January brings the start of a new garden season. All gardeners can begin planning this year’s vegetable and herb garden in January and some will start planting this month.
To start the vegetable garden year, ask yourself these questions:
- Which vegetable do we want for fresh eating?
- Which do we want for freezing and storing as well?
- How many mouths are we feeding?
- Did we grow enough last year?
- Which do my family and friends never get enough of?
Make a list of the crops you want to grow this year. Start purchasing seeds and supplies.
In garden Zones 7 to 11, you can start planting this month. In Zones 7-9a, start crops indoors or in a cold frame or plastic tunnel. In Zones 9b-11, you can start seeds indoors and outdoors. Cool-season crops can go in the garden now with protection in Zones 8-11.
Here follows a roundup of vegetable garden opportunities and tasks for the month of January. Use the map to determine in which USDA zone you are located.
Vegetables & Herbs
Zone 9b-11: Prepare empty parts of the garden for planting. Work aged compost into the soil.
Direct-sow cool-season crops. Plant early-maturing crops such as Bibb lettuce, turnips, radishes, spinach; plant these where after harvest you can replant with tomatoes, corn, beans, and other warm-weather crops after frost danger is past. Plant seeds of artichokes, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cress, endives, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onion sets, parsley, peas, and Swiss chard. Plant Irish potatoes and rhubarb.
Sow summer vegetables and tender herbs indoors, or in a cold frame or plastic tunnel; tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and globe artichokes can be started indoors now. Plant asparagus and artichoke roots. Fertilize crops in the garden.
Zone 8-9a: Prepare the garden for planting. Direct-sow spinach and radishes. Sow other cool-season crops (see list above and below) indoors or in a cold frame or plastic tunnel; these will be transplanted out to the garden next month. Plant asparagus roots.
Check beets, carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes in storage for bruises, damaged rinds, or other signs of decay. Also check celeriac, kohlrabi, turnips, and winter radishes—in storage or in the ground.
Zones 7-10: Set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce. Direct sow seeds of arugula, bok choy, fennel, carrots, radishes, spinach, beets, turnips, and peas. Plant dill, parsley, cilantro, and chervil from seeds or transplants. Plant asparagus crown and strawberry transplants.
Zone 7: Update garden plans for spring plantings. When the soil is workable, direct sow peas, early cabbage, spinach, lettuce. Plant onions sets. Order new seeds; here are a few suggestions for the coming season: Kentucky Wonder bush and pole snap beans, Henderson’s bush lima bean, Sieva pole lima bean, Detroit Dark Red beet, Charleston Wakefield cabbage, Georgia collards, Gold Cross Bantam sweet corn, Straight Eight cucumber, Black-seeded Simpson leaf lettuce, Florida Broadleaf mustard, Perkins Longpod okra, Bermuda onion plants, Thomas Laxton English peas, Katahdin Irish potatoes, Early Scarlet Globe radish, California Wonder Bell pepper, Yellow Summer Crookneck squash, Celebrity tomato, Purple Top Globe turnips, also eggplant, New Zealand spinach, and Swiss chard.
Zone 4-6: Update garden plans for spring plantings. Plan succession and crop rotations for this year’s garden. Test stored seeds for germination. Be sure supplies are on hand for indoor seed-starting. Order new seeds. Sow seed indoor– broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, leeks, onions, and shallots.
Look over vegetables and fruits in storage and sort out those that need to be eaten right away from those that will keep another couple of months.
Zone 3 and warmer: Update garden plans for spring plantings. Plan succession and crop rotations for this year’s garden. Test stored seeds for germination. Seeds that keep only one year are carrots, celeriac, celery, leeks, onions, parsley, parsnips, scallions, and shallots; they may not be viable a second season. Be sure supplies are on hand for indoor seed-starting.
Check your tools during the slack season; sharpen or repair tools in need. Also check stakes, labels, pots, flats, and fertilizers.
Zone 8-11: Plant bare-root nursery stock—trees and berries. Plant strawberries. Prune deciduous trees, berries, brambles, and grapes. Fertilize established trees and strawberries. Check for overwintering pests; apply dormant oil sprays while trees are still dormant.
Remember to prune trees moderately. If trees have been neglected, bring them into shape over a 2- or 3-year period. The severe shock of heavy pruning may throw the tree into gumming, may result in sunburn of branches and fruit, or weaken the tree.
Zone 1-7: Order nursery stock for spring planting. Check tree guards, tree wraps, and mulches. Check stakes on fall-planted trees. On mild days when the temperature is warmer than 40°F (4.4°C), prune apples, pears, berries, brambles, grapes, and other deciduous fruits. Also, on mild days, check for overwintering pests. Apply dormant oil sprays if the temperatures have been warmer than 40°F (4.4°C) for at least 24 hours.