December slips by fast with the holidays keeping every one busy, and once you see January looming, you know it is time to start planning. And for me, come January, I am HAPPY to get outside. The light is returning after the Winter Solstice in December and often we get stretches of sunny days in this month. I was looking at the daily markers for daylight today and we have jumped 2 minutes already. Doesn’t see like much, but in a few weeks time we will be gaining light by 3 minutes a day. Last light today is 5:01 pm. Soon, the sunset will be at 5 pm once again.
Overall, I don’t plant much in January, my push is come February, but there are a few below that can be started this month and through February. Consider January a month to plan. This is the month to get organized, to start doodling plans, and to order seeds if you haven’t yet.
We live in grow zone 8b, which much of Island County, Washington is in. We are overall temperate, with normally wet winters, but not a lot of snow or freezing days (we get frosts, but rarely get deep freezes) with sunny days sprinkled through to dry out. This advice can apply to those in Zone 7 through 8 in the United States though, if you are in a zone 7, just plant a week or two later.
Garden tasks to get done this month:
- Start a year’s garden journal. Every time you plant or do a chore, note it. Mark down the weather, things that you notice. Failures and wins.
- Figure out what you want to grow in the coming year, and purchase seeds. Now is your chance to get the best (and freshest) selections. Daydream often.
- Plan your garden layout for the year. Go walk outside, take photos, make sketches, even measure if need be. Work it out on paper, or online, using a program (there are a number of free ones, I prefer paper myself).
- Clean up your garden work storage space – whether it is a shed, garage or a greenhouse.
- Sharpen, and clean tools. Things get dirty in storage, and rust can set in. This gives you time to purchase new tools if needed, if something is broke, or repair items.
- Clean your pots. Buy more if needed.
- Purchase seed starting soil.
- Asses if you need to purchase fertilizer.
- Clean up tree debris, such as fallen branches and pinecones.
- Assess fruit and nut trees for minor pruning, if needed.
- If the ground isn’t frozen, plant bare root trees and shrubs that are just starting to show up in stores. Bare root items tend to show up in late January to February in nurseries and stores. Buy early, before the items sit in hot stores. You don’t want them to be opening up leaves this early!
- Plant asparagus bare roots if they are out for sale.
- If using raised beds for crops, start making them. If existing, turn the soil over and remove weeds. Add more soil if needed. Do it while it is cold – it’s easier to work in the cold.
- If planning on in ground gardening, consider getting it ready – cover with cardboard to smother weeds, or get garden tarps down. Working in amendments can be tricky this early due to heavy rains in the PNW. But start smothering weeds now.
- If you have ignored your compost bin, work on it. At minimum, start turning it weekly. Add in leaves if you have them. If you have animals, work in their manure and any wood chips. Do it now, and you will have compost come late spring once it warms up.
- Do soil samples to see if you need to add amendments to the soil later on.
- Build a cold frame.
What seeds to start in the greenhouse/indoors this month:
Below are seeds you can start in late January to February, which are either colder-weather crops, or need a longer start time – especially crops with a grow times of 80 and up days, in shorter grow time zones. The dates are not set in stone, it is a guide of what week may be most preferable to get them started. Needless to say, the start of February is a good time to have seeds on hand, potting soil and small pots – and a sunny window, greenhouse or grow light system on hand. And if you start them later? It’s OK for many crops. And for temperamental ones like broccoli, you always can grow those as a fall crop, where they often fare better than in spring, if you miss the window, or late winter is too warm and they bolt to seed.
I don’t plant outside this time of year due to the seasonal rains. The seeds just don’t do well and tend to rot. But being able to start some of the seeds inside gives you that rush of feeling that spring is almost here. As you can see, the list is short. It’s primarily early greens and things that very long seasons – strawberry and onion are two examples.
In most cases you want to plant seeds 6 weeks before last frost – which here can be last week of February to first week of March. But some plants do need a lot longer time (alpine strawberry seeds can take 14 weeks to germinate!).
Indoors end of January/early February.
Seed first crop in January, and continue to seed starts every 2 weeks on. Romaine is most durable.
Onions, from seed:
January to March for large onions (such as Walla Walla/White/Yellow/Red) to end of February for bunching onions (green onions/scallions).
Keep inside a greenhouse until last frost has passed. For both sweet bell and hot types.
Rhubarb, from seed:
January to February. Keep in greenhouse until after last frost has passed.
Seed every 2 weeks until middle of Spring, as it will bolt once it warms up.
January to February.
Long season varieties should be planted in January (large heirloom/darker colors).
If you want early flowers in late spring into early summer, plant in January.