When I began germinating Kentia Palm seed at my nursery on Norfolk Island in the mid 1980’s I did it the old fashion way. I had three greenhouses built, using green color woven plastic as the exterior lining, then covered the lining with shade cloth. Inside the greenhouses we built raised timber beds. We planted the Kentia seed in a mixture of peat and perlite in the beds. Lightly watered the mixture, and then covered the beds with plastic. This old fashion way of seed growing needed us to regularly check the top moisture content of the potting mix. We did this by rolling back the plastic and gently spraying a fine water mist on the mixture. The inside temperature of the greenhouses could get hot in the summer months, even though Norfolk’s average summer temperature very rarely exceeds 85F.
The unique thing about Kentia Palm seeds are that they just don’t all germinate at once. Kentia Palm seed picked from local trees has the reputation of providing a very good viability rate of almost 80%. My experience from growing Kentia seed is that you could probably expect a germination rate of between 60% and 65% in the first 10 to 12 months from planting. The balance could germinate anytime over the next eighteen months. By using the expected 60% to 65% germination rate, you could then estimate how many seedlings you would probably have for sale 10 to 12 months from planting. So if you had planted, say 100 bushels, which is probably around 450,000 seeds, you could probably negotiate with European buyers a selling price for 270,000 seedlings, because that would be the germinated number you could expect to pick once you started picking.
A normal shipping consignment to a single European buyer was 25,000 seedlings. Once the beds looked like there were enough seedlings germinated for a consignment to be shipped we would start picking. Each picker could pick about 800 seedlings an hour, and with three other pickers and myself we could pick a consignment number in one day. Once picked, the seedlings were washed and the dipped in a fungicide mixture. They would be left to drain overnight in large plastic bins with small holes in the bottom. The following day the consignment would be packed, and then inspected so that an approved agricultural certificate could be issued to comply with entry into the European buyer’s country. The consignment usually left Norfolk Island by air on a Sunday, and would be at a buyer’s greenhouse in Amsterdam within three days.
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