January is the heart of winter, but this doesn’t mean you have to stop your planting altogether.
In January you can plant flowers such as begonias and pansies, vegetables like onions and leaks, and herbs like rosemary and thyme. January is not a good month for planting fruits, trees and shrubs, but you can start seeds in pots indoors such as chillies and kale.
Let’s discover in greater detail what you can and can’t plant in the New Year, and also look at the types of garden jobs you can do in January…
In General is January a Good Month For Planting?
January isn’t generally regarded as a good gardening month: even if you don’t get snow and ice where you live, the weather is still less predictable at this time of year. However, January is an excellent time if you want to plant cold-weather crops, and it’s also a good time to get ahead of schedule and start planning for the spring.
Because the US is such a vast place, its climate varies greatly from coast to coast, border to border. So, to help gardeners across the States, the country is divided into “hardiness zones”. This is a standardized way of describing the climate and typical temperatures zone at a time, to give farmers, smallholders, and gardeners an idea of what crops they can plant, when.
When planning your garden for the year ahead, knowing which hardiness zone you live in is the best place to start. Here’s a handy guide to the US climate regions, the famous US Plant Hardiness Zones Map.
Of course, whether you’re wearing snowsuits or T-shirts in January will give you a good general idea of what plants may or may not thrive in your yard. For the more moderate climates, it can be a bit trickier to work out when to sow seeds or transplant seedlings, as in the garden, waiting or hesitating for just two weeks can make all the difference…
What Flowers Can I Plant in January?
Get your spring blooms off to an early start by sowing flower seeds in January. Sow the seeds indoors in a light and warm place, into fine potting compost. Make sure you keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
Here are a few flowers that you can plant indoors from seed in the winter:
- Begonias. Pretty begonias come in a range of vibrant colors, and can be grown indoors permanently, as an eye-catching houseplant
- Snapdragons. These unusual-looking blooms bring color to your garden, and are robust in cooler regions
- Geraniums. Loved for their vibrant shades and distinctive leaves, geraniums can be grown in beds, planters, or indoors as houseplants
- Poppies. Beautiful wild flowers that really don’t mind a bit of cold weather
- Pansies. These are pretty hardy flowers that have a long blooming season
- Violas. They look and smell delicate, but these tough little blooms grow in all sorts of climates, all over the world
These last three can be planted outdoors in January if you live in Zone 7 and above.
What Fruits Can Be Planted January?
January is not a good time to plant fruit. This is because most of the fruits we plant in this country grow on trees or in shrubs, and you shouldn’t plant these in the winter.
If you live in a region that never gets frost, you may be able to plant fruit trees and shrubs; however, due to the life cycle of the fruit tree, the best time to plant them is in the fall when the plant is dormant.
The fall also creates the best soil conditions for the transplanted tree or shrub. The ground is still slightly warm and the soil is loose, but the wetter conditions mean that the new roots get plenty of essential nutrients.
This doesn’t mean you have to forget about fruits in January. If you have apple or pear trees, you can prune them in December and early January. Thinking of growing strawberries this year? Prepare a bed for them by digging in plenty of compost or manure.
What Veggies Can I Plant in January?
You can start growing vegetables from seed in January, indoors. It’s a fun winter activity, and gives you a head start for the growing season ahead. Here are a few early vegetables that you can sow in January:
- Onion. These alliums grow slowly, so it’s worth getting them started early
- Leeks. See above!
- Celery. Another slow-growing crop, so plant them now
These last four can be planted outdoors if you live in a mild-winter climate (you should still harden them off first, by taking them outdoors for just brief spells and building this up). In most zones, start these plants indoors from seed in January, and they’ll be ready to plant outdoors in 8-10 weeks.
Can I Plant Shrubs & Trees in January?
If you live in one of the warmest zones, you can plant cold-hardy trees and shrubs in the winter. However, in most zones, this isn’t the best time to plant trees and shrubs.
This is because the plant needs time for its root system to establish, and it can’t do this in hard, frosty ground. The best time to plant a tree or shrub is in the fall, when the ground is soft but still warm from the summer, and the fall rain helps to keep the soil moist. This is also a dormant stage in a fruit tree or shrub’s life cycle, so it won’t be disrupted by being transplanted.
Can I Plant Herbs in The New Year?
You can start off most herbs indoors in January. Indeed, you may decide to keep your herb garden on a sunny windowsill indoors, so you can easily snip off leaves and sprigs for cooking.
Start your new herb garden with this mix:
- Rosemary. A lovely, woody herb. Start it off indoors then plant it outside, where it forms a pretty and aromatic bush
- Thyme. This delicate-looking herb has a lovely scent and is perfect with grilled or broiled meats
- Oregano. Bring an Italian flavor to your cuisine. If you move it outdoors in the spring, the bees will be delighted
- Cilantro. A must in so many Asian dishes, and also lovely raw in salads
- Parsley. This can be used in most cuisines, and has pretty, curly leaves
- Sage. Not to everyone’s taste, but an essential herb for traditional dinners
What Can I Plant in Pots in January?
As we’ve been discussing, you can start your vegetables, flowers, and herbs off indoors in January. Some of the best plants to grow in pots in the winter are:
- Fantastic cooking ingredients like garlic and chillies. Find a warm and bright spot indoors
- Vegetables like kale and spinach. Make sure the pot is nice and big
- Flower bulbs, like daffodils and tulips
- Herbs: start your pretty herb garden in a pot indoors
Can You Plant Seeds & Bulbs in January?
January is a great time to plant seeds indoors, to get your garden off to a great start for the coming year. In fact, most of your January garden growing jobs involve sowing seeds into containers indoors, as it’s still too early for most plants to manage outside in the cold ground.
Choose the right size of container for your seeds, and use a fine seed compost. Make sure your seeds are in a bright and warm place, where they can’t be knocked over by passing kids or pets (or crucially, used as an alternative to kitty litter…). You may decide to keep your flowers or herbs indoors full-time. Here’s a handy film about growing from seed indoors.
January isn’t an ideal time to plant bulbs in most zones. They need to establish themselves before the ground hardens, so you can’t plant them once the frosts have started. However, we read that the soil is the right temperature for planting out bulbs when the average nighttime temperature is 40-50 degrees fahrenheit. If this is the case where you live, you can plant your bulbs directly.
If you live in a cooler climate, you can also plant your bulbs indoors in containers, ready to be moved outside as patio plants in the spring. Try daffodils, crocuses, and tulips.
Conclusion: What Jobs Can I Do in The Garden in January?
January is traditionally the time for making new resolutions. This New Year, why not make some yard-based resolutions? Maybe plant something new each month? Set up and use a compost patch? Finally build that outdoor kitchen in time for the summer?
A good resolution for the new gardening year is to set yourself monthly tasks, and stick to them. This way, you’ll always keep on top of those annual gardening and yard maintenance tasks. Here are a few jobs for January:
- Take down any outdoor Christmas decorations. Clean and dry them, then store them safely for next year. You’ll thank yourself in December, when you unbox perfectly clean and untangled decorations
- Keep checking for snow, wind, or rain damage, and if conditions allow, fix anything (such as broken gutters, shingles, pipes, and faucets) as soon as you spot there’s a problem
- If the ground isn’t too hard, prepare vegetable and flower beds for the spring, by raking in compost, mulch, or fertilizer
- Bad weather forecast? Take a look at anything that may need moving or fastening down
- And because it’s New Year, make a growing plan. What do you want to see in your yard this year? Do you have any specific foods you’d like to grow at home? Research your favorite plants, and create your own gardening calendar, so you know what you need to plant, when.