This Month in the Garden: January

Early Winter Sunrise
January is the quietest month in the garden — but just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening…

The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.

Rosalie Muller Wright, Sunset Magazine, Jan. 1999

For the lawn:

  • Prevent lawn damage by limiting the traffic on your frozen lawn.
  • Cut your lawn at a lower height while the grass is dormant. It will prepare the grass to receive the spring sun rays into the root zone easier. This will allow for a quicker and healthier green up in the spring, possibly choking out some weed growth too.

In the garden:

  • Begin planning this year’s garden. Consider companion planting (plants that grow better when planted near each other). Add plants that attract beneficial insects (such as sunflower, yarrow, dill, and coriander).
  • Before the spring, test your garden soil for its pH levels. Contract your local WSU Cooperative Extension office for a soil kit.
  • Check your storage areas and get rid of old and unwanted pesticides. Visit the WA Dept of Ecology to find a safe disposal site in your county.
  • Plant hardy, pest- and disease-resistant plants, especially if certain varieties have been troublesome in the past. For example, consider deer-resistant plants!
  • Prune trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. For trees and shrubs that bloom in summer, prune on the current year’s growth in winter. Note: For those that bloom in spring from buds on 1-year-old wood, prune just after flowers fade.
  • If your mulch was blown or washed away, reapply it around your plants.
  • When temperatures are above freezing, water your plants deeply to prevent them from drying out.
  • Remove the snow from your shrubs to prevent them from breaking.
  • Remove leaves and other debris from your yard and around your plants (if there is not too much snow) to help reduce pests and diseases.
  • Check your houseplants for any insects or diseases. When plants are in a confined area, the trouble will be intensified. Dust the leaves of house plants with a damp, clean, soft cloth. Don’t use leaf shines, which may clog the leaf pores. Water sparingly during the winter and don’t fertilize.
  • Order seed catalogs — and refresh your memory with Pegi’s tips on How to Read a Plant Catalog

Photo credit: Early Winter Sunrise, by D.A. Salazar


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