What to Do in the Garden in January

What to Do in the Garden in January
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What to Do in the Garden in January

January is one of the coldest months in the U.S., in nearly every state. You might be wondering what you can do in the garden when it’s so cold outside. If you’re an avid gardener, you probably miss getting your hands dirty. Don’t worry, though. Even if it’s extremely cold where you are, there are things you can do to prepare for your next garden.

Clean up the Garden

In many parts of the country, winter’s cold also brings storms. Your garden may be covered in debris from fallen tree limbs or leaves. This type of debris can gather in your garden bed, especially around fences, pavers, or other edging materials you might have.

If you live in a really cold climate, you might find residue from salt or de-icing chemicals on your plants. These chemicals can be harmful to your plants, so take the time to wash the residue off. Use water and wash off any visible chemicals that you can see. Make sure that you’re washing these residues off in between cold snaps. A day above freezing is the perfect time to rinse any harmful salts or residues away.

Planning for the Next Garden

The winter cold is the perfect time to start planning your next garden. In fact, you may have noticed that you start to get seed catalogs this time of year with the newest collection of plants and seeds. Take the time to not only plan what you want to grow or plant this year, but also to reflect on what you did last year.

In order to improve your garden year over year, you need to make small adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t work. If you tried a new type of tomato that just didn’t thrive, don’t buy it again. It may not have been compatible with your climate. If you tried a new organic pesticide that worked really well, continue to do that this year. It seems silly to think about what worked and what didn’t, but this is why so many gardeners get stuck in a rut. They fail to observe what worked for them and what didn’t.

When you’re planning your garden, consider expanding your garden in new and exciting ways. If you’re traditionally a vegetable gardener, try adding some colorful beneficial flowers, like marigolds or nasturtiums to your garden. If you usually stick to growing flowers and caring for your flower beds, consider adding some flowering herbs and attractive vegetables that you can use.

What to Do in the Garden in January Based on Your Zone

Zones 3-4

The first thing that you need to do is to order your seeds and your seed starting supplies. These items are always in high demand at the beginning of the year, so be sure to get your order in early, even if you’re not quite ready to start seeds yet.

This is also a great time to inspect your gardening tools and do any maintenance. Clean them up and oil them. Keeping your toils oiled will help to preserve them and make them last for years to come. You can help keep shovels and spades sharp by storing them in sand. Use a bucket or large container and fill it with clean, construction grade sand. Place cleaned, oiled shovels and spades down into the sand, with the handles pointing up. Everytime you take the shovel out or put it back, the sand will help to keep the edge in good condition.

If you’re looking for another DIY project, you can start putting together trellises for your vining plants. Roses, beans and many other plants will need support. The perfect time to get your trellises built is before you need them.

Zones 5-6

Start some of your seeds. Some flowering plants that are cool-weather tolerant can be started in January. Pansies and violas are perfect for starting now. Start them indoors now to give them a head start before planting. You can also start some cold-season vegetables indoors. Plants like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, can be started indoors now.

Make sure that you have all of your seed starting supplies ready. It’s almost time to start seeds, and these supplies are in high demand. Get the seeds you want, along with all of the other necessities. Bio-domes are the perfect way to start seeds. If you haven’t ordered yours yet, get them now. Fertilizer is also important to have on hand as some of your seeds will germinate quickly, and you don’t want to be scrambling for fertilizer when they need it.

Use this time to prune back any perennials that weren’t trimmed back in the fall. You’ll want to prune plants back before they start blooming. This is the perfect month to get that done.

Zone 7

Start some of your seeds indoors. You can start flowers and some of the vegetables that are either cold-tolerant or have a longer growing time. Some really hardy seeds, like cabbage, spinach or onions, can be planted outdoors now. Be sure to have cold frames or row covers on hand for especially cold temperatures.

Do you grow strawberries and asparagus? If so, take the time this month to get those beds cleaned up. Remove any debris like leaves or sticks out of the bed. These could interfere with growth, so be sure to remove them.

Pull up any weeds that have managed to sprout. You can also add some compost or fertilizer to the soil to boost the growth of these plants.

Zone 8

You can officially start planting some things in zone 8 in January if you’re mindful of the weather. Feel free to plant asparagus, strawberries and fruit plants this month. You can also plant cold-hardy vegetables directly outdoors. Plants like greens, radishes, carrots, peas, cabbage and broccoli can be planted outside. Keep some row covers or cold frames on hand just in case of a hard cold snap.

This is also a good time to add compost to your garden. Adding compost now will help prevent creating soil that is too hot for your summer garden.

Many flowers and herbs can be started this month. In fact, many of them can be safely direct sown into the garden or your flower beds.

Zone 9

This is prime time to start seeds. A fair number of seeds can be started outdoors, directly in the ground. Wildflowers and cold hardy plants can be planted and directly sown into the soil. Wildflowers are a great way to attract beneficial insects to your garden, so plan out where you want your wildflowers to grow and sown the seeds in those areas.

If you’re planning on growing tomatoes and peppers, go ahead and start those seeds indoors so they’ll be ready to plant in a couple of months. Plant your cold-hardy vegetables outdoors. Plants like cabbage, greens, lettuce, broccoli, parsley and cilantro can be planted outdoors.

Carrots, Brussels sprouts or radishes that you left in the garden over the winter should be harvested to make room for a new, fresh round of veggies.

Zone 10

January can be a dry month, so make sure that if your area is dry, you’re watering your garden enough to keep your plants healthy. This is also a great time to whip up compost tea and use this in place of some of your waterings. Compost tea is made by soaking compost or manure in water and then using the nutrient-rich water to water your plants. If you aren’t keen on making compost tea, substitute it for water with water-soluble fertilizer.

You can plant cool-season crops outdoors this month, as long as you plant fast growing or heat-tolerant varieties. Although it feels cool now, it will warm up quickly. Cold-season vegetables will bolt as soon as the weather warms. You either want your plants harvested by then or you want to plant varieties that are slower to bolt.

Winter squash, like pumpkins, acorn, or spaghetti squash, can be directly sown outdoors this month. If you haven’t yet, start your seeds for your summer garden indoors.

Zone 11

Zone 11 gardeners are lucky enough to have no frost dates. This means that while most other gardeners are waiting anxiously to get into the garden, you can continue plugging along in yours. The temperatures this time of year will dip some, with lows reaching the 40s-50s at night.

You can experiment with some plants that enjoy milder temperatures while you await the summer sun. Plants like mango and mint thrive this time of year. No wonder these are always key ingredients in tropical dishes!

Improving Skills

This month is the beginning of when most gardeners start to refocus on what their gardens will look like. After the holidays, we all get a little antsy to get back in the garden and get our hands dirty. For those of you living in some of the warmer climates, you can start growing some of your plants. If you’re still dealing with frigid cold in some of the northern climates, you can spend some of this downtime reading and learning.

Check out the From Seed to Spoon app or grab a gardening book and improve some of your gardening skills. The app will give you customized planting dates for your area and our YouTUbe channel has dozens of videos that will teach you new skills in growing flowers, greenhouse growing, herb gardening, starting seeds, propagating plants and anything else you can think of.