January Lawn & Garden To-Do List

Most of us begin the New Year armed with plans, projects, and resolutions. The January garden provides a stark contrast as it hunkers down to wait out the winter, but there’s still plenty to do when the weather cooperates.

The month of January takes its name from Janus—the Roman god of Gateways and Journeys—who is often pictured looking both backward and forward at the same time. New Year’s resolutions spring from this tradition, and your January gardening can follow suit.


This is a great month for evaluating and planning, placing orders (January is National Mail-Order Gardening Month), preparing and getting organized. It’s also a good time to work on plants during dormancy, so they can begin their spring growing season with an advantage. Here are some gardening chores to tackle during January.



Trees and Shrubs

In January, you can continue these chores from December:

  • In warmer zones, protect tender trees and shrubs from surprise frosts by covering them with burlap draped over a simple wooden frame or plant stakes.
  • Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees, to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
  • Stake leggy plants to protect from wind or ice breakage.

Leave snow in place as an insulator – remove (gently!) only if the weight of the snow threatens to break the plant. Do not attempt to remove ice.

Annuals and Containers

  • Continue to protect tender container plants from freezing temperatures.
  • Keep watering containers.
  • Feed winter-blooming pansies with a bloom-boosting fertilizer.
  • Start seeds indoors for summer annuals.


Fruits and Vegetables

  • Inspect stored fruits and vegetables (such as apples and potatoes) for decay. Throw away any that look spoiled, and increase air circulation to reduce further damage.
  • If your winter vegetables are looking yellow, add some nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Prune dormant fruit trees and grape vines.
  • Continue applying dormant spray to fruit trees. Don’t spray during wind, rain, or freezing temperatures.
  • Sow seeds indoors for spring vegetable planting.


Also, you can:

  • Inspect and repair leaky or water-damaged sheds, porches, and garden structures.
  • Build fences and walkways, and install trellises and structures before the vines start growing.
  • Busy gardens make lonely gardeners – use the winter to join a garden club, start a garden blog, or otherwise connect with fellow gardeners.
  • Add cooled fireplace ashes to your compost pile.
  • Don’t use salt on frozen driveways and sidewalks – it can damage surrounding plants. Instead, use sand, organic kitty litter, or sawdust.
  • Clean your stored containers using a little vinegar or bleach. Smash broken clay pots and store the shards to use as drainage in the spring.
  • Garden catalogs start arriving in earnest this month. Sit by the fire and make your wish list.
  • January is the prime month for planning! Read the gardening books you received as gifts, make landscape diagrams of your existing garden, and work out your design for the next growing season.
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