January garden tasks for cold-climate gardeners may include some winter maintenance, indoor growing, crafts and DIY projects, plus dreaming and scheming for the active growing season ahead.
For more, see garden task lists for each month here.
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Monthly Garden Tasks
Gardening in the Middle of Winter
Please keep in mind that this is simply an example of tasks I like to do in my cold-climate garden (zone 6). Every garden is different, and we each adapt based on climate, growing zone and conditions, the plant species, challenges, and time and resources available. Most importantly, just enjoy it.
Here in southwestern Ontario, Canada, January is often wintery. The last gasps of autumn have blown away with the leaves, the trees and earth are bare, and temperatures can stay around freezing.
That said, it’s not impossible that we have some warm spells. Early spring bulbs might make a surprise appearance, with crocuses and snowdrops adding colour to the otherwise monochromatic scenery. A few winters ago, I saw bees out and about in the middle of January. It was a brief warm spell, but enough to awaken them from their winter slumber spots. Other years, there is snow which keeps the perennials safely tucked away until spring.
January Garden Tasks
- Check on planted containers in storage including bulbs and fig trees. Keep lightly watered and mouse-proof.
- Maintain winter vegetable garden. Water and air as needed.
- The right timing for pruning trees and shrubs is different for each species. Put reminders in your calendar so you catch what’s needed in your garden. Late winter apple tree pruning is on my list.
- Unless frozen, turn your compost pile when you can. Continue easy winter composting method.
- Make sure your pond does not freeze over. I keep a pump running and a hole open in the ice.
- Provide homemade suet at bird feeders along with fresh, running water.
- Make sure nesting boxes are ready for bird mating season.
- Wash your bird feeders and suet cages.
- Grow salad greens and peas indoors.
- Force (grow) indoor flowering bulbs including paperwhites, amaryllis, and more.
Fresh Start to the New Year
Ready to make some changes?
Whether or not you’re a fan of cold weather, you had to admit that winter is beautiful! Glistening snow. Bright sunshine. Quiet. Birds. I love it all.
- Ice decorations | Use fruit and botanicals to create outdoor art.
- Learn to hand feed birds | Winter is a good time for this.
- Make mini bonsai | It’s indoor gardening with an artistic touch.
- Make miniature garden accessories. Easy, fun, and frugal to do!
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- It’s a good time to get your seed inventory in order.
- Order seed catalogues or browse online. Here’s a directory of seed companies in Canada and the United States.
- Order bare-roots plants including asparagus and cane fruits (they are shipped at planting time).
- Order seeds for indoor sowing. Get seed starting mix and organic container mix so you’re ready to sow.
You may not know it by the name phenology, but you certainly know what it is. Phenology is the science of observing annual first events in nature. When flower buds open. When peepers first peep. When bees appear. When migrations arrive. When bulbs pop up. The list is endless.
Seasonal changes prompt natural responses in the plant and animal kingdoms. It is interesting to note these events and compare year over year. And it is these things that will be affected, and are affected now, by climate change.
Winter Phenological Events
Here’s a few examples you might notice. Now that winter solstice is behind us, we see the coldest days of winter and the gradual return of the sun.
- Bare trees – deciduous trees have dropped their leaves and plants are dead or dormant.
- Birds frequent old growth for nourishment.
- Warmer days become social gatherings for wildlife. Birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, all become more active. Pond fish move around more.
- A few warm days may trigger growth in early spring bulbs including crocuses and snowdrops.
Need a Plan for Tidying Up?
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛