouted 1 day 6). Waiting for 5 more.
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

9. **Fresno**. 2 of 6 sprouted today
- *Germination Time:* 14-21 days

10. **Bulgarian Carrot**. 1 sprout today
- *Germination Time:* 10-14 days

11. Lunchbox Peppers (Sprouted day 7)….all 6 have sprouted. Amazon seeds.

Finally, the Shishito tent. The seedlings are responding well to the increased lighting. They are now larger than their siblings in the germination station. I have been maintaining the tent at 79 degrees and 65% humidity. I am only keeping two of these, but I’m using them to dial in the tent and conduct a few experiments with my treated water to see how chlorine/chloramines affect pepper seedlings. So far, the chlorine does not seem to be damaging the seedlings.

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The small seed head (hope I have that term correct) that I buried using Canedog’s technique is still buried with her neck (seed husk) in the soil. I probably won’t keep her, but it was good practice. She still looks healthy, but she’s been stuck in this position for 2-3 days now.

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Today I am trying to dial in my lighting intensity in the tent. I’m using an app called Photone and their diffuser to measure light intensity using my iPhone. I can’t find any recommended light levels for peppers, so I’m using their cannabis lighting guidelines. The only other guidelines they publish are for houseplants and I think peppers require more light than most houseplants.

I’m using Daily Light Integral for my tracking and I am at 16 hours of light per day. I’m wondering if they need more hours of light.

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Here are the guidelines by plant age…

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Here is my slightly increased Daily Light Integral and ppfd lighting intensity.
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I plan to increase the intensity next week, but I am within the guidelines for 16 hours of light.
 
Day 11
1/27/24

Seedling Update….11 days since all were sown except the Shishito peppers which were planted much earlier.

It is going to be difficult to decide on which plants get moved to the ten final containers, but it’s good to have some backup plants. Planning to transplant in 1-2 more weeks once the root ball is larger. I plan to pot up to .5 gallon pots for a while, then pot up to 12-inch planters in most situations.

Showing the # of seedlings as of today / # of seeds sown.

1. **Shishito Pepper. 19/25. (I overplanted)
2. **Biquinho Red. 4 / 6
3. **Sweet Heat**. 5 / 6
4. **Satan's Kiss. 3 / 6
5. **Aji Cachucha. 3 / 6
6. **Patio Fire & Ice. 5 / 6
7. **Jalapeno Sweet. 5 / 6
8. **Aji Rico** 2 / 6
9. **Fresno 3 / 6
10. **Bulgarian Carrot. 1 / 6
11. Lunchbox peppers. 11 / 12

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You probably should lose the dome now. The majority of seeds have sprouted, and the plants are big enough. It will help avoid dampening-off. Maybe increase light intensity a little as well, to avoid legginess. Things are looking good!
 
You probably should lose the dome now. The majority of seeds have sprouted, and the plants are big enough. It will help avoid dampening-off. Maybe increase light intensity a little as well, to avoid legginess. Things are looking good!

Thank you Downriver! I wasn’t sure when to do that step. I removed the dome and put them in the tent with the other seedlings. (LED at 20” and reduced intensity from 60% to 50%).

There are a few that appear leggy already. Not too bad yet.

Edit…light adjusted to achieve 7,000 lux which is around 40% on the dimmer at 20”.
 
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Be careful about losing the dome cold turkey once they're used to it. I'd suggest a break-in period of just cracking it open and/or leaving it off overnight to get them used to the transpiration demands of drier, more intense conditions. Sprouts can dehydrate quickly and not recover if the change is too much of a shock.
 
(Edit…added this header for future reference)
Day: 12
Date: 1/28/24
Lighting per Day: 16 hours
Lamp to Plant Distance and Dim: 20 inches at 50%
Lighting Intensity: 192 ppfd, 11,900 lux, 11.1 DLI
Daytime Air Temp: 78
Nutrient TDS: 500 ppm / 1.0 EC
Nutrients: Seaweed, Flora Series .4, CalMag 3ml/g, ph 5.8
Air humidity: 65%.
(End of Edit)

(Hard to believe that we are finished with January. Spring is almost here.)

The seedlings survived their first day after moving them to a grow tent without the humidity dome. I reduced the lights from 60% to 40% intensity to ease the seedlings into the new environment. I also misted them three times a day to keep to top layer moist.

Today I bottom-fed all of the plants and increased the light intensity slightly from 40% to 50% at 20” above the plants. I am running the lights for 16 hours per day. I’ll keep misting the seedlings as it helps with humidity in the tent too.

Nutrients are RO water with seaweed extract (28ml/g), Flora Series nutrients (.4 ml/g) and ph down (1ml /g). Water is ph’d to 5.8 (coco) and ppm at 500. EC at 1.0. All numbers seem to be within the ideal range for seedlings when I research online. Ph would be higher for soil, but I’ve chosen to grow in coco coir which likes a lower ph.

Current tent conditions are maintained at 77 degrees and 65% humidity. I have heating mats under all seedlings set to 80 degrees. I reduced it from 83 degrees so I don’t damage the roots. My fabric pots filled with coco are doing a nice job of wicking water to increase humidity in the tent.

Now I just need to decide when to transplant to half gallon pots. I’m planning to wait for the root ball to grow larger and more dense…maybe 1-2 weeks. I will need to cull a few Shishoto peppers too….

Photo of Par (ppfd) reading in the tent before I turned it down a little more to 50%

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Current seedling status….not many changes.

1. **Shishito Pepper. 19/25. (I overplanted)
2. **Biquinho Red. 6 / 6. (New sprouts today)
3. **Sweet Heat**. 5 / 6
4. **Satan's Kiss. 3 / 6
5. **Aji Cachucha. 3 / 6
6. **Patio Fire & Ice. 6 / 6. (New sprout today)
7. **Jalapeno Sweet. 5 / 6
8. **Aji Rico** 2 / 6
9. **Fresno 3 / 6
10. **Bulgarian Carrot. 1 / 6
11. Lunchbox peppers. 11 / 12
 
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Be careful about losing the dome cold turkey once they're used to it. I'd suggest a break-in period of just cracking it open and/or leaving it off overnight to get them used to the transpiration demands of drier, more intense conditions. Sprouts can dehydrate quickly and not recover if the change is too much of a shock.
Thank you Canedog. After your post, I reduced the light even further and made it a point to keep them misted last night while they acclimated. So far so good. Thanks for the tips, pointers and warnings. I appreciate the advice from experienced growers like yourself. There is a lot more to growing peppers than I realized.
 
If anyone wonders why I use Reverse Osmosis water, treat for chlorine and also adjust the ph, I do this for three reasons:

1.) The ph out of the tap is at 9.4 and 180 ppm out of the tap…so I believe it needs to be reduced to 5.8 for coco. So regardless of whether I use tap or RO water, I need to reduce the ph.
2.). My water supply adds Chloramines (not just chlorine), so I use RO water with seedlings to improve their germination chances. Chloramines are a mixture of ammonia and chlorine and they don’t dissipate with time like straight chlorine does. I use aquarium chlorine remover drops to help remove this too. I don’t know about peppers, but chloramines can prevent germination in many plant varieties.
3.). When I look at the EWG water database, I realized that there are way too many chemicals in my drinking water that exceed healthy limits, so that was the final clincher for buying an RO system. (https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/). If you are in the U.S. on a public water supply, you may find that site interesting too.

Since I’m filtering everything out of the water, I also need to add CalMag back into the nutrient solution at 3ml/g.


Tap Water PH and PPM shown below and the EWG summary for my water supply.

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> directly sowing dry seeds into soil is only about 30% effective

That does not match my experience at all. But I'll grant that the chinenses seem to need a little more attention (such as a presoak) to get best germination.
 
> directly sowing dry seeds into soil is only about 30% effective

That does not match my experience at all. But I'll grant that the chinenses seem to need a little more attention (such as a presoak) to get best germination.
My experience as well. But I think it depends on the quality of the seeds also... some germinate without problems and some don't...
 
My experience as well. But I think it depends on the quality of the seeds also... some germinate without problems and some don't...
> directly sowing dry seeds into soil is only about 30% effective

That does not match my experience at all. But I'll grant that the chinenses seem to need a little more attention (such as a presoak) to get best germination.

After my first attempt at starting pepper seeds, I agree with both of you. Some of the YouTube creators sure make seed-starting sound more complicated and difficult than it needs to be. I had almost 100% germination from sowing dried room temperature seeds directly into the medium and using heat and moisture to get seedlings within 7-10 days. I don’t understand all the fixation on steps like “Three days in the freezer for seeds” or “soaked in black tea to soften the shell before planting”. Perhaps some of the super hot peppers are more difficult to germinate. I will keep reading up on this topic, but I’m inclined to continue simply planting seeds without a presoak unless the pepper variety is known for being difficult to germinate.

Today I transplanted 1-2 seedlings from each variety into a half gallon pot. If these seedlings survive and thrive, they will move up to the 10 and 12 inch pots. The rest of the seedlings are just being held as backup in case my transplants don’t survive. The Shishito peppers that were moved to the half gallon pots 2 weeks ago are significantly outgrowing their peers in the propagation station….they are the larger peppers in the photos. I think I’m moving them earlier than ideal, but they grow so much faster when provided more room in the larger pots.

So….13 half gallon pots running now to fill 10 larger pots in a month or so.

Still feeding RO water, Flora series at .4ml/g, cal mag at 3ml/g, ph to 5.8. I am bottom feeding the planters on the left for now and then will flip-flop containers.

Not much more to report until we see the results of the transplant in a few days.

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The Leftover seedlings will get their own tent while we wait to see if the transplants survive. I overplanted on the expectation of 30% germination rates. I need to stop listening to 50 people on YouTube and find one good pepper resource to follow…maybe the Pepper Geek site.

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