An effective way to germinate seeds, a new grow-station, and a truckload of plants already growing. The Princess Pepper Project is currently rolling fine in both Berlin and Leipzig.
[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhTT_GwVu40%5DThree shelves of chillies in my new DIY grow-station.
The Princess Pepper Project has been making some delightful progress since my last post. My fellow grower Onkel Hotti over in Leipzig and myself in Berlin have now got almost 140 plants of close to 60 varieties going that we’ll be planting out at Prinzessinnengärten, a communal garden in Berlin, in May 2014. Our goal are 100+ plants from 70+ varieties of chillies, and if things keep falling into place we’ll be there in a week or two.
Germination has been working like a charm ever since I started to soak the seeds in water at about 30 degrees Celsius for a day or two before sowing them out. To that end, I put 3 – 5 seeds per variety (always 2 above the number of plants I desire) into a plastic shot-glass, add a bit of water and place it into a heated propagator with a temp-control to keep a steady condition. After the seeds have had their thorough bath, I then plant them into small starter-pots filled with regular off-the-shelf organic starter-soil that go back into the propagator.
I use a so-called “universal thermometer” to control the temperature. The heat-mat’s power-cable can be connected to the thermometer that will switch the power-supply on and off whenever the heat rises above or falls below given values. The thermometer picks up the current temperature through a feeler that goes into the water or the soil that the seeds rest in inside the propagator.
30 degrees Celsius have turned out to be pretty ideal for both pre-soaking the seeds and for their ensuing germination in the starter pots. If the heat goes up beyond that level the soil will dry out fairly quickly and the seeds’ ability to germinate might be impaired. If the temperature is significantly below that, even lower than 26 degrees, many varieties won’t germinate either.
This method has given me germination-rates of 80% to much more often 100% within two to 14 days. So it’s even more effective and far less work than even the best way I had found last season after my first attempts at germination had gone terribly wrong.
To nurse the plants after they’ve germinated and while they’re growing, I have built a simple DIY grow-station: some fluorescent light tubes with a colour-temperature of 6500 Kelvin (labeled “865” or “cool daylight”) fixed to the bottom sides of the shelves in a plain white book-rack with some aluminium-foil to cover the shelves and the rack’s front side.
The lights’ power-supply is controlled by a timer-switch so the plants get their dose of 16 hours of light a day while in the grow-station. The position of the shelves in the rack can be altered so it’s easy to keep the plants at an ideal distance of about 20cm from the light-source. If they were closer to it they might dehydrate or get burned from the heat, if they were further away the amount of light available for them to exploit would be less than it could be.
Right now I have chillies going on three shelves in the grow-station. The bottom one is for the seedlings, the medium one for the plants two to six weeks old and the top one for those that are older. All of the shelves are already pretty packed so when I’ll run out of space in two or three weeks time the biggest of the plants will move on to a bright window-sill.
Over in Leipzig Onkel Hotti has been doing some serious growing, too. He had started out with germination even a few weeks earlier than I did myself, so he’s already got a good number of well-developed plants. You can catch some shots of them in the video below.
Two of his varieties, Orange Flame and Sundown Beaty, are pretty novel chinense crosses that were created and stabilized to an F3 level by growers from Hot Pain, a German chilli-grower forum which is Onkel Hotti’s homebase. In the vid below you will find some footage of these plants, too.
So as we’re coming closer to our goal of 70+ varieties, the grow-list for the Princess Pepper Project 2014 is pretty much set now. Expect more updates as we go along and finally bring the plants outdoors into the garden. It’s going to be a hot summer.
[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcjUp3xwzfA%5DSome impressions of Onkel Hotti’s progress in Leipzig.