Former Shows & Episodes

The Manic Gardener

Kate Gardner

The Manic Gardener – From Seed to Seedling

People in northern climes, with their short growing seasons, often try to get a jump on the season by starting their plants, especially their vegetables, indoors—on a windowsill, or in a greenhouse, a cold frame, or a basement. But though many of us start our own plants, a lot of us don’t do it particularly well. Many seeds refuse to sprout, while others get off to a terrific start, then keel over, victims of the dreaded damping off disease.

Judy Owsowitz sells both seedlings and vegetables, and she starts thousands of them herself and the rest with the help of her six interns. She does all this starting in early February, in the relatively inhospitable climate of northern Montana. So she seemed the ideal person to tap for advice about starting, tending, and transplanting seedlings.

Owner of Terrapin Farm, Judy has been farming in northern Montana since the seventies, using draft horses for years, but more recently and reluctantly, tractors. She sells vegetables, herbs, flowers, and edible flowers, as well as seedlings and seeds for many of those plants. She has also developed a number of cold-hardy vegetable varieties, and at the end of the show she tells us about a few of those.

Though she has a full-fledged business including a greenhouse, Judy can provide plenty of useful tips for backyard gardeners. Amongst other things, she explains how to get artichokes, usually considered a biennial, to produce in their first season. In cold climates. From seed.

And her methods will suit the thrift-minded as well: for several weeks before she opens the greenhouse, her seedlings are housed in her basement under florescent lights. Not fancy grow lights; not even full-spectrum florescent bulbs; but the cheapest of the cheap, common florescent bulbs.

So if you’re wondering about the perfect consistency for potting soil; or about which flowers, herbs, and vegetables to seed first; or about how to water seeds or seedlings, tune in.

Check The Manic Gardener for further background and links.