Getting your seeds to germinate...

(Who said it was easy?)

Calabaza (West Indian Pumpkin Seedlings)

First lets talk about where you are going to plant the little seeds so they can grow to be big and beautiful.......lets review what we call the "Medium" which is nothing more than where are you going to plant them.

Growing Media

There is lots of information available on the internet and in books for mixing your own medium but to make things easier, here is what I use and it works.......

Use 1/2 Spagnum moss and 1/2 vermiculite. Mix it well and you are done. Or buy a bag of potting mix, and add some vermiculite (or perlite) to create some space for the oxygen to reach the roots and retain some moisture.

Growing Containers

Whatever container you prefer to use must have good drainage ! Use plastic containers that are deep enough for the roots to have space to grow. I personally rinse them out with a clorox solution to get the possible germs and bugs out. Once you have cleaned them out, fill with your growing media and wet thoroughly. Wait for it to drain well and plant your seeds to the proper recommended depth by making the hole with your finger, dropping the seeds in the hole, and covering with more moist mix. In the case of certain seeds that prefer not being buried too deep (like Culantro), just sprinkle on top of the media and spread with your hands or hand rake so as to semi-bury them a tiny bit.

Not all seeds germinate the same way. Some need a little help to get them going. There are three processes that aid in germination of these seeds.

1- Soaking

2- Scarification

3- Stratification


Just about every seed will be helped along the germination way by soaking in water. Preferably warm. The process can be helped greatly by adding Potassium Nitrate (Saltpetre) which can be purchased in your local drugstore. Add 1 teaspoonfull per quart of water and soak the seeds for 12 to 24 hours. In some cases of seeds having very hard coatings like the Delonix Regia (Royal Poinciana) and Pride of Barbados (caesalpinia pulcherrima), you may want to extend it to 48 hours. Once you have soaked them, blot them with a paper towel and plant them immediately before they dry out.


Scarification is nothing more than "scaring" the seeds with sandpaper, file, or scrape with a knife. The idea is to make it easier for the soaking media to penetrate the seed's coat to get to the embryo. Be very careful not to damage the embryo while doing this. After "scaring"the seeds proceed with the soaking. This procedure is sometimes very much needed when trying to germinate seeds from Royal Poinciana (Flamboyan), Anon, and other seeds that have a very hard coating.



Some seeds have dormant embryos when exposed to temperatures above 72 degrees F. These seeds need to be moistened and cooled before planting so as to "wake up" the embryo. To do this, place the seeds in the medium you will be growing them, and place in the refrigerator overnight. This will wake them up so as to germinate when placed in their final warm growing spot. These include seeds like fresh lettuce, culantro (eryngium foetidum), etc....



Environment includes the humidity, temperature, air flow (breeze), and light. If you want to help these seeds along, you must duplicate the environment where they came from as closely as possible. As an example, while on a tour in Iceland back in the 1960's, I saw with my own eyes, that they grow bananas, oranges, and other tropical plants in ICELAND ! How do they do it?....they pipe the steam from the geysers into green houses. This gives them the temperature, humidity, and sunlight they need to grow these tropical plants. (I bet you didn't know that...) Just the same we must try to accomplish this in our little garden. If you are trying to germinate the seeds inside, you must provide for the light, heat (appx. 70-75 degrees), and moisture to get the little seeds going. Any large variations in the temperature, will definitely affect your seed's germination success.

More to come soon......


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