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Takeaway Tek

Takeaway Tek (how to germinate cacti seeds)

The results of this adapted technique speak for themselves; this is a great way to start seeds of Trichocereus and one would assume all cacti. Below is the basic technique which has been edited and modified slightly by us, you could vary it in subtle ways that suit your climate and environment.

The Takeaway Tek

So take some cactus or seed raising mix and sieve it to remove large rocks and (ugh) sticks and bits of wood (why do they put that rubbish in cactus mix?). I use maybe 30-40% coco peat mixed and sieved as well.

Put a thin layer 2-3cm or so in a microwavable plastic takeaway container (just buy from supermarket). Tamp the mix down into a level layer using something flat.

Add just enough water using a sprayer so its just damp, too much moisture is bad. We use a bit of seaweed solution too. We find for a 500-600ml takeaway container adding 25-50ml of water is more than enough, find what works for you.

Put the lid on loosely and microwave for 3 minutes on high. Give it another minute then remove and allow to cool. (you can actually skip this step if you want, I tend to like working with good bacteria and fungi instead of nuking everything, try both and see what works for you)

Once cool take a permanent marker and write the date, species you are sowing, what treatments you are using (like seaweed, biochar, etc) on either the bottom of the tub, the side or both in case one fades.

Position the seeds evenly across surface using forceps or just sprinkle them. A max of say 50 – 100 seeds per tub. We then tamp down again lightly and spray evenly and lightly with seaweed solution.

You can use a fungicide or mycorrizal fungal powder to assist germination by dusting the seeds in it before planting. A good organic method is to use ground cinnamon, sprinkle it over the surface and mix it in before sowing the seeds. We are currently experimenting with inoculated biochar as part of the seed mix, it appears to be working very well.

Close the lid and place in a bright spot well away from direct sun, if there is any danger of direct sun at anytime cut a piece of 50-75% shadecloth and drape it over the tub. You may need to double it up initially, if the seedlings go red, you need more shade. We find that they really need minimal light when germinating and in the first few months.

Germination starts in 2-3 weeks, spring and autumn being good times for Trichocereus with moderate temperatures.

Ignore other teks that tell you to open the lids once germination occurs, not in this tek, dryness at such a tender stage is either lethal or severely stunting. Leave the lids sealed for up to 6 months, it acts like a mini terrarium, recycling moisture. After 6 months it’ll need a drink, but then you can reseal up to the 12 month mark by which time they should be ready to separate out and pot on. Ours are ready for the big world after 3-6 months.

Only open if you see fungus starting, in which case cracking the lid a while so excess moisture is lost can arrest the fungus.

If its too dry, in which case re-wet with a 1/8 strength solution of miracle gro or seaweed.

The cacti are ready to move on once they have a proper set of spines and a little girth. I find small cacti grow better communally, only being divided to their own pots once about 10 – 20mm tall. But that another stage and is outside the Takeaway Tek

This tek is a rather stress free way of going about growing from seed. R. Saw. author and heavily modified by us 🙂

Takeaway Tek
Growing Trichocereus pachanoi ‘Matucana’ seeds using Takeaway Tek.
Takeaway Tek
Looking in from the end
Takeaway Tek
Taking the lid off after 4 months and giving some slow release fertiliser.
Takeaway Tek
Mulching the just opened and fertilised seedlings with pumice. You can use gravel.
Takeaway Tek
You can also mulch with small coloured gravel!

This Post Has 14 Comments

    1. Thanks for detailing such a straightforward method. I planted several containers worth back in October and they’re all going great guns.

      As a total novice, however, I’m not sure about next steps. I know you say give them a drink at six months but should I fertilise at this stage too? And mulch? The photo captions suggest so but not the text.

      Is there a part two of this tek I’ve missed?

      1. Hi James,

        the next step, or when to give them a drink, is all by eyeball; when i notice that the soil is drying out (due to being absorbed by the cacti or lost from evaporation through corners of lid). You may also notice their growth rate slow down as less water is available.

        I only fertilise once the lid comes off fully. This is because you have to deal with growth of algae or bacteria that will take advantage of the increased nutrients.So that might be after 4-12 months in my experience, just depends how quickly they grow.

        Like anything, the tek could continue to be modified, maybe its time i updated it 🙂


    2. Hi Darren, I recently sowed 23 cactus spp. using the takeaway tek method. So far 80% germinated in a very short time and the seedlings are thriving. All spp. originate in S.W.USA and northern Mexico. Getting the water content right in the sowing medium was a bit tricky and I had to check the containers a few times and add a little water to get things happening. I still check them periodically and add a little water to any seed batches which haven’t begun to germinate. They were just a bit dry and a quick spray fixed the problem.
      I also tried the tek with 2 Deutercohnia spp. and 1 Hechtia sp. and it worked a treat in a very short time. I will use this method with other Bromeliad spp. e.g. Tillandsia spp. and will post back to let you know how it goes. maybe this tek will work for the germination of other arid climate plants as well, just to complete the germination and protect the seedlings from the snails which are prolific and voracious around here.
      Thanks for bringing this system to light. I believe it holds many possibilities with some experimentation and minor tweaking here and there.
      Many thanks, Dave

      1. it can be hard to gauge, you don’t want it pooling in the base of the container, but neither be too dry that germination can’t happen. Somewhere in between. It is easier to add more water later after germination than it is to take it away.

  1. I did this but i made a layer in the bottom of the container of perlite before layering the soil on top. making about a 1cm layer of each. this is not entirely necessary but perlite does a fantastic job of aerating the roots and wicking moisture, eliminating the chance of standing water of you add too much water by accident. in order to get the right humidity and water content, I added water to the perlite in the container until it only had a few drops of sitting water on the bottom then added the plain seedling mix on top with no extra water. germination took a single day, splitting the seeds then fully emerging and turning green after a week. make sure you leave enough room in the container, as the seedlings germinate and reach for the light they can grow up to 2cm high in the first month. I have done this with success with pachanoi seeds from another seller and the sp.1 seeds from herbalistics.

  2. Hi team, thanks for the takeaway tek! I’ve started my first ever seeds about a week ago – still nothing but I was wondering if I don’t see anything for 1 or 2 more weeks, should I open the lid and spray some more water? I’ve also heard that if seeds don’t sprout, you can let the soil mix dry, then re wet it. Is this also viable?

    Thanks – Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie, if its the right temp and all conditions like moisture etc are good then you generally see germinataion in 10-21 days. Just make sure you didn’t cover them with soil too much either. It really depends if you have enough moisture or too much, you should be seeing some condensation on the lid but it shouldn’t look saturated and swampy in there 🙂 And yes you can let dry out and re wet but I wouldn’t do that until at least a month has passed. Good luck!

      1. Hi team, thanks for the info! I think I’ll wait a month and see what happens. I’m so excited to have my own cacti babys!!!!

        Thanks again, appreciate your time to reply to me – Charlie

  3. […] Thinking about using chemicals again for mutagenesis wasn’t appealing to me, so I looked into gamma irradiation, which can have good results and is less dangerous for the breeder. Working out doses to use was guesswork at best, but after researching papers I settled on three treatments for the seeds and three for small (2.5cm tall) seedlings. For the trials I used several lots of hybrid seeds and seedlings, which included HB02 x HB01 seeds and HB07 (open pollinated ‘OP’) seedlings. I also treated a T. peruvianus ‘Huarimayo monstrose‘ reverted cutting. Seeds were treated at 100, 150 and 200gGy. Seedlings (being more susceptible to radiation) were treated at 20, 40 and 60Gy. The material was sent way to a research facility for treatment. I potted the seedlings up on arrival back here and sowed the treated seeds as per normal, using the takeaway tek. […]

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