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How do I choose seed for Montana’s cold climate?

Using seed and planting stock that is well adapted to cold climates is important for successful gardening. For warm-season crops such as melons, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, look for seed that has “short days to maturity.” A typical seed package will include the “days to maturity” on the back. If you are ordering from a catalog, look for warm-season crop seeds that mature in less than 75 to 80 days. A good rule of thumb is to use seed that is adapted to your region, which may be available from small, regional seed companies.

Judy Fisher, the owner/operator of Fisher Garden* seeds, a third-generation, small, family-owned seed business in Montana, has maintained many varieties that were developed by her uncle, Ken Fisher. These are adapted to high elevations and cold climates. Her warm-season crop varieties are selected for short days to maturity, and tolerance for cool nights. She also grows and selects seed for a host of cool-season crops and flowers. As one example, her Mountaineer winter squash seed is well adapted to the cool nights and short growing season in Montana. It produces loads of flavorful, orange-fleshed winter squash that keeps well through the winter. For more information and to order a catalog, call 406-388-6052.

Ready to learn more? Here are a few useful ATTRA resources to get you started:

Specialty Crops for Cold Climates

Blog 7. Improving Seed Viability and Germination

Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production

Potting Mix video

*Mention of specific companies, brands, or products is for educational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by NCAT, ATTRA, or USDA.