Hydroponics for Beginners: Chillies

Back in May we responded to a throwaway comment on Gardeners' World, we stated then that we would try our hand at #hydroponics, taking you through the season and showing you the results. This was largely to see whether this form of growing was indeed, 'Frankenstein', or not. Well, we are not even a month in and we have a few thoughts on the whole matter. You can see how we are doing in the film below or in the link here.


We all know that 2018 did not have a great start and that growing conditions have been somewhat trying. Anything we can do, we have done to get ahead of cold snaps and then unseasonally warm. Though this has been great it has caused some massive fluctuations between daytime and nighttime temperatures, meaning that in one day the greenhouse shading can be out and then fleece. That aside, we have noticed some differences from open bed growing. For start we have used a lot less water, the tank in the photo above has lasted over a fortnight, the plants taking up what they need when they need it. The water has a seaweed feed in it and this has resulted in us getting tomatoes a lot earlier than we have ever had. By late May, fruit was setting and this is something we often did not see until late June. This has given us problems in earlier years when we either get a bumper crop or just green tomatoes. We are open to experimentation on Pig Row when it comes to tomatoes, and we have had some success with outdoor tomatoes on our blight ridden hillside. We don't always jump on the bandwagon, grafted veg has left us behind; the ship sailed past us laughing but we have our own unique growing problems on our hillside that a grafted tomato won't solve. Tomatoes aside, we planted chillies ten days ago, these were all plug grown Jalapenos, all from seed, and all grown in coir and sheep's wool mix (50:50). See below, the initial planting after a few days and then where they are now.

Chillies, autopots


The growth has been strong but what has differed is how we planted them in the final autopots, see the film where we discuss this but the upshot of our findings is how the roots take up water. This is the greatest success we have had with chillies for some years and we have strong side shoots; these plants look like they will bush out well.


However, growing plugs or small plants in autopots really doesn't challenge direct sowing into open beds, both indoors and outdoors. Our outdoor space in being remodelled at the moment, and if we sow anything outside this year it will be mainly salads. For that reason we have decided to sow some salads direct into the autopot system to see if it works, we are also planting some plug grown cucumbers to see whether we can use them as a trailing cucumber to cover the membrane and to keep the drip feed lines cool. We will see.

cucumber seeds, life on pig row

It's still early days for our trial but so far we are three trusses up on the tomatoes, we have fruit and the chillies are growing strong. We may not be using the autopot system in the traditional pH up or pH down #hydroponic system but as a system that saves time, takes away the worry of watering when you are not there, this system is producing quality growing, if only the weather would settle down into one thing or another. Now, Andrew will take you through all the ins and outs of the system.

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