January Gardening To-Do List

Monthly Chores for Each Region

Snow Covered Witch Hazel Blooms

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In the South, January continues to bring welcome relief from the heat to plants and gardeners alike. Take advantage by growing cool-season vegetables and cool-season annuals and by undertaking garden chores too vigorous to take on in summer.

For Northerners, January is another matter altogether, due to the wintry weather it brings: It is your gardening off-season. This off-season is a good time to daydream about your garden or new plants. If you have not done so already, put yourself on the mailing lists for the major national seed, bulb, and live-plant retailers. Their catalogs may offer a wealth of free information, including planting and care details.

Here are gardening tasks to do in January according to the region of the U.S. where you live.

All Regions

  • Whether you live in the North or South, January is a good time to pore over garden catalogs and get your orders in so that you will be ready to go come spring.
  • Check for frost heaves around your outdoor plants and apply mulch as needed.
  • If you have received a poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima ) for Christmas, put it in a window where it gets as much direct light as possible, and water it when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Water it until the water comes out of the bottom of the pot, but your poinsettia should not be sitting in water.
  • If you have been storing bulbs, corms, or tubers, check them to make sure that they are neither rotting nor totally drying out.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree.

Midwest

January is a frigid month in the Midwest. Maintenance and inspection are your primary chores.

  • Continue to inspect trees and shrubs for bark damage. If you find any, you most likely have a problem with voles, rabbits, or deer and need to take action.
  • Once snow falls, remove it from paths to the garden. This gives you better access to the winter garden, enabling you to clear away fallen limbs, inspect shrubs for damage, etc.

Northeast

A January thaw is not unheard of in the Northeast, allowing you a bit of time for yard work.

  • If you live near the ocean, this is a great time to assess how well your trees and shrubs are holding up to the salt spray. Plan on replacing plants performing poorly with salt-tolerant plants next year.
  • Once snow falls, remove it from paths to the garden. This gives you better access to the winter garden, enabling you to clear away fallen limbs, inspect shrubs for damage, etc.

Pacific Northwest

Temperatures are likely to be moderate enough in some areas that you can still work outside on good days without being too uncomfortable.

  • Have row covers ready to protect tender plants on cold nights.
  • Plant bare-root rose bushes, fruit treesasparagus, and artichokes.
  • Complete any trimming on perennials that you haven't gotten to yet. Likewise, finish removing dead canes from rose bushes and dead limbs from trees and shrubs.

Pacific Coast

Temperatures are likely to be moderate enough in Northern California that you can still work outside on good days without being too uncomfortable. Southern Californians, though, will be much more active.

In Northern California:

  • Have row covers ready to protect tender plants on cold nights.
  • Plant bare-root rose bushes, fruit trees, asparagus, and artichokes.
  • Complete any pruning on trees, perennials, and rose bushes that you have not gotten to yet.

In Southern California:

Southwest

In the high desert, there will be periods when you can't do much outdoors, so take these recommendations with a grain of salt. But the low desert is more garden-friendly (as long as your water supply is reliable).

  • Start seeds of cool-season crops like broccolicabbage, cooking greens, onions, peas, and turnips to transplant next month.
  • Plant asparagus.
  • Direct sow cool-season vegetables such as carrots, greens, and peas at the end of the month.
  • Set out transplants of cool-season flowers like pansiespetunia, snapdragon, sweet pea, and violas.
  • Start pruning roses.
  • Keep watering evergreens if there's not regular rain.

Southeast

Many a Northerner would rather be in the Southeast in January. But that does not mean gardeners in the Southeast can totally let their guards down. Sudden temperatures drops do occasionally occur.

  • Shelter tender plants with row covers when temperatures take a dip.
  • Continue to add compost to the garden.
  • Finish pruning wisteria, starting with the longest vines.

Florida

As a convenience to predict the weather, Florida is divided into three areas: North Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida. If you live outside of South Florida (USDA zones 10 and 11), especially, you still must be ready for temperature swings, in spite of the generally favorable weather.

  • Take advantage of the more moderate weather to grow cool-weather crops such as spinachlettuce, or peas.
  • During cold snaps, cover tender plants with row covers.
  • Sow seeds for vegetables that take a long time to grow, such as eggplant, peppers, and chiles.
  • Prune raspberry canes down to the ground after they are done fruiting.