Everything you need to do for a great growing season ahead

Winter is often considered the “break” time from the sweat and toil of a garden, but any seasoned gardener knows that there is never really any downtime if you’re growing your own food or even simply maintaining a productive garden. While garden chores look different in the winter months, there is still a lot to accomplish ahead of a productive growing season.

Consider this your January garden checklist. Pull on your warm coveralls, roll up your sleeves, and start envisioning your lush backyard garden—these steps will get you there.

Indoors
Use this time to take care of your indoor houseplants. Just like outdoor plants, indoor plants tend to go a little dormant during the winter months thanks to cooler temperatures and lesser light. Give them a little bit of TLC with a good cleaning. Dust tends to settle on the leaves of our indoor houseplants and can prevent light, gas, and moisture from penetrating. To dust the leaves, gently wipe them with a clean damp cloth.

This is also a great time to check your indoor plants for any insect infestations—especially if you received any new plants over the holiday season. 

January and February are also ideal months to start seeds indoors ahead of the spring and summer growing season. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, head lettuce, onions, and parsley can all be started indoors at this time. If you plan to plant any perennial flower varieties, they can be started at this time as well. Any flowers or plants that have a long germination period such as rosemary, snapdragons, and begonias, can also be started indoors before the end of the month.

Planning
There is a ton of pre-planning involved in maintaining a successful and productive garden. Garden layout, crop rotation, and trellis systems all need to be planned out before the first seed or plant is ever put into the ground. January is the ideal time for this planning work. Start by:

  • Contact seed companies to receive their 2024 catalogs if you’re not already on their mailing list. Try to prioritize seed companies that offer heirloom or non-GMO seeds. We are in Zone 7A, and there are certain seed companies who offer seeds that are specifically conducive to our environment.
  • Collect all of your seed starting equipment, including lights, heat mats, and pots. This is a great time to sterilize your seed-starting containers, too.
  • Decide where your crops will rotate from last year (if you’re not rotating your crops, consider it!).
  • If you have any carpentry projects, January is the perfect time to tackle them. Build your cold frames, trellis systems, and any indoor lighting set-ups you may need.

Outdoors
Yes, there’s still work to be done outside even in January. If you have a cold frame in place, now is a good time to clean it out and get it ready for the coming season.

Toward the end of January, mow over any winter cover crops you may have sewn in the fall.

If you have any fruit trees, berry bushes, or woody ornamentals on your property, you can prune them ahead of their spring growth.

If you want to start composting, now is a great time to begin. Toss in torn up cardboard bits, old coffee grounds, your vegetable scraps from dinner prep, and crushed up eggshells. Turn it consistently and keep adding to it as the months progress, and you’ll have nutrient-rich compost for your garden come spring.

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