The Gardener's January Calendar

Welcome to the New Year! It's time to plan the best ways to make your garden produce an abundance of cut flowers or food for your table.

Let's get on to the chores, shall we?

Pansy and violas can be started now from seed so they will be
ready to bloom by early spring. 
  • Cue the lights! If you use grow lights, clean your equipment. In the past, I used a diluted bleach solution to wipe down my trays, but you can also use soap and water first, and then vinegar to disinfect. Make sure grow light bulbs work. I use the three-tier grow light stand from Gardener's Supply which I purchased in December 2010. It's a big investment (and takes up a good amount of space in my kitchen) but I save lots of money on plants later in the season by growing what I want from seed. The fixture uses T-5 bulbs that provide full spectrum light. They last about five seasons before they start to dim (about 10,000 hours of use). I replaced my bulbs last year.
  • Disinfect plastic cells. If you reuse plastic seed starting cells (like I do), begin cleaning them now with a diluted bleach solution (or the vinegar solution I mentioned above) to kill anything that might compromise your plants for this year. Or make newspaper pots using wooden pot makers. 
  • Figure out what your growing calendar looks like. For me, seed starting begins this month with pansy seeds. This is a good way for me to beat the winter blues and have my own pansies for early spring and Easter decorating. Figure out what your estimated last frost date is. (This website will help.) Then count backward from that week. This is your growing season. So when a packet of seeds says to start them inside eight weeks before the last average frost, for example, count back eight weeks from your last frost date.
Heated birdbaths provide a constant supply of fresh unfrozen water for birds and wildlife throughout the winter. 
  • Help the birds. Keep feeders filled. I use black oil sunflower seeds in a small feeder. I also use a suet feeder that attracts woodpeckers, flickers, nuthatches, chickadees and wrens. It's also very important to keep unfrozen water available for birds when other sources of water are frozen. (Here's a review on the heated birdbath I use.)
  • Clean your tools. You can use fine steel wool to remove any sticky sap and then clean the blades with soapy water. Mineral oil can be placed in the space between the blade and the hook to help them move smoothly. If your blades need sharpening, you can use a diamond hand file. Take the file and in a smooth motion, drag it across the length of the blade so it sharpens the beveled side. You can also use it on the flat side of the blade if needed. Another way to store your larger tools is to place them in a bucket of sand when not in use. 

  • Make plans. Which new gardens will you visit this year? Here are some garden locales that I have visited in the past (all are located on the Eastern coast of the United States).
  • Help perennials. To prevent frost from heaving plants out of the ground, recycle Christmas trees so the branches protect your plants. (Read more here.) If you see plants coming out of the ground, push them back in. If it's too cold to chop up a Christmas tree, consider leaving it standing in your garden. It will provide protection for songbirds.

  • Make plans! Dream big! What have you seen on Instagram that you love and want to try? Maybe you earmarked some pages in a gardening magazine concerning a specific plant or a design you admire. Take these ideas and assemble them on a piece of matboard, a bulletin board or large sheet of paper. Having a visual representation available of what you want your garden to emulate helps make it a reality. 
Remember — spring is coming.

I live in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b.


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