Here are a few garden reminders, tips, inspiring ideas, and maintenance suggestions for your garden this month.
1. Get Out Your Seeds
January is the perfect time to get out your seeds and start planning this year’s kitchen garden. Remember, seeds have a shelf life—especially if they aren’t stored in an air-tight, frozen or chilled location (freezer or refrigerator). This seed viability chart will give you a rough idea of how long different types of seeds will last. When planning the vegetables and fruits you’re going to grow, consider replacing seeds if they are more than 3 years old. It’s also possible to do a simple seed germination test if you’re not sure how old your seeds are. Once you know what you’re going to plant, use this handy seed start calculator to arrive at the right start date for various crops. Simply enter your average last frost date and you’ll get the dates to sow indoors and transplant or sow outdoors.
2. Move Your Living Christmas Tree Outdoors
If you grew a living Christmas tree this year, move it into the garden as soon as you can this month. Heaters and fireplaces can dry out trees quickly, so the sooner you can plant it or move the containerized plant into the garden the sooner it can start recovering. Be sure to give your tree plenty of water and amend soil with compost.
3. Get Started with Spring Annuals
If you’re growing your spring annuals from seed, then plant them now. Be sure to amend your soil well before planting. You’ll want to get all your seed sowing completed by mid-February to have flowers in April and May. Annie’s Annuals & Perennials has a great list of spring-blooming annuals along with a planting guide. To order seeds for annuals, visit online retailers such as Burpee or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. As it gets later into the season, you’ll want to buy plant starts instead of seeds. Look to retailers such as Proven Winners or Annie’s.
4. Start Pruning Summer- & Fall-Blooming Vines
The timing of when to prune vines depends on the type. Summer- and fall-blooming varieties that bloom on new growth should be pruned in winter and early spring. But some vines, such as winter jasmine, bloom on old wood in early spring, so you don’t want to prune in winter because you risk cutting off flower buds. For a complete vine pruning guide, visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s article on pruning vines and other climbing plants.
5. Prune Roses
The recommended time to prune roses in Northern California is in January. Even if plants are leafy or budding, it’s good for plants to reset their growth cycle—which pruning stimulates. Check out our guide to pruning roses.
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6. Plant Bare-Root Fruit Trees
Typically, these bare-root plants or young potted plants lead to healthier trees because there’s less chance for the trees to become rootbound in containers. Learn more about how to plant bare-root trees from Stark Bros. Nursery, where you can also purchase bare-root trees online. Four Winds Growers, located in Northern California, has a good selection of young potted fruit trees available for ordering.
7. Start Asparagus & Rhubarb
Asparagus and rhubarb crops can take several years to fully establish, but once they do, crops can produce for more than 20 years if they’re cared for properly. Crowns of asparagus and bare roots of rhubarb are typically available in late-winter or early spring. Select a location with well-draining soil and full sun. Be sure to clear any weeds or grasses before planting. If you’re planning on adding asparagus or rhubarb to your garden, learn more about planting and caring for them here: asparagus planting and care, rhubarb planting and care.
8. Watch for Drainage Issues & Fix Them
When (if) you get winter rain, observe where water flows in your garden. If you see sitting water, consider correcting the issue so your plants or lawn don’t get waterlogged. Adding drainage or bioswales planted with water-absorbing plants can fix most drainage issues. Bioswales will reduce runoff and help restore stormwater to the ground after naturally filtering it. Drainage lines can be less destructive (bioswales often require regrading which can damage shrubs, bulbs, and other plant material) to install compared to creating bioswales. The drainage lines can also direct excess water to a dedicated infiltration area with plants that enjoy watery conditions. Learn more about rain garden design.
9. Plant Early Summer Bulbs, Corms & Tubers
Early-summer-blooming bulbs, corms, and tubers such as anemones, calla lilies, gladiolus, and ranunculus can be planted later this month. These plants may start blooming in early spring and continue into the early summer months. Be sure to find locations in your garden that have well-draining soil with sun to part sun. Shop for bulbs online at retailers such as Longfield Gardens or visit a local garden center.
10. Plant Camellias & Azaleas
This is a good time of year to plant camellias and azaleas because many of these shrubs are in their bloom season. At the nursery, you’ll be able to pick out the colors and flowers that you like best. Or, if you prefer, there are nurseries that sell plants online: Proven Winners, Plants by Mail. Before you plant, learn more about growing camellias and azaleas.