January is one of the best gardening months of the entire year - Viva la seed catalog!
- Get those winter weeds!
- Winter weather stresses plants, and a good layer of mulch will help to keep soil temperatures even and protect roots. Autumn leaves work fine - and they're free. Generally, 2-4" of mulch is enough. Keep mulch at least 6" away from tree trunks.
- Winter winds not only cause wind chill, creating dangerously low temperatures for humans and animals, it dries out soil and plants, especially more delicate plants such as transplants. This can have fatal consequences, so regular watering is essential. Water the day before a cold snap, for extra protection. Frost protection/floating row cover fabrics can help protect cool season vegetables and shrubs during the worst of the cold spells.
- Clean and sharpen your manual and/or hand tools, especially the shovels and hoes. A properly maintained tool makes the job go so much better. Sand and oil wooden handles.
- Year-Round Kitchen Garden:
- Drawup your kitchen garden master plan. Rotate crop locations from last year, especially those nutrient hungry tomatoes.
- Leaf lettuce, spinach, and chard can all be started indoors or under row covers outdoors. Overwintered spinach, broccoli and lettuce is probably ready to harvest.
- Snow peas and sugar peas can be sown directly in the garden about mid-month. Soak the seeds overnight before planting them for best results. You may want to start them under row cover fabric, but once up and growing they are extremely cold hardy. They need to get an early start to mature before the weather gets too hot.
- Woody and Ornamental:
- Plant fruit, flowering and shade trees, especially evergreens, throughout January. However, it's probably better to wait a little for most pruning, though you should remove diseased or storm-damaged wood. Spring flowering plants, like quince, forsythia or Spirea, etc., should not be pruned at this time as this will remove their spring flowers.
- Dormant spray fruit trees, including peaches, pears, apples or plums - Follow the directions on the package. Do not spray while the temperatures are below freezing, during rain, or while the wind is blowing. See Horticultural Spray and other recipes from Master Gardener Girl's Gardening Blog.
- Wrap barriers around your tree trunks during early January if canker worms are a problem.
- Soil and Maintenance:
- Don't forget the compost bin. Keep adding leaves and kitchen scraps and turn the compost piles once this month, if at all possible. If you have worm bins, check the moisture so they don't dry out.
- Tune up mower, trimmers, shredders, chain saws and other power garden implements. Get those lawn mower blades sharpened - this is especially important on electric mowers.
- Don't walk on soggy or frozen grass. Wet, cold soil is easily damaged by compaction, as is wet, cold grass.
- Moss infests shady, compacted or stressed lawn. Lime does little or nothing for or to moss - mossy areas should be renovated in the spring to remove the cause - better yet, remove the grass and plant something more suited to shade.
- Warm season grasses, like Bermudagrass and zoysia, should not be fertilized as they are dormant in cold weather. Cool season grasses like fescues, bluegrass, and ryegrass, can use a top dressing of ½" of compost, or an application of organic fertilizer (5-3-3) to encourage healthy growth.
- Critters Good and Otherwise
- Slug Hunting season begins January 1st!
- Protect plants from hungry rabbits and deer - if you can. It's not easy keeping a determined deer away from your prized azalea. Commercial repellents and homemade 'scent sacks' (mothballs, urine, smelly soaps...) might do the trick, but barriers are a more likely solution, either chicken wire cages for small plants or fencing for larger areas.
- Remember, birds need both food and water in the deep of winter. Suet adds fat to bird diets so consider hanging it out in addition to the seeds in the feeders. Keep the water basin or birdbath filled and free of ice. Native hollies and dogwoods provide food and shelter for wildlife, so consider adding bird-friendly plants to your landscape.
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