Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

The Gardener's January Calendar



Welcome to the New Year — and the newest decade! It's time to plan the ways to create your dream garden this year. Let's get started with some tasks you can tackle now in January.

Let's get ready for starting seeds indoors

Pansies and violas can be started in late January from seed. 
  • 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 is now 10 years old! I have begun to substitute out the T5 bulbs for the LED versions. (Last year I outfitted the first shelf, this year I hope to do the rest.) The LED bulbs do not get as hot as the original T5 ones. As usual, I went big with this purchase - ow 10 years ago - but it has definitely paid for itself. There are lots of grow lights on the market so you can find one to fit your size (and commitment).  
  • Disinfect reusable plastic plant containers. You can also clean these 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.  Figure out when your estimated last frost date is. (This website will help.) Then count backward from that week to get your growing season. For example, my last frost date falls on April 27 this year, so when a packet of seeds says to start them inside eight weeks before the last average frost, I count back eight weeks from April 27 and get March 2. 
  • Then start sorting your seeds. Now that you know when to start which seeds, now you should sort them. I find the easiest way to do this is to use an over-the-door shoe holder. I place each seed packet into the appropriate slot and then I can easily see how much I have for each week. (See below.)


For me, seed starting begins at the end of 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 decorating.) But you may not start seeds until February or March.

Houseplants

When it is colder out, I do pay more attention to my houseplants. Things you can do this month include:

  • wiping any dust that has accumulated off the leaves. (You can use a wet paper towel for this or you can give them a gentle shower in your bathroom.) 
  • cleaning windows to allow for more light to get in.
  • checking to see if plants need to be watered (thanks to indoor heating).
  • placing plants, such as ferns and prayer plants, on trays with pebbles and water to create a bit more humidity.
  • continue to force amaryllis and paper whites indoors for blooms. 
  • keeping plants away from radiators.

Help the birds


  • Keep feeders filled. I use black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds in a small feeder. I also try to opt for "clean" mixes, since they leave less waste on the ground at the end of the season. I also use a suet feeder that attracts woodpeckers, flickers, nuthatches, chickadees and wrens. 
  • Provide fresh water. 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.) Keep water muck-free by rinsing out and using a steel wool pad to periodically clean.

Other tasks

  • 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. 
  • 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 gently. (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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4 comments

  1. I like the way you organized your seeds. This year I will plant mine later so that I can wait until the beginning of June to transplant. Otherwise the seedlings need planting while I am too busy with work, and also they are vulnerable to the sort of late spring we had last year.

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    1. That sounds like a good plan for timing. It is a little tricky to get the timing right- I feel like most of mine want to be started at the same time and then I run out of room under my grow lights!

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  2. This is a great list! I haven't started my seeds yet but will by Feb. Any annual rudbeckia seeds that I sow are thrown into an empty pot outside since they germinate in cool and warm weather. It saves me space under my lights. I'm starting my cosmos outside, too, since they never thrive under my lights. But my zinnias are always started ahead of time so I can get them as big and sturdy as possible before planting them. Plus, I just get excited to grow them.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! And yes, I need to start my zinnias earlier this year for the same reason!

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