Touching Base – Substrate Trials with Midas Peppers

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As beloved for their variety as for their versatility, it’s hard to imagine a time before sweet peppers were popular in the U.K.. Within the same basic parameters of taste and texture there’s a vast range of subtly different flavours, all easily accessible, all easily available, and, best of all, easily grown indoors.

Such relatively straight-forward, easy to grow, ordinarily abundant crops are not only a delicious and genuinely kitchen-stocking addition to any home. They also provide us with a superbly stable test of hydroponic products. Keen to evaluate the performance of a selection of substrates, we’re running an intriguing little trial using Midas Peppers – a trial that shows how, with substrates, the long game is all.

Above: Initally green we’re looking forward to the Midas peppers migrating to a rich, brillant orange

Into the three 25 L / 6.6 gal pots of an Auto3 XL have gone the plants. One potted in CANNA Professional Plus Coco, another in Biobizz Light Mix, and a third in a homespun Rockwool-Vermiculite-Seramis mix. The Auto3 XL allows the three pots to be simultaneously and identically fed and watered on Dutchpro Soil AB via the reservoir and pipework. A pH of 5.6 and EC of 2.3 in the FlexiTank reservoir that is connected to the Auto3 XL is just about perfect for this set up. The nutrient is supplemented with Fish It and Epsom salts which, we’ve found, offer superb soil conditioning, have a rejuvenating effect on leaves, and stimulate new growth. Plant progress has been a fascinating watch with curveballs aplenty and many of our initial expectations defied.

Above: Hello CANNA Coco – in one of the 25 L / 6.6 gal pots of the Auto3 XL

Out of the traps the Rockwool-Vermiculite-Seramis mix took an early and significant lead. Stabilised in pH 5.2 water for 48 hours before potting up, the Rockwool had been impregnated with quarter-strength feed for an initial kick. Whether it was down to this charge or the innate qualities of the mix the plant in this pot certainly seemed to find conditions to its liking. Initial fruit set and production far outstripped that of the other two substrates on test. Whilst the CANNA had begun to set nicely, the Biobizz was making comparatively pedestrian progress.

Above: The light fantastic – Biobizz Light Mix providing stability and longevity in plant development

‘Chimera’? ‘Phantasm’? ‘Illusion’? Whichever highfalutin’ term you choose to use, it seems that initial burst of activity from the Rockwool-Vermiculite-Seramis mix may have been a flash in the pan. The reversal in fortunes took a few weeks but it’s quite clear that the Biobizz and CANNA were busy building up a head of steam in that time. Certainly the momentum is with them now, and in telling ways for the long term prospects of their respective plants. Not only have they overtaken the Rockwool-Vermiculite-Seramis in fruit set and production, they’re also presenting much healthier looking plants, the dark green leaves of the Biobizz plant being particularly beguiling. Disappointingly, the fruits that were appearing on the Rockwool-Vermiculite-Seramis plant also seem to have stalled somewhat.

Above: Rockwool, Vermiculite, and Seramis – a homemade substrate rather than a ‘70s supergroup

So patience is a virtue eh? Though it is tempting to reach for a fast fix of fruit production there are no guarantees that plants thus prepared will kick on. Worse is the potential disappointment of seeing initially promising crops surpassed by those on more progressively treated plants. In due course the green peppers should be turning to the gorgeous gold their name suggests and we’re promised they’ll be pretty bountiful. Check out our frequent R&D Grow Room videos on Insta @autopot_global and on Facebook @autopotsystems for this grow and many, many more!

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