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Winter Gardening: January Garden Checklist Zones 9-11

While much of the country’s gardens are hibernating during the heart of winter, Zone 9-11 gardens have been adapting to cooler temperatures, and gardeners are getting ready to transition them to the milder days of spring.

Those in the Zones 9-11 can actually enjoy a plentiful rolling harvest all year long if they follow some simple planting guidelines and provide some protective measures. The trick is knowing what to plant, when to plant and how to protect crops from dips in temperature.

January is a slower-paced month in all USDA Grow Zones, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t important garden tasks that need to be accomplished. Check out our January garden checklist and make sure you don’t miss some essential steps for extending your growing season, performing maintenance routines, and seizing the opportunities to dream big about this year’s gardens.

Garden entrance with fence and wooden arched trellis.

January Garden Planning

January is an optimal time for gardeners to start anew with renewed energy, focus, enhanced goals, and aspirations. It’s an exciting time to plan, prep, and dream while reclaiming routines after a busy holiday season.

Review of Last Year

Reflecting on past garden successes and accepting where certain crops fell short are essential steps to becoming a more competent gardener. Peer back at how far you have come as a gardener over the years. Celebrate what you did well in previous gardening endeavors and use any setbacks as opportunities to grow.

If you do not already have a gardening journal, start one today! Create a log of gardening tips, tricks, notes, dream designs, and wish list items. Keep track of the perennials you have already and those annuals and perennials you would like to add to this year’s garden. January is a great time to sketch out some garden design plans. Consider crop rotation, companion planting, and succession planting in your design plans for the most productive gardens.

Allocate a spot in your journal for charting seed and plant varieties. Having an easy to access a chart that details planting requirements, germination and maturity periods, and gardening notes will be an invaluable tool for many years to come. It will help keep you on track from year to year with knowing when to sow seeds, how to plant with optimal spacing, when you can expect blooms, and when to harvest your plantings.

Garden Planning

Pour over the gifts of gardening books you received over the holidays and gain new insights about getting the most out of your garden. Make copies of pages that inspire you and create a dream board.

January is seed catalog month, so keep a keen eye out for those treasured magazines as they pop up in your mailbox. Set some time aside to relax and rejuvenate and immerse yourself in the vibrant and inspirational pages. Order seeds early so you will have the first choice of seed selections before they sell out.

If you are ordering climbing vegetables, fruit, ornamental seed varieties, know that they will require some structural support. Implementing vertical gardening into your garden opens up valuable real estate for more planting too. There is no better time than the slower-paced month of January to build some essential climbing structures and DIY trellises. Spring outdoor planting is starting to take place in Zones 9-11, so there is no time like the present to ensure that your plants will be adequately supported as they grow.

Lemons growing in a wooden trellis

Garden Maintenance

It’s time to get those gardens ready for transplants and directly sown seeds.

Soil Amendments

Since gardens in milder climates are being used all year long, their soil needs to be amended with nutrients and organic material. Mix well-decomposed compost and organic fertilizer into the soil to give your plants the organic nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.

Garden Mulch

Temperatures continue to fluctuate in Zones 9-11 throughout January, so adding mulch in your garden can be an invaluable way to regulate soil temperature, insulate root systems, and help maintain optimal moisture levels.

Pruning Trees

It’s the perfect time to prune back any flowering branches on immature citrus trees in Zones 9-11. This will force energy back into the trees and boost growth in the new year.

Garden Tools

With only some light-duty jobs to do in January, you’ll find that it is an ideal time to take stock of all your garden tools and find homes for new garden tool gifts that you may have added to your garden tool kit. You’ll be glad that you did once planting season arrives.

Check your tools for signs of disrepair, tune-up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a strong start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.

  1. Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
  2. Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
  3. Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
  4. Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
  5. Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
  6. Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.

Your seed starting tools and materials are also essential tools of the trade and shouldn’t be overlooked. Your warmer climate means that you have likely already been germinating some seeds. Make sure you have everything you need for the next succession of spring garden transplants. If you haven’t done so already, clean and organize your stock of outdoor and indoor seed starting materials. Ensure that you have plenty of seed starting mix and grow trays at the ready. As you assess your materials, go through your seed packets so you are privy to what you have and can make educated decisions about adding to your supply.

Purple cauliflower growing in the garden.

Composting in Winter

One of the best things you can do for your garden is to create a compost system. After all, healthy gardens begin with a nutrient-rich soil structure. Add any old seeds or rotting bulbs to the compost heap. Continue to feed your compost pile throughout January by adding kitchen scraps, pine needles, and fully cooled wood ash to the pile.

Indoor Planting

Gather up your seed trays and seed starting supplies, and get ready to get things started for your spring garden. You can begin planting warm-season crops indoors at this time in Zones 9-11. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Squash
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce

Flower seeds can also be germinated in seed trays and pots indoors throughout the month of January.

Outdoor Planting

If you have cool-season seedlings that you started indoors in December, you are clear to plant them at this time. Broccoli, cabbage, greens, and cauliflower are a few examples of what will thrive outdoors during the cooler January days and nights. You can also direct-sow:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Pumpkins
  • Peas

If you are adding new fruit trees such as citrus trees to your landscape or potager garden, you can begin planting cold-hardy fruit trees throughout January.

Harvest

Gardeners in the Zones 9-11 can enjoy a plentiful harvest of greens and various winter garden vegetables including:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Fennel
  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Green Onions
  • Mustard Greens
  • Carrots

Utilize the cut and come again method of harvesting leafy greens and harvest root vegetables as you need them. Root vegetables, such as carrots, keep well in cooler temperatures so you can pick them over time even after they have reached maturity.


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Carrot growing in the garden with text, "January planning, planting, and harvesting zones 9, 10, and 11"
Raised bed garden with vertical trellises and text on image, "Garden year round zones 9, 10, and 11. January garden checklist"

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