With this post we’ll be covering how to grow peppers with hydroponics.
The world definitely loves peppers, and if you think about it, planting peppers hydroponically is one of the best moves you can make as a grower.
There will always be a demand for peppers, and you can actually grow more pepper plants with less space precisely because hydroponics systems can be modified to fit the available space.
Compared to conventional farming or gardening where the number of crops will depend wholly on how much space you have, in hydroponics, you can easily expand vertically and upgrade your system to give space to more crops.
Hydroponics has also been around since the 1970s and people have been growing plants without soil for decades now – the technology has improved vastly and there will always be supplies for hydroponics growers available for anyone who wishes to try this agricultural technology for the first time.
Whatever type of pepper you are interested in planting, the guidelines will be more or less the same as they would have similar nutrition and growth requirements.
The best thing about using a hydroponics system is even if your crops become hungry for more nutrients down the line, you can easily adjust the nutrient levels of your hydroponics setup to suit the requirements of your plants. Here are essential steps, tips, and guidelines for planting hydroponic peppers.
1. Healthy pepper plants can be germinated directly from viable seeds. You can use cuttings and transplant them to your hydroponics setup, but you will have to grow a viable root system first, which means you will still be using start plugs to accomplish this.
Starter plugs are essential for most hydroponics projects so it is a good idea to have a steady supply of reliable starter plugs at home so you will always be ready to germinate seeds.
2. During the germination stage, the grow tray would need to be kept at around 26/27 degrees Celsius, so we highly recommend getting a heating mater. Otherwise, an additional grow light might help provide the extra boost of heat to ensure that your pepper plants will sprout viable seedlings, and on time. The germination stage is so critical because if you get robust seedlings, you will likely get robust mature plants later on.
3. Cloning plants is a good idea if there is a nursery nearby and they offer cuttings from really robust cultivars that bear fruit constantly.
Cloning is done because you want to get the exact same traits as the mother plant. To increase the success rate of cloning, you may want to use oxygenated water primarily to boost the growth of sturdy root structures.
You can oxygenate water by increasing the amount of dissolved oxygen in it and b regulating its temperature. Generally speaking, the warmer the water, the lower its dissolved oxygen content.
4. Some hydroponics growers transplant mature plants from soil. It can be done but not without some severe risks.
The main problem with this approach, though it is easier, is you may be introducing pathogens to an otherwise pristine hydroponics system and later on, these pathogens may in turn cause problems.
We really don’t want to deal with preventable diseases, so in our humble opinion, you’d fare better with growing pepper plants from seeds, or cloning them from mature plants instead.
5. Your hydroponics setup must provide support to the pepper plants once they mature, so they do not tip over once they are heavy with foliage and pods.
Sometimes the branches of pepper plants break when there’s just too much weight, and you wouldn’t want to waste mature stems especially when the plants are bearing ideally-sized pods already. The system has to be able to hold the weight.
6. Your pepper plants will fare best if the ambient temperature of the grow cabinet or greenhouse is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like other seedlings from other plant types, pepper seedlings will have a slightly higher temperature requirement, but this goes down when your seedlings have matured enough and are ready for the bigger, main hydroponics system.
It’s also important to maintain the proper ambient temperature because if the air around the plant exceeds the ideal range, the flowers may drop instead of transforming into pods – which is a huge loss on your part.
Fruiting issues may also have something to do with light availability, so if you feel that your plants are struggling, there may not be enough light available for the daytime requirements of your plants. This is especially true if you have planted a ton of new plants and they’re growing a healthy amount of foliage after some weeks.
7. Pepper plants can be grown in a variety of hydroponics systems from NFT (raft system) to deep culture systems. If you happen to have an Aquaponics system with fish, then that will work too, though you may have to exert extra effort to ensure that the water’s pH and EC levels are not overshooting the ideal range. The ideal pH for pepper plants is 6.
8. Everything that you do with your pepper plants should be aimed at vegetative growth, and not flowering. This reminder is extremely useful when you are looking for liquid fertilizers, grow lights and other supplies for your setup.
Not all nutrient solutions are perfect for pepper plants and chili plants, so it’s best to read the labels and try to match the actual requirements of your cultivars with what is being offered by the manufacturer. This way, you would not be wasting time or money on ineffective supplies or solutions for your hydroponics crops.
9. Pollinating pepper plants is actually easy. We don’t recommend experimenting with bees or butterflies – instead, use the tip of a small, soft brush to help transfer pollen. Simply rub the flowers gently to release the pollen – this is called hand pollination and while it will never really emulate the effectiveness of bees, it will be sufficient for hydroponics setups.
If you are planting bell pepper plants, they need to be 18 to 24 inches away from each other. If you’re aiming for smaller chili pepper plants, then the spacing requirement is half.
We’ve even seen pepper plants that are quite close to each other, but to ensure that the plants are getting enough light, a massive LED grow light is directed toward the leaves.
Pepper plants and chili plants in general require a lot of sunlight to thrive, so to be on the safe side, allow your plants to be exposed to fourteen to eighteen hours of light per day, with the remaining hours (eight to ten hours) for the nighttime cycle.
Nighttime is just as important as the daylight cycle as plants undergo vital processes that take place only in the absence of light.
The germination stage of pepper plants will likely take seven to fourteen days, fourteen being the upper limit. It takes an average of fifty to eighty days for pepper plants to be fully mature and ready for harvesting.
Before this period you will definitely see a lot of flowering and vegetative growth, with pods growing bigger and redder with each passing day.
Simply maintain the formula you have been using for your plants and wait for the right time to pick the pods from the stems. If your first batch of pepper plants does well, you can just maintain the system or begin cloning from your best performing plants.
Harvesting peppers is really easy – just pick out the large, red pods.
Yes, hydroponic peppers and chilies can taste better than regular soil peppers because you can adjust the daylight hours and increase the nutrient levels easily.