So after being asked so many times by our customers, we decided to create a guide to the basics of growing chillies in Soil/Coco.
The guide will cover all of the basics from constructing a grow room to mixing nutrients.
Yields and quality of plants grown under artificial lights mostly depend on:
1. The optimization of the climatic conditions of the grow-room,
2. The chosen strain,
3. Sufficient lighting,
4 and a well structured nutrient program.
Growing chillies indoors has seen a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years. When done properly it produces excellent quality produce which is usually much better than that sold in the supermarkets. Growing indoors relies on the use of artificial lights to replicate the effect of the sun.
So before you start growing your chillies you will need a grow room. You can ether construct a grow room or use a grow tent.
Constructing a grow room
To get started:
Step 1. Find a suitable space (spare room, garage, etc)
Step 2. Choose a build (e.g. entire room, shed or cupboard within a room)
Step 3. Make your space light-tight (you wont need to do this if using a grow tent)
Step 4. Get good light coverage
Step 4. Set up suitable air exchange
Almost any space can be used as a grow room. You can either convert a whole room or cupboard into a grow room, or use a grow tent to create an enclosed growing space.
You’ll need an electrical supply to power lights and fans.
Up to an 8 light set up, a few normal double wall sockets will be fine. If wall sockets are limited or not where you need them, use an heavy duty extension lead.
Plants drink lots of water so a good supply of fresh tap water is essential.
Because you don't want to be kept awake at night or annoy your neighbours, consider the noise a grow room might make, fans and pumps ect will make some noise. The Systemair RVK fans we sell are quieter that the copies that most shops sell but can be made even quieter with acoustic ducting and the Air Force fans are even quieter again. Simple things like placing a piece of foam under pumps using acoustic ducting will reduce noise considerably.
The floor of the grow room must be covered by a non porous covering like our black and white reflective sheet, unless you have a hard floor. Carpets hold moisture and harbour bugs and bacteria. The occasional spillage or leak is unavoidable, too.
It is important to ensure your grow room is completely light tight. Lining your room with reflective sheeting will stop the light generated by grow lamps from escaping your grow room and prevent natural light from entering the area and affecting growth rates and photo periods. Plants may suffer stress if they are exposed to light on an inconsistent basis, some times flowering plants will revert back into a vegetative state if the photo period has been broken to often.
Reflective sheeting will ensure that no light is wasted and as much light as possible is deflected back into the growing area.
We sell two types of reflective sheeting - Black/White (whites side faces into the grow room) and Mylar.
The most cost effective choice is to cover the entire room including the sealing and floor in Black/White Sheeting and then run Mylar round the lower half of the walls where most light is lost.
A popular alternative to constructing a grow room is to buy a purpose made grow tent. A grow tent is the easy option as everything is pretty much done for you. It can also be put up and removed very quickly.
With a grow tent, you’ll find it a lot easier to maintain the optimum climate (e.g. temperature, humidity) and prevent bug infestations and diseases. Light loss is almost non existent and it will protect the rest of the room from the heat and humidity in your tent.
The tent you need will depend on the amount of plants you’re growing, and the space you have got to put it in.
For mature flowering plants you'll need a full size tent and for cuttings and seedlings you’ll only need a small tent such as the Secret Jardin DP90.
There are many different types of grow lights and which one you should use will depend on your growing situation and the growth stage of your plants.
Different Types of lights:
- Fluorescent Lights: For propagation, and the early stages of vegetative growth,
- Metal Halide: Blue spectrum ideal for strong dense vegetative growth,
- Sodium: Red spectrum great for flowering,
- Dual Spectrum HPS: Blue and Red spectrum for vegetative & flowering,
- LED's: For vegetative and flowering.
Using the right lamp will massively improve your crops. Grow lights attempt to provide a light spectrum similar to that of the sun, or to provide a spectrum that is more tailored to the needs of the plants being cultivated. Conditions are mimicked with varying spectral outputs from the grow light, depending on the type of plant being cultivated and stage of cultivation. The germination, propagation and vegetative stage requires a blue spectrum of light, whereas the later "flowering/fruiting" stage is usually promoted with red–orange spectra.
This is what lights we recommend for each stage of the plants life:
- Germination and propagation: propagation and the early stages of vegetative growth, use a Blue spectrum T5 type light or a blue spectrum CFL Lamp,
- Vegetation: we reccomend a 400w or 600w HPS light kit is used with a Metal Halide Lamp. Plants under Metal halide Lamps grow with closer branch internodes than those grown under Dual Spectrum or Standard HPS Lamps. This will result in plants being more bushy rather than shooting up to the light and will also have more flowering sites due to the extra branching.
- Flowering: We recommend 400w or 600w HPS light kit is used with a Dual Spectrum. This will provide the red spectrum of light that the plant requires, but also has a small amount of blue spectrum that will help reduce "stretch". For Pepper plants use Metal Halide rather than change to a Dual Spectrum Lamp.
A typical HPS light kit consists of three parts:
- Ballast: for regulating and controlling the supply of energy needed to power the light,
- Lamp: for actually generating the light,
- Reflector: for guiding as much of the light produced down towards your plants.
HPS Light systems come in many different wattages, the most popular are 400w and 600w.
There are two types of ballast, magnetic and digital. Digital ballast cost more but are far superior to a magnetic ballast. Digital Ballasts are smaller and lighter than digital ballasts. Why? Well, magnetic ballasts use what’s known as a ‘choke’ to regulate the lamp voltage, made from a steel core wrapped with metal wire. This steel core is usually laminated steel plates and the wire coiling around it can be copper or aluminum, which combine to create an electromagnetic field that regulates the output voltage. On the other hand, a digital ballast employs solid state circuitry to transform and regulate the voltage, representing a fraction of the size and weight and requiring far less raw material. Digital ballasts are far more efficient than their magnetic counterparts. Exactly how much of a difference you can expect to see really does depend on the units being compared, but typically it is 4%. Although this may not sound like much, when you’ve got multiple grow lights the combined saving will help to significantly cut your energy bills. Magnetic ballasts create a low level hum, usually because of vibrations in the coil windings. As these particular units age they progressively get louder and louder due to a slight loosening up of the coils, and this trend also tends to make them marginally less efficient too. Now noise is not a bother to some people, but it can get quite annoying when you want to run a quiet grow room. Fortunately, digital ballasts are completely silent during operation, with no humming or buzzing whatsoever. And lastly and in our opinion one of the biggest advantages of a digital ballast is that they do not get hot. Due to the nature of the electrical flow through the core and coils of the choke featured in a magnetic ballast, heat will inevitably be produced. This emission of energy is an unwanted by-product and clearly demonstrates a loss in electrical efficiency. Digital ballasts also generate heat through the solid state circuitry, but much less by comparison. The internal components are actually encased in plastic to help deal with the issue.
The digital ballasts that we sell also feature variable wattage outputs meaning that 250,400 and 600 watt lamps can be used without the need for more than one ballast. They also feature a 660w power boost setting for the latter stages of the flowering cycle.
The job of the reflector is to deflect as much light as possible down to the plants. Reflectors come in all different shapes and sizes and some are better than others. Some reflectors feature air cooling where air is blown over the lamp and then vented out away from the grow room. This dramatically reduces grow room temperatures and is a huge advantage when growing in summer.
When setting up a grow room you want to have the correct amount lights for the space you need to light.
We would recommend 250 watt lights for small spaces or young plants.
A 250 watt HPS or metal haled light will effectively cover an area of 75cm x 75cm. The optimum distance between the plants and the lamp is around 14 inches.
A 400 watt HPS or metal halide light will effectively light an area of 1m x 1m. The optimum distance between the lamp and the plants is around 18 inches.
A 600 watt HPS or metal halied light will effectively light an area of 1.2m x 1.2m. The optimum distance between the lamp and the plants is around 20-24 inches.
Use the table below below to workout which lights you need. We recommend that you use 600 watt lights were possible. They produce considerably more light than a 400 watt light, resulting in higher yields.
When using more than one light space them properly to ensure even light distribution as shown in diagram below.
Parabolic and air cooled reflectors will not be as hot underneath the lamp so you may wish to have your lamp slightly closer to the plants. An easy way to ensure that your lamp isn't to close is to feel how hot the light feels on the back of your hand, if it feels cool to the back of the hand it will be cool for the plant also. Plants can be bent over and tied if they get too tall, some indoor growers deliberately train their plants this way to get as much of the plant as possible close (but not too close) to the high intensity light.
Supplemental grow lights can be used alongside your standard light to give you healthier, faster growing plants. Our Lumii Vertical Lamps Hanging Kits can be used to hang HPS or CFL Lamps between large well spaced out plants, this will improve lower growth significantly. You don’t have to use a supplemental grow light, but in the right situation you'll get far better results if you do.
To turn your light on and off your going to need a timer and a contactor if you have more than one light.
If you only have one light a heavy duty timer will be fine. If you have more than one light you will need a contactor and a timer if the contactor doesn't have a timer built in. A contactor prevents high inrushes, protecting the timer from damage.
When using a contactor your lights plug into the contactor instead of the wall socket. The contactor is then plugged into the wall socket and if the contactor does not have an unbuilt timer one plug will go into a timer as shown on the diagram below.
We recommend that you run your lights at night for a few reasons, electricity costs are lower due to the economy 7 price tariff. Temperatures are another benefit, in winter, night time temperatures plummet, running your lights at night will keep temperatures up and little if and heating will be required. In summer day time temperatures can get high so having the lights on at night when the temperatures are lower will help prevent the grow room getting to hot.
To make checks and carry out tasks in your grow room during the day when the lights are most likely to be switched off, we recommend using an Active Eye Head Lamp, this is a green lamp and will not affect the photo period of the plants.
For optimum results grow rooms are typically kept between 24°C -28°C when the lights are on and 18°C-24°C when lights are off. Higher temperatures can cause the plants to wilt and cooler temperatures may slow down growth. The plants will need a gentle breeze from a fan, and a steady supply of fresh air which can be from your house or from outside provided the air isn't to cold. Stale air from the grow room is normally continually extracted outdoors by a fan and de-odourized with a carbon filter if need be.
To achieve optimum conditions a ventilation system will be needed. A typical ventilation system consists of an extraction fan and an inlet fan. The extraction fan will remove warm CO2 depleted air and moisture. The Inlet fan will feed fresh CO2 rich air into the grow room and help keep temperatures down. The inlet fan should be smaller than the extraction fan to maintain negative pressure, this will stop smells leaving the growing area. Some times an inlet fan is not needed provided the growing space is well vented.
An extraction kit consists of:
- Quality Carbon Filter to match chosen fan size,
- Aluminium Ducting to match chosen fan size,
- Quick Release Clamp x 3,
- Fan Wiring Kit if needed.
An Inlet Kit consists of:
- Aluminum Ducting to match chosen fan size,
- Fan Wiring Kit,
- 2 x Quick Release Clamps.
There are many different fans on the market, we stick to the tried and tested ones that run for years without a problem.
The fans we sell and what to use them for:
- The Vents TT Fans are ideal to use as inlet fans, there not as well made or efficient as the RVK fans but are a cheaper alternative.
- System Air RVK fans are German built, high output fans designed to handle both low air volume hobby use and high air volume commercial use. You can install them any position using the mounting bracket and there maintenance free.
- Air Force 2 Acoustic fans are as good as it gets. They can move very large amounts of air quietly as well as being surprisingly lightweight for fans of this size. The Air Force 2 acoustic fans also use low-energy motors so they don't require as much electricity but still maintain high levels of torque to handle carbon filters.
The Ventilation system you need will depend on the area of the growing space and the number of lights. As a general rule, the more lights you have, the more air needs to be extracted.
We have put together basic guide to help you select the correct RVK Fan Kit.
Grow room temperatures can be kept stable by using a fan speed controller. The Variispeed Fan Controller is perfect if you're using up to an 8" extractor fan and need a low-cost option for manually adjusting the speeds. The SMS fan speed controllers continually monitor the temperature in the growing environment and automatically makes changes to maintain a consistent temperature. Having a fan speed controller will also reduce heating costs. Remember to set the thermostat on the heater a few centigrade lower than the temperature set on the fan speed controller. This will stop the fans from speeding up and removing the heated air.
Reducing fan speeds will also reduce noise levels as less air is traveling through the ducting. Another way to reduce noise is to use acoustic ducting. Acoustic ducting has an inner aluminum ducting which is lined with fiberglass glass. The fiberglass absorbs the sound of air as it passes through.
The indoor grow room allows plants to be grown year round. There are lots of different growing mediums available but to keep things simple were going to stick to soil and coco. When growing in soil chillies benefit from perlite being included. This allows better aeration of the soil and prevents clogging. Both the soils we sell have the optimum amount of perlite already mixed in for convenience. Coco has great drainage properties and holds lots of oxygen when not over watered. To further improve aeration and drainage in coco, clay pebbles can be mixed in, 60% coco and 40% clay is a popular mixture. One common mistake by inexperienced growers is the tendency to over water plants. Get to know the weight of your plant pots and water only when the plants need it. Over watering plants will reduce yield/quality and slow down plant development.
If you're new to growing we recommend you use Canna Terra Professional Soil. It's a nitrogen-rich potting mix that contains a blend of sphagnum moss peat, compost, worm castings, perlite and a special 'natural plant booster' which is a blend of organic ingredients.
If you have experience in growing or fancy being more hands on we recommend you use Coco Professional Plus. It is completely nutrient free ideal for a professional approach to cultivation. In addition, it contains a special mold (Trichoderma) that protects the plants against soil diseases. Growth rates and yields are good and the quality of produce is excellent. Made from the refined husks of coconuts, Canna Coco professional plus provides an airy and light rooting environment, perfect for encouraging vigorous and healthy root growth. Some inferior brands of coco can contain extremely high levels of salt due to being buffered in sea water, Canna use fresh water to eliminate this problem. Canna Coco professional plus should be used with a coco specific nutrient such as Vitalink Coir Max.
Growing Chillies indoors will require use and understanding of plant feeds. This is not complicated, all the plant feed does is deliver essential nutrients to the roots. Even soil-grown plants will need additional nutrients when the soil has been depleted. Follow our guide and avoid the beginners temptation to exceed recommended levels. The experienced gardener can ‘read’ his plants and will learn when plant require more or less feed.
Having a well structured nutrition schedule will ensure your plants receive the correct nutrients throughout there life cycle. The nutrients and additives in our schedule are from various manufacturers but work together very well.
Our preferred nutrient and beneficial additive program consists of:
- Charge, this is mixed into the growing medium. This is a 100% naturally-produced potting soil enhancer that offers a wide range of biological benefits to your plants. Charge boosts and prolongs the fertility of your potting mix by adding a balance of long-lasting primary nutrients in a highly available form. Composed entirely from the droppings of beetles, this premium grade ‘insect frass’ is packed full of beneficial microorganisms and natural plant growth catalysts. Charge will stimulate robust plant growth, improve root zone conditions and create vigorous high yielding plants.
- Mykos, is designed for use during propagation or transplanting. You simply sprinkle onto the bare roots and into the planting hole underneath the transplant cube, plug or root ball supporting each of your plants. The roots will then grow through this to be colonized by the organic Mychorrhizal fungi.
- Plant Magic Evolution, is a foliar spray to be used throughout the propagation and the vegetative stage. It will significantly speed up vegetative stages and gears the plant ready for forming bountiful fruits and flowers. This is due predominantly to the sheer amount of new growth that forms and the number of healthy new shoots. It contains a vast range of bio stimulants, natural plant hormones, Polysaccharide sugars, a wealth of vitamins, trace elements, amino acids and of course humic and fulvic acids.
- Vitalink Start, This base nutrient will supply the micro-nutrients during the propagation stage.
- Vitalink Coir Max or Earth Max, This base nutrient will supply the micro-nutrients during the Vegetative and flowering stage.
- Vitalink CalMag, contains calcium and magnesium, two vital elements for strong plant growth. This is an ideal product for growers of all levels and can be added throughout the plant growth life cycle because it is an immobile product that can’t travel to areas of new growth. Use VitaLink CalMag product alongside your chosen nutrients.
- Plant magic Hydro Silicon, helps protect plants from pests and diseases, Helps to strengthen steams, enhances nutrient uptake, and boosts the weight and density of your fruits to increase your overall yield.
- Moonshine, this illicit brew imparts is an increase in the cation-exchange capacity of your chosen growing medium. In increasing the amount of cations available to the plant at any given ph, the fertility of the growing medium is increased, allowing nutrients and trace elements to be more readily absorbed through the roots. The second effect is to give the plant a good source of plant growth stimulators and amino acids. The growth stimulators include naturally occurring levels of auxin, gibberellin and cytokinin plant hormones which are readily used by the plant to regulate plant growth, cell division in roots and shoots, bud growth and essential oil production. Finally the unique formulation promotes the transport of sugars through the plant to the places they are needed giving a noticeable increase in smell and taste.
- Canna Zym. High quality enzyme preparation for breaking down (hemi) cellulose and stimulating the microlife. Contains more than 15 different enzymes, and is enriched with vitamins and extracts of dessert plants. Cannazym speeds up the breaking down of dead root material, activates microlife and makes better absorption of nutrients possible. On top of this the resistance against pathogens will increase.
- Canna Rhizotonic, The world's purest, most powerful organic "stress reliever" that stimulates extremely fast root development, prevents and protects against molds such as Pythium, Fusarium, Mildew and Botrytis while increasing the plants natural immune system witch helps resistance against illness. It also improves the internal and external quality of the crops.
- Canna PK 13/14, contains a balanced phosphorous to potassium ratio of 13:14. This helps develop heavier, larger, sweeter crops quickly.
- Canna Boost, is our most popular flowering booster that enhances the size and weight of your chillies. It will Increase the rate of photosynthesis, nutrient uptake and sugar production. Canna Boost Accelerator gives you a higher quality, better tasting crop with an average yield increase of around 20%.
- Vitalink Finally, is used in the final week of Flowering to ensure that excess nutrients and residues are ‘flushed’ from your plants. If left behind, old nutrients, such as Nitrogen can delay the ripening process and be detrimental to plant quality and yield. However, flushing these nutrients substantially increases yield and quality by creating a root stress that drives energy stored in the plant towards the reproductive organs. Made from natural minerals and plant extracts, VitaLink Flush is particularly useful when the taste of your crop is important.
- Vitalink Start at 2-4ml per liter during the Germination and propagation proses.
- Plant Magic Evolution, spray onto leaves every 5 days during propagation and vegetation.
- Vitalink Coir Max (in coco) or Vitalink Earth Max (in soil) 1-2ml per litre during the vegetitve stage and 2-4ml per litre during the flowering stage.
- Vitalink CalMag at 1ml per litre during the vegetation and flowering stage.
- Plant magic Hydro Silicon at 0.5ml per litre during the germination and propagating stage and 1ml per litre during the vegetative and flowering stages.
- Moonshine at 0.5ml per litre during the germination and propagation stage and 1ml per litre during the vegetative and flowering stages.
- Canna Zym at 2.5ml per litre during every stage.
- Canna Rhizotonic at 4ml per litre during the germination,propagation and vegetative stages, and 1ml per litre during the flowering stage.
- Canna PK 13/14 at 1.5ml per litre during weeks 4,5 & 6 of the flowering process .
- Canna Boost at 2ml for the first 2 weeks of the flowering stage and 4ml per litre from week 3 until harvest (Canna boost should be kept in during the flushing process ).
- Vitalink Finaly (Flush) at 3-4 ml per litre during the last 7-14 days before harvest.
When growing with lots of light we must be sure that the nutrients in the solution are readily available for absorption by the roots. This means keeping the pH of the nutrient solution between a range of about 5.5 to 6.5. The pH will generally rise over the next few days but avoid adjusting the pH every day even if it goes slightly out of range. Adding too much acid (pH down) is much worse for your plant than being slightly out of the optimum pH range.
Mixing nutrients is simple. To do it accurately you will need a small number of essential items. These include the following:
- EC Meter, to provide accurate readings of your nutrient strength,
- pH Meter or Test Kit, to measure the pH level and ensure it is in optimum range,
- pH Up or Down, To adjust the pH value,
- Nutrients & Boosters,
- Bucket or Reservoir, to mix your solution in.
- Leave the water to standing overnight. This allows the chlorine to dissipate and the water to reach room temperature, so you can produce accurate readings and ensure that cold nutrient solution is not added to your tank which may otherwise cause some shock to your plants.
- After the water has stood overnight, the next task is to get the base readings using a EC Meter. These provide the foundation from which you build the nutrient solution. Without them all other readings are useless as this value needs to be added to the target EC value, for instance if the manufacturers feed chart indicates that you should aim to achieve a EC level of 1.5 and the base EC level of the plain water is 0.4 your target EC value will now be 1.9.
- With the base readings gathered you can now begin to mix your solution. A good starting point is to follow the manufacturers feed chart and/or the instructions on the bottle. Many people develop their own preference for EC levels, but as a beginner you’d want to keep it simple and use existing guidelines.
- Firstly add in all the additives to the manufacturers instructions.
- Now add the base nutrients (while constantly stirring the solution) to the desired EC value remember you need to add the base EC value to your desired EC value. Once you have put the nutrients in you can't take them out so don't put to much in to begin with. As an example, if the manufacturer instructs you that 2-3ml of nutrient per litre of water will be enough to achieve the desired solution strength, Add 1.8ml per litre and then add the nutrient to the water in increments, checking regularly with the EC meter to ensure you do not go over the target EC value.
To adjust you're ph to the desired level follow these steps
- To lower the pH level you need to use pH Down. To make it easier we dilute this product in a litre jug of water before being added to the nutrient solution. Not only because it is safer to use, but also to gradually adjust the level. PH down is very strong, so adding just a few drops to a litre of water will be enough. You could easily end up putting too much into the nutrient solution if applied neat but by adding a diluted pH solution to the nutrient solution it is a lot easier to control
- Now slowly add the diluted ph solution to the nutrient solution,consistently stirring as you do so. Keep pouring in the pH solution until the desired pH level has been reached - here you’re looking at a target of between 5.8 and 6.2.
That concludes the process of putting together a suitable feed for your plants. Now the solution is ready to be used.
Germinating seeds can be done in various ways and the internet is full of forums that document various methods. We recommend you germinate seeds in jiffy plugs and then transplant them in to jiffy blocks. Growing from cuttings of ‘mother’ plants is an alternative to growing from seeds.
In the first stages of life, the seedlings are happy to start with lower light intensities. We recommend you use fluorescent lights. The artificial lights are normally ‘on’ for 18-24 hours per day. During this time the seedlings are in a state of vegetative growth, they will continue to grow roots, leaves and branches but no chillies.
In general, longer periods of vegetative growth will grow larger plants. Typically 2-6 weeks of vegetative growth are used and during subsequent flowering the plants may increase to 2 or 3 times their original height. Some growers will grow with only 1ft spacing between their plants. This method will have 16 plants per 4ft x 4ft (16 plants in a 1.2m x 1.2m Grow tent under 1 light). Just a few days of vegetative growth is required before switching to ‘flowering’ conditions. This technique produces small plants around 2ft of low/medium yield, but allows for fast production.
The most popular and in our opinion the best all round choice for most growing situations such as growing in a tent is to have you're plants spaced 2ft apart. This method will have 4 plants per 4ft x 4ft (4 plants in a 1.2m x 1.2m Grow Tent under 1 light) this will make life easy when maintaining your crop. With this method you would induce flowering when the plants reach between 12-15 inches. Depending on the characteristics of the strain these plants would generally be 3-5ft when fully grown depending on the growing chariteristics of the strain.
Another alternative popular with growers with large growing spaces with a high ceiling is to grow large plants and space them around 3ft apart(9 plants in a 2.4m x 2.4m Grow Room under 4 lights). These plants will produce higher yields but will need more time in the vegetative stage. These plants will be around 5-7ft when fully grown depending on the strain of plant.
Certain strains respond well to having the growing tip of the plant pinched out (known as topping or pinching) after the 4th or 5th leaf pair. The resulting plants are often smaller and bushy without the dominant main growth stem and are preferred for some smaller grow rooms.
By reducing daily light hours to 12 hours on and 12 hours off your plants will transition into the 'flowering’ phase. This will take around 2 weeks. This Flowering stage normally requires 8-10 weeks from the day the light hours are reduced (but more or less for certain strains) and it is during this time that the chillies form. During this stage the plants will tolerate more nutrients and very bright light. Some growers introduce supplemental lighting to ensure the very best yields. At the end of this process the plant is cut down and the chillies can be dried if you wish to store them for log period.