January Gardening To-Do List

Regional Gardening Guide for January

gardening in winter
Marie Iannotti

A list of January gardening chores may sound like a misnomer, since the month of January can mean virtually no outdoor gardening, for gardeners in snowy climates. Getting trees and shrubs dormant pruned and ready for new growth is almost the only outdoor chore for cold climate gardeners. 

On the other end of the spectrum, gardeners in warm, frost-free zones are enjoying their cool rainy season. These areas should be taking advantage of the sunny, wet months of winter to indulge in sweet peas and salad greens.

Wherever you garden, one garden chore shared across zones is pouring over the garden catalogs that arrive just before Christmas. In January, you have the time to really give them a careful look and start to place orders that will deliver those grand visions of your new, improved garden that always simmer in our heads during winter. This may be the most dangerous garden chore because it's so hard to resist ordering just one more packet of seeds or the perfect pot for the patio.

Whether you're staying warm indoors and gardening vicariously or you're outside getting things in order, here are a few more regional gardening tips to help you get through winter.

All Hardiness Zones

  • Get your catalogs orders ready. You will probably need to edit them a few times since we tend to order more than we have room to plant.
  • Check to see if your local garden centers have their seed racks up and ready to shop.
  • Rework your garden design.
  • Review last year's garden journal and start a new one for this year by recording your seed/plant orders.
  • Check your stored bulbs and veggies and discard any that are showing signs of rot.
  • Check outdoor plants for heaving. Mulch any plant crowns that have been pushed above ground.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree as garden mulch or a bird feeder.
  • Feed the birds and provide them with some unfrozen water.
  • Take a gardening class.
  • Check for any gardening shows in your area.
  • Sharpen your tools.

Cold Climates (USDA Hardiness Zones 7 and Below)

Northern California and the Pacific Northwest

  • Check mulch. Add more to paths for weed suppression.
  • Protect tender plants with some type of row cover, when cold nights are predicted.
  • Plant bare-root roses & fruit trees.
  • Plant asparagus, and artichokes.
  • Finish pruning trees, perennials, and roses.

Southern California


  • Start seeds of cool season crops like broccoli, cabbage, cooking greens, onions, peas, and turnips to transplant next month.
  • Plant asparagus.
  • Direct sow carrots, greens & peas at the end of the month.
  • Prune grapes.
  • Set out transplants of cool-season flowers like pansies, petunia, snapdragon, sweet pea, and violas.
  • Start pruning roses.
  • Keep watering evergreens.