12 Jan January Garden Checklist: How to Prepare Your Garden in Winter
Depending on where you live, you might already know what kind of garden activities you can and can’t do in the month of January. So instead, we’re going to talk about garden goals — different things to focus on, create, and appreciate this chilly month. Although the pace is slower and the demands are fewer, January is a pivotal month for planning and preparing for the garden to come. It’s full of possibilities, and isn’t that the most exciting part of gardening?
Regroup & Refresh. Most of us are focused on merriment during the holidays, so come January, we’re ready to get back into something resembling a routine. January is the perfect time to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re headed, and the garden is no different. Pull out that garden journal and start jotting down notes about what happened in your garden last year, and what you’d like to see happen in 2020. You’ve got a bit of breathing room this month — put it to good use!
- Take stock. What garden tools and supplies do you have and what is on your wish/must-have list for the new year? January is a great time to look for those garden bargains.
- Garden Growth. Are you ready to scale up or out? This is a perfect time to start your re-purpose and reuse Garden DIY projects! Turn those pallets into a raised bed, that old ladder into a trellis for your vertical veggies, and stock-pile supplies for that perfect she-shed you’ve been PIN-dreaming about.
- Get organized. Once you have your goals mapped out, you can get organized with the details. Plan your seed order, clean your pottery, commit to a storage system for your seed packets, and go through your tools and products to determine what needs updating, replacing, or repairing. Come springtime, you won’t have any free hours to organize, and you’ll be glad you did it now.
- Clean Up. Take care of those garden tools, make necessary repairs, sharpen blades, and oil moving parts.
- Plant. Throughout the month of January is a time for many zones to plant seeds, these seeds can be started indoors. January is also a good time to plant micro-greens on your kitchen counter top to enjoy in winter salads. This is a great way to enjoy fresh produce from the garden all year long!
Plan – January is seed catalog month! Pour over new catalogs that arrive in the mail, make a list of new seeds, and place your order. Inventory your existing seeds, and compost any that are too old to sow. Make a master plan of your garden. Plan for your new garden spaces. Observe the changing light patterns that winter brings.
Prepare/Maintain – Take stock of all your garden tools — make necessary repairs, sharpen blades, and oil moving parts. Clean and organize your seed starting supplies, and be sure you have enough seed-starter mix on hand for when your seeds arrive. Use a lightweight row cover to protects crops, and be at the ready to cover tender garden plants in case of freeze.
- Zones 3-5 While admittedly you have a few less gardening options when you live in a chillier climate, don’t let that stop you. Get out those seed catalogs and put your orders in, and start growing some things indoors. Micro-greens and sprouts are a great way to experiment — look for seed mixes of different lettuce varieties, or go with sunflower sprouts for your salads. And don’t forget houseplants! Amp up your indoor plant displays with new pots, decorative hangers, or innovative wall planters.
- Zones 5-6 can knock heavy snow from their plants and outdoor structures to avoid damage.
- Zones 7-10 can clean up winter weeds, transplant trees, shrubs, and roses, and top-dress garden beds with compost.
- Zones 9-10 can prune roses and fruit trees.
Sow/Plant – Indoors All zones can enjoy indoor houseplant gardening.
- Zones 4-6 can plant micro-greens on their kitchen counter top to enjoy in winter salads.
- Zones 5-6 may start seeds of cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, and onions. Zone 6 can start seeds of pansies, snapdragons, dusty miller, begonias, and delphiniums.
- Zones 7-8 can start cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce seeds.
- Zones 9-10 can start seeds for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant as well as melons, cucumbers, and squash.
Sow/Plant – Outdoors While colder zones may not be able to actively plant outdoors during January, milder climates still have the go-ahead.
- Zone 8 Early in the month, start seeds of onions, dill, parsley, leeks, and celery. You can also direct sow seeds outdoors if you like beets, carrots, garden peas, bok choy, kale, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and radishes. If you have root crops still in the ground, cover them with mulch to keep them protected. Look for bare-root asparagus and strawberry plants at the garden center and plant them along with your fruit trees.
- Zones 7-10 can plant asparagus crowns and strawberry transplants, and set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, dill, parsley, cilantro, and chervil. Direct sow seeds of arugula, beets, bok choy, carrots, fennel, radishes, turnips, and peas. Zone 7, now’s the time to get your onion and cabbage transplants at the garden center — you can plant them out in the garden, but have a row cover handy in case you get a sudden cold snap.
- Zones 9-11 can purchase seed potatoes and pre-sprout them for spring planting. If you have seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and greens, you can go ahead and transplant them outdoors. Start warm season seeds like melon, peppers, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, and greens, and direct sow seeds of carrots, arugula, kale, onions, spinach, radishes, peas, pumpkins. Plant cold hardy fruit trees, and prune off flowers on your tropical fruit and immature citrus trees to give them more energy to grow. Flower seeds like zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers can all be started indoors as well.
- Zones 4-6 can dig parsnips left in the ground over winter.
- Zones 7-10 can harvest loads of greens and veggies including broccoli, arugula, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, fennel, spinach, Swiss chard, radishes, leeks, kale, green onions, and mustard.
Kick Back and Enjoy Your Space Goals:
It’s easy to yearn for the season you’re not in and curse the one you’re in the middle of. During sweltering August days, what gets me through is dreaming of chilly days with cozy clothes, but in January when it’s freezing and wet? Summertime suddenly seems like a good idea after all. Rather than lament what you don’t have, commit to appreciating the season for what it is.
- Get crafty. Go outside and cut some winter branches with berries (around here it’s nandina or yaupons), collect pinecones and acorns, and gather up moss. Bring it all indoors to create woodsy and seasonal terrariums and flowerless arrangements, and accent them with battery-operated fairie lights or tealights. Honestly, this is one of my favorite winter activities because it makes my house warm and cozy.
- Enjoy the beauty of the season. As gardeners, the winter allows us cherished time to rest and regroup while gifting us with a different perspective — when my tree branches are bare, I can better see their form and where I might need to prune later on. Because my perennials are dormant, I can see the form and structure of my garden as it really is and plan for any necessary adjustments. The garden teaches us a rhythm to our days and years — allow yourself to lean into it with gratitude.