Hi! This is my second post on this forum. (My first being in the intro subforum.)
This is a bit of a story. Short version: after getting cilantro to grow beautifully on my balcony in a self-watering planter in the summer, I have brought the planter indoors and bought LED grow lights. Now I'm trying to grow a new batch of cilantro alongside a basil and chili plants and am having some difficulty getting them to grow past a rather pathetic stunted stage...as well as other issues with the whole setup.
Longer story: This summer I decided all of a sudden to get into herb gardening after many years of plantlessness. So I am a beginner. I have an ulterior motive -- I love cilantro and it's hard to find in Sweden (at a reasonable price/quantity ratio) without going to Asian supermarkets which are a bit of a trip from my apartment.
Anyway, just before the peak of summer, I bought an 80cm x 20 cm (sorry this is Europe, metricland) self-watering balcony planter. It's the kind with a reservoir on the bottom separated from the soil by a floor with "slits" so presumably the water can get up through the soil. It has a water level measuring stick and a portal above the soil through which one can add water.
I filled it with potting soil from the supermarket and planted coriander, alongside basil and chili as "side-projects", in sections in the same planter and put it out on my balcony, which gets a reasonable amount of sun even though there's some building shadow. The coriander came up splendidly. The basil started but was rather slow, and the chili very reluctant although a couple of plants came up. I used 14-14-14 liquid fertilizer, adding 1 "capful" per liter of water (as the instructions on the bottle), when I topped up the reservoir (ie, I added the fertilizer to the reservoir along with water). Again, for the main purpose, it worked splendidly.
Then I had to leave for a month in the summer and couldn't find someone to top up the reservoir, so I harvested most of the basil and coriander. Because of a drought and unusually hot weather in Sweden, what was left died, except one very hardy chili plant.
The days in Sweden get short quickly, and it started getting windy and colder, so I brought the setup inside and bought two 60-watt LED grow lamps online. They run on a timer for about 14h/day. I replanted everything.
The basil and the chili plants this time came up splendidly, unlike the summer. The coriander also started ... but then it just stopped and started yellowing. Now every time I replant, it comes up, but then just pauses in a holding pattern, and eventually wilts.
But now I see the basil starting to show signs of struggle. The edges of some leaves are starting to dry out, even though the soil is pretty damp, and there are purple blotches on some of the leaves. I checked under the basil plants for signs of mold or infestation, I don't see any directly on the plants. Some of the plants are still reasonably healthy and the flavor of the leaves is excellent.
The "summer survivor" chili is starting to bloom, however, my attempts at pollinating it with a q-tip have left the first two blossoms fall off (there's still a bunch more buds that haven't yet bloomed). And while a couple of the younger chili plants look super healthy, the remainder are still producing leaves but rather stunted ones, folded over a little bit and wrinkly.
One thing that is different about what I am doing, aside from being indoors (central AC/heating at a constant temperature), is that the water in the reservoir declines much more slowly, and the soil seems somewhat damper to the touch. Because the water declines more slowly, I top it off less often, which means I use less fertilizer (for a while it was once every 3 weeks or so). There are also little fruit fly-like things flying around that I have read are harmless ("fungus gnats") living on things in the soil...is this right?
But the biggest thing that concerns me is the new difficulty with the cilantro/coriander. Everything I have read suggests that I am either over or under fertilizing it, but it's hard to tell which. My fertilizer-adding frequency has declined, but I don't want to keep adding fertilizer to the reservoir without adding water. Is the soil staying too damp? Should I fertilize from the top, or not at all? Should I start over?
Thanks in advance if you managed to bear with all of this, from a plant newbie who decided to jump straight into the deep end.