I’m not an expert grower but have been germinating these seeds over 20 years or more.
I generally have a 100% success rate, but there are hundreds of methods to germinate these seeds.
If you are a beginner, I would suggest starting early and try to germinate some inexpensive seeds.
If you buy a seed from an online auction (www.bigpumpkins.com), YOU are generally the reason it did not germinate. If you spend $50 or more for a seed, you should generally have been successful at germinating them in the past!
Just a few quick germination tips.
Your seeds should take 3-4 days to begin to emerge. I have had seeds emerge after 7-10 days. Don’t give up on them, unless you think you killed it due to a specific action…
I use a cooler like you would take drinks in to a party. I use an old waterbed heater in the bottom, but you can buy many types online. I put my peat pots in the cooler, add an led grow light and leave the lid cracked about 1″. I have a thermometer inserted in one peat pot to monitor the temperature. Vary the lid height until you get the temperature stabilized at 85 degrees in the pot mixture. Now you are ready to germinate a seed…
Files the edges gently, just enough to break the seed coat and help with moisture adsorption.
If you have several seeds, mark them with a permanent marker for identification. I had twelve in a muffin baking tray, soaking in water. I knew which seed was in which position. That was great until I dropped the tray…
Watch your seedlings around small children. A few years ago, I had several seedlings in the front yard on a picnic table hardening off and getting some real sun. The one in the center was a $100 seed. My daughter, who was three or four at the time came to me and said, “Daddy, look. I picked you a flower.” It was, of course my prize $100 seedling. I replied, “Thank you honey”. We did discuss flowers later…
Soak the seed in water for 8 hours. It should have almost enough moisture to germinate, without much from the soil.
Do not file the bottom of the seed, as that is where it will start to grow from.
Place the seed horizontal, not vertical, in a pot with soil mixture that is slighty damp, not wet. If you squeeze a fist of soil mixture and water comes out, it’s too wet. If the soil mixture dries out due to the heat and evaoporation, just add a small amount of water directly above the seed to keep it moist.
The most common error in germination is improper temperature followed by too much moisture.
Too much moisture will cause your seedling to die due to “damping off“. This is a general term given when a variety of pathogens (generally fungus) which will kill your seedling. This is more likely to happen with too much moisture in your growing mixture.
With the seed horizontal, the seed coat will generally remain in the soil. If the seed coat pushes out of the ground, you can remove it, with care, from the cotyledons. Some are very tough and the seedling may die before it’s powerful enough to break them off by itself.
Place the pot in a place that is 85 degrees.
Use a LED grow light right above the pot. A regular bulb will generally be too hot and will burn the seedling.
You want the seed to germinate and to emerge 1/4 inch above the soil and stop growing up. If you do not have light on it, it will grow 6-8” in one day and never be usable as a seedling.
If you have the proper light on it, it will stop growing up and start growing out. You want the cotyledons from the seed to remain parallel to the soil, about 1/4 inch above it. In my pictures, mine have grown a little too much. In picture four, you can see the first “true” leaf emerging. Generally, we believe the main vine will grow opposite the first true leaf. This is helpful in positioning your seedling in the garden to have the main vine headed in the intended direction.
These seedlings are ready for a bigger pot immediately!