January To-Do List

This month's zone-by-zone to-do list.

December 21, 2011

Zone 3

  • Check your leftover seeds and make a list of what you need before ordering.
  • Order seeds and plants early to avoid substitution.
  • Take cuttings from fruit trees for grafting in April. Wrap the twigs in a wet paper towel, seal the wrapped twigs in a plastic bag, and store the bag in the freezer until spring.



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Zone 4

  • Organize your seeds: Discard those that are too old; then make a list of seeds to order.
  • Order seeds of onions, geraniums, and other slow-growing plants now so you receive them in time to start indoors next month.
  • Draw your garden plan.
  • Check the condition of your gardening equipment.
  • Build a garden trellis.
  • Surprise your friends by harvesting Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips from the garden during a January thaw.


Zone 5

  • Start seeds of pansies, snapdragons, and hardy perennials.
  • Replenish your supplies, including seed-starting mix and organic fertilizers.
  • Where there isn't much snow cover, push back any plants that have "heaved" out of the ground because of freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Start a collection of scented geraniums by taking cuttings from a friend's plants.
  • If you're growing geraniums indoors in pots, cut back leggy stems by about half, repot the plants in fresh soil, and then set them in a cool, bright window.


Zone 6

  • Study the "skeleton" of your landscape and decide where to put new structures, such as pathways and arbors.
  • Keep bird feeders well stocked with favorites, such as black oil sunflower seeds.
  • Discard old seeds for the garden; mail orders for new seeds.
  • Create a computer database of your garden plants with notes on performance.
  • Rake heavy snow off shrubs.
  • Start seeds of pansies, dusty miller, browallia, begonias, snapdragons, and delphiniums indoors under lights.
  • At month's end, start seeds of onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower indoors under lights.


Zone 7

  • On mild days, remove winter weeds, such as wild onions and chickweed.
  • Sow seeds of Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas) for bloom in May and June.
  • Sow larkspur seeds directly in flowerbeds where you want them to grow; look for blooms by midspring.
  • Indoors, start seeds of perennials or slow-growing annuals, like coleus and geraniums, beneath lights.
  • Start seeds of cabbage, early lettuce, and at the end of the month, broccoli.
  • When onion and cabbage transplants are available at the garden center, select the best ones, then plant them in the garden beneath a row cover.
  • Near the end of the month, weed the asparagus bed and strawberry plot, then feed the plants and renew the thinning mulches.


Zone 8

  • Shop local nurseries for asparagus roots, strawberry plants, and fruit trees.
  • Cover root crops still in the ground with an extra layer of mulch.
  • When cold temperatures are predicted, protect transplants of onions, cabbage, broccoli, and chard with a row cover.
  • Sow beets, carrots, radishes, cress, bok choy, and garden peas directly in the garden; cover the planting rows with dark compost to warm the soil.
  • Sow seeds of herbs, such as dill and parsley.
  • Sow seeds of annual flowers (delphiniums, snapdragons, and larkspur are good choices) anywhere you want flowers for cutting or as a background for other plants.
  • Top-dress lawns and garden beds with compost.


Zone 9

  • Use the weather to your advantage: Observe the location of standing puddles left by winter rains; note where you need to improve drainage for plants.
  • Finish pruning fruit trees, vines, and bushes.
  • Sow seeds of geraniums, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant in pots filled with a peat moss/vermiculite mixture; set the pots on a sunny windowsill or beneath lights until it's warm enough to plant them outside.
  • In the garden, "scratch in" wildflower seed mixes and California poppy seeds; plant nasturtium seeds a bit deeper.
  • Set out transplants of pansies, calendulas, and primroses.
  • As the soil warms, plant carrots, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, and Asian greens.
  • Harvest carrots, radishes, and Brussels sprouts—sweetened by frost.


Zone 10

  • It's the dry season—water vegetable plants, nondormant tropical plants, and bedding plants regularly.
  • Spray compost tea on roses and bromeliads.
  • Mulch peas to extend the harvest.
  • Sow pumpkins and winter squash directly in the garden; start cucumbers and watermelons in pots.
  • Sow quick-maturing varieties of carrots, broccoli, cabbage, coriander, parsley, and dill.
  • Plant heat-tolerant chicory, lettuce, and Swiss chard in shade so that they stay cool when the weather warms.
  • Snip off flowers of tropical fruit and young citrus to save their strength while they grow; bring the flowers indoors to perfume the house.