Montana Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors: A Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Gardening


If you need a little bud of hope during the cold winter months, starting your future garden indoors may be the perfect thing for you! Starting seeds indoors in Montana is a great way to get a head start on your garden and really reap the benefits in the harvest season.

But where do you begin? What do you plant in?! Where do you even get seeds in this economy? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! This blog is a beginner guide to starting seeds indoors – from why to do it, what to use, and when to start! Read on; the livelihood of your future garden depends on it…!

Why Start Seeds Indoors in Montana?

Starting seeds indoors is a pro-move for any garden. But in Montana, it really makes a difference! Because we have a harsh climate and a short growing season compared to other states, starting your garden indoors can help you get the most out of your crop.  Montana’s variable weather makes it nearly impossible to guess the exact date the last frost might occur. Starting your seeds indoors gives your plants time to take root before they must brave the fickle Montana climate.

Bell Pepper Seedlings in Small Pots

When to Start Seeds Indoors in Montana 

As a general rule of thumb, you can start seeds indoors around mid to late March. Of course, there are some seeds you can start a little earlier and some that can start a little later.

If you live in Bozeman, early February is actually a great time to start making a garden plan for yourself. Make a list of the garden plants you wish to buy as seeds, so you can start germinating them indoors. The Almanac is a wonderful resource for planting dates. It breaks down when to start seeds indoors when to plant seedlings outdoors, and when you can start seeds outdoors.

Plants you can start indoors in March: 

  • Jalepeño peppers
  • Oregano
  • Bell peppers

Plants you can start indoors in April: 

  • Tomatoes
  • Sage
  • Kale

Plants you can start indoors in May: 

  • Cucumbers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Pumpkins

Check out the Almanac when you start making your dream seed list!


Closeup of Farmer's Hand Planting Seeds

Choosing the Right Seeds for Your Indoor Garden

Choosing high-quality seeds for your indoor garden is a great way to ensure they’ll actually grow. We love Botanical Interests because they do so well in our region and produce great crops! We stock a large variety and place multiple orders during the growing season.

Our relationships with our growers are important to us. The Owenhouse Garden Center wouldn’t be what it is if we didn’t have such great growers. Utilizing a number of local and regional growers allows us to bring the very best in flowers, herbs, vegetables, hanging baskets, and more to our customers!

You can also pick specific fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that are hearty and well-suited for Montana’s climate – despite the cold! These include plants with shorter growing seasons and frost-resistant varieties.

Plants With Shorter Growing Seasons for Your Garden

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Eggplant
  • Corn
  • Bulb onions
  • Winter squash

Frost-Resistant Plants for Your Garden 

  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Brocolli
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner, Owenhouse can help you get started.

*Note: “Frost resistant” does not mean they can handle the deepest, darkest Montana freezes!

Are Your Old Seeds Still Usable?

If you have high-quality seeds that have been stored in a cool, dry place for a year after they were packaged, you can typically still get them to grow! Sometimes, you can grow seeds that are up to five years old. However, if you’re unsure when you got those old seeds in the bottom of your kitchen drawer, it’s probably a good idea to get some new seeds to start fresh!

Best Seeds to Start Indoors in Montana

Cold-hardy varieties that can tolerate cooler temperatures and have shorter growing seasons are perfect for a beginner starting an indoor garden. Here are some seeds you can start indoors in Montana:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Summer squash


Planting Seeds in Peat Pellets

Preparing for Indoor Seed Starting

Getting ready for your indoor garden is an exciting step toward growing your outdoor garden, but having the right tools is important. You’ll need to gather all your tools, like seed trays, potting mix, and grow lights. Seed trays help keep things organized, and a good potting mix provides the nutrients your seedlings need.

Seed Starting Kit Ferry Morse

Seed trays at Owenhouse

For that extra boost, set up some grow lights above the trays. During the seedling phase, when plants are tender, lights are suspended higher. As a general rule of (green) thumb, LED lights should be about 24-26 inches during this phase and then lowered to 18 to 22 inches during the vegetative and flowering stages of growth.

Grow Light for Plants

LED Growing lights

Keep the lights on for 12-16 hours a day to give your seeds the perfect environment. If you’re not sure where to find these essentials, I’ve linked some recommended products for seed trays, potting mix, and grow lights to make your shopping easier. Oh, and don’t forget to find a cozy indoor garden spot before diving in! If you have a place that gets lots of sun, you probably won’t need the grow lights.

Tools and Supplies for Indoor Seeds

Ready to start your indoor garden? Here’s what you need to get started:

Green Decorative Gardening Gloves Bamboo Wooden Sticks for Gardening Seed Starting Mix - Miracle Gro Water Spray and Misting Bottle

Woman Sowing Seeds into Dirt

Sowing the Seeds

When it comes to sowing seeds indoors, a few key steps can make all the difference in nurturing healthy and robust seedlings. Start by selecting the right seeds for your desired plants, and then follow these steps for a successful indoor planting experience.

Choose the Right Depth and Spacing: Check the seed packet for specific planting depth and spacing instructions. As a general rule, plant seeds at a depth about twice their diameter. Proper spacing ensures that the seedlings have enough room to grow without competing for resources.

Labeling for Organization: Labeling your seed trays is a small but essential step. This helps you keep track of different plant varieties and ensures you can identify them as they sprout. Use waterproof markers or plant labels to avoid any confusion.

Optimal Seed Starting Mix: Utilize a high-quality seed starting mix for planting. This specialized mix provides the right balance of nutrients and promotes good drainage, which is crucial for seed germination. It creates an ideal environment for the seeds to establish roots and begin their journey to becoming robust plants.

Harness the Power of Heat Mats: Consider using a heat mat under your seed trays. This extra touch helps maintain a consistent and slightly elevated temperature, creating a cozy environment for seeds to germinate faster and more uniformly. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for optimal use.

If you have any questions about starting your indoor garden, reach out! We’re happy to help get your garden started.

Caring for Seedlings Indoors 

Ensuring the well-being of your indoor seedlings involves attention to water, light, and temperature. Adequate water is crucial, but be mindful not to overwater. Monitor soil moisture by feeling the top inch of the soil and water when it feels dry.  Make sure your seed babies have sufficient light through natural sunlight or grow lights, and maintain a consistent temperature.

As your seedlings mature, start thinking about transplanting them outdoors. Check our blog on how to grow your garden in the great outdoors!

Before transplanting, gradually harden off seedlings by exposing them to outdoor conditions over a week. This helps them transition well to a new environment. 

Basil Seeds Begining to Sprout

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Are your seeds not starting? That’s ok! Some common issues gardeners (beginners and experts alike) might face include mold, no germination, and leggy seedlings. Luckily, most of these challenges can be overcome!

  • Mold: you may get mold if you don’t use a sterile seed mix. Unfortunately, your best bet with mold is to toss everything and start over (yep, even your seed tray).
  • No germination: your seeds may be a little too old if they’re not germinating in the time the seed packet indicates. To check seed viability, dampen a paper towel and place about 20 seeds on it. Fold it in half and place it in a warm plastic bag. Check daily until the last day stated on the seed packet. If you still don’t get anything, it’s time for some new seeds!
  • Leggy seedlings: if you notice tall, spindly stems, your seeds probably need more light! Move to a location and ensure they get 16-20 hours a day, or get a growing lamp.

Man Planting Seeds in Biodegradable Pots

Additional Tips for Beginners

  • Selecting the right location for indoor seed starting, such as a sunny windowsill, can significantly impact your plants’ development.
  • Guard against pests and diseases by using natural remedies like neem oil or insecticidal soap.
  • Consider starting a gardening journal to track progress and learn from each growing experience.
  • Explore the Owenhouse Garden Center to inspire and kickstart your gardening journey with the right tools and resources!
  • When beginning with gardening, don’t go wild with a ton of different varieties. Pick a handful of varieties that are actually enjoyed and start there.
  • Invest in good lights, and don’t overwater plants or seedlings. Seeds just need to be moist. A spray bottle is sufficient to mist them down with.

Young Woman Holding Packets of Seeds

Time to Grow Your Garden, Bozeman!

Now that you know everything there is to know about starting your very own indoor garden, it’s time to start growing on your own! We believe in you! Every beginner needs to start somewhere. At Owenhouse Ace, we’re here to help. Come by today to start gathering your garden gear!

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