Gardening Jobs To Do in January

Happy New Year! We have been given another year, one loaded with potential — a blank canvas to do great things in the garden. You’ll be glad to know that most of your January gardening jobs are indoors. It’s a season for dreams and visions and taking the first steps to make those a reality.

If you’re making resolutions, let adding small activation steps to dreams be one of them. Small wins can build up to success; they are more potent than un-actuated big dreams. I’m including myself in this pep-talk. So the action points in this piece are for me as much as for the Simplify Gardening blog readers and YouTube followers.

Each month’s Jobs-to-Do article will have a common format:

  • General garden preparation jobs
  • General garden maintenance jobs
  • Vegetable gardening jobs to do
  • Fruit garden jobs to do
  • Indoor and container gardening projects
  • Ornamental garden jobs to do

January Gardening Preparation Jobs

January garden preparation tasks. A picture of a person looking to the distance ready to journal the gardening jobs to do in January.
January garden preparation jobs to do.

There’s some work needed to prepare the future for your arrival. While planning is essential, it’s important to translate plans into action as soon as possible.

Garden Journal

Any time is fun to start a garden journal, but since it’s a new year, why not start this month. Record your observations, precipitation levels, pests, and your actions throughout the year to serve as a reference. Garden journals are an essential gardener’s tool.


January is the start of new beginnings and an ideal month to plan the year’s garden. Visit your favorite seed supplier, add seeds to your wish list, and order your choice. Plan to replace disease susceptible plants with resistant cultivars in February. Start collecting hardwood cuttings from ornamental shrubs and trees for propagation in spring.

Decide where your crops will rotate from last year, and start carpentry projects like cold frames, trellises, and indoor lighting set-ups if possible. Sometimes smaller is better; you may get fewer weeds and insects with more produce.

Prepare your seed-starting equipment for the vegetables we’ll plant this month. You’ll need lights, a heat mat, a sterile growing medium, and sterilized trays.

Soil Health

Get your soil tested in January to make informed fertilization and liming choices during the year. It is better to use multi-species cover crops, ideally from four families that include legumes, grasses and low herbs. Keeping your soil actively growing plants throughout the year helps soil biology and improves soil fertility. It’s a great strategy to move away from NPK fertilizers.

If you’re already doing this and keeping a gardening journal, review last year’s planting, fertilizing and spraying records noting what needs to be repeated and what you should avoid.

General Garden Maintenance Jobs

A picture of a person working on a lawnmower as part of the gardening jobs to do in January
January Garden Maintenance Jobs to Do

Soil Health Tasks – January

Mother nature hates bare soil, and so should you. Now is the time if you haven’t mulched your soil for winter or sown green manure. Several forms of mulch include cover crops, manure, compost, leaf mold or leaf compost, or even a membrane or black plastic. Covering your soil has several advantages, including:

  • Stops soil erosion
  • It keeps weeds from growing
  • It prevents the loss of nutrients
  • Keeps soil warmer
  • Feeds the microbial soil life through winter
  • Stops compaction

So, as you can see, there are many benefits to covering your soil. If you have not completed this task yet, it should be among the first on the list.

January is a wonderful time to prepare a composting space for a new batch. If you have a current batch in process, turning it will speed up the thermophilic process, even in freezing weather.

Continue collecting leaves from the garden and add these to your leaf mold bins. Leaf mold is a fantastic resource in the garden, and it is not something you can buy in the shops. Check out the video below to see how I make leaf mold in as little as six months.

Cold Protection

Ensure your tender plants are covered to minimize damage if the cold persists. In warmer regions, January has frost or freeze possibilities. January is an excellent time to ensure your beds are well mulched, and that windbreaks are in place to protect sensitive landscape evergreens from cold, dry winds.

Consider putting out fresh water and feed for the wildlife in your garden that may not be hibernating.


Apply horticultural oil to dormant camellias, citrus, deciduous fruit trees, and shrubs to control persistent scale insects. Check for pests and diseases within the garden. You may still find slugs and other unwanted pests lurking, and you should remove them if you see them. Removing decaying leaves from old plants will help to alleviate this.

Watch for lower trunk damage of trees and shrubs caused by field mice. Remove surrounding weeds to eliminate hiding places. Use traps and approved baits as necessary.


Have your lawnmower serviced during winter while lawnmower agencies have the most specials. January is also a good time to do general repairs and clean and sharpen your garden tools. 

Greenhouse owners should clean out decaying debris, check the fasteners, and secure the door to prepare for storms.

Seed Health

Test your stored seed for germination by following the instructions for a small batch under a hydrated paper towel or cotton wool.

Vegetable Gardening Jobs To Do

A table with with seed starting gear as part of the vegetable gardening jobs to do in January.
Vegetable Gardening Jobs to Do in January

You can start the following plants indoors around the dates listed below. Please note that these are a guide, and you should consider your local last frost dates. Indoor plants are generally started six to eight weeks before transplanting dates (after the risk of frost has passed).

CropIndoor Planting Dates
CeleryJan 1 to 6
RosemaryJan 1 to 6
Bell PeppersJan 21 to 29
Jalapeño PeppersJan 21 to 29
ParsleyJan 21 to 29
ThymeJan 21 to 29
OreganoJan 21 to Feb 5
ArugulaJan 29 to Feb 5
BroccoliJan 29 to Feb 5
CabbageJan 29 to Feb 5
ChivesJan 29 to Feb 5
EggplantsJan 29 to Feb 5
KaleJan 29 to Feb 5
SageJan 29 to Feb 5
TomatoesJan 29 to Feb 5

Seed Starting

Assuming you’re going to grow your plants from scratch (seed), you must prepare.

These preparations include planting tray sterilization, allocating a space that offers sufficient warmth to heat the soil to about 77°F/25° for germination, and an area that offers adequate light. You may also want to invest in a pressurized water mister to water the emerging seedling.

How to Sterilize Seed Flats

Unless they’re new, it is strongly suggested that you sterilize your seed trays or flats. Seedbeds have lower risks, so a wipe with a 3% hydroperoxide solution should suffice.

A better option is to use a diluted solution of EM®-1, the effective microorganisms solution used in making bokashi bran. It is an environmentally friendly approach to keeping any surface germ free.

Germination Mixes

Seeds do not need nutrients, so most commercial operations germinate seeds in sterile soilless pumice, covering the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite. Flats are then packed into steam boxes with a temperature of around 77°F/25°C and humidity at about 98%.

Growing Lights

Plants get food by converting water and CO2 into carbohydrates using light energy. Soil nutrients only become essential for higher-order development later in their lifecycles. For now (at emergence), light is their greatest need.

A well-lit window (south facing) should be enough, but fluorescent or LED lights also work well—both light quantity and quality matter. Grow lights should be kept about 6 inches above the emerging seedlings, and chain-hanging versions allow you to move them up or down incrementally.

Seedling Watering Mister

One of the best investments for gardeners wanting to grow plants from seeds (sexual propagation) is a pressurized mister.

These can also increase the humidity levels around your indoor aroid plants (that require about 70% RH).

Misters allow you to water the seeds or plantlets without disturbing or uprooting them.

Other Vegetables and Herbs to Start in January

Now is also a perfect time to sow garlic, which needs a cold period to allow the cloves to split as they grow. Fava Beans also send down a robust root system and can take freezing well. Sowing these this month will help establish them for a good crop later in the year.

Start preparing bean and pea trenches and fill them with compostable materials from within the garden as you clean up. The nutrient-rich material will leave the good organic matter in the beds ready for spring. As the trench fills up, cover it with the ground and allow the earthworms and microbes to break it down for you.

January is when to start sowing the seed of vegetables that require a long growing season. Chilies and giant cabbage are just two that come to mind. These plants are slow-growing; the longer you stretch the season, the better. Remember that you will need additional lighting to achieve optimal growth.

From early in January, you can start seeding pea and onion varieties, and towards the end of the month, when the soil is warm enough and about 4-weeks before the last frost, you can plant asparagus crowns. To plant Asparagus, dig an 8-inch-deep trench in a part of the garden suitable for perennials – avoiding frost pockets that can kill emerging spears. Male asparagus plants are more prolific spear producers. Spread the roots in the trench about 20 inches apart and cover with an inch and a half of soil.

If you have a polytunnel or a cold frame, you could seed spinach in late January for an early crop. In warmer zones (8 upwards), you can plant Irish potatoes, broccoli, kale, carrots, and lettuce.

Continue harvesting vegetables like leeks, sprouts, kale, parsnips, and purple-sprouting broccoli. Even though it’s cold outside, harvests in the garden benefitted from the cold.

Fruit Garden Jobs To Do

January fruit garden jobs to do include fruit tree pruning.
January Fruit Gardening Jobs to Do

This month would be an excellent time to check the support structures for your fruit trees and bushes. The winds are climbing, and significant storms will be hitting soon. A robust support system can mean the difference between having a fruit tree in the spring or just a dead plant.

January is also when you can start planting bare-root fruit trees and bushes. These usually come via mail order or can be bought at gardening centers. You must purchase these and get them in the ground before spring sets in, and they start to bud.

Prune apples, pears, muscadines, blackberries, and mulch strawberries in January. Scout cherry trees for signs and symptoms of bacterial canker. With a clean pruner or saw, cut away diseased branches. Before each cut, sterilize your equipment. Before the flowers blossom, burn or dispose of the branches.

Spray peach trees with approved fungicides in January to treat peach leaf curl and shot hole in the final part of January. Alternatively, plan to plant curl-resistant cultivars like Frost, Creswell, or Q1-8.

Bring quince, forsythia, and blooming cherry branch cuttings indoors (if the weather permits) to force early blooms.

Indoor And Container Gardening Projects

Indoor And Container Gardening Projects in January include keeping plants clean.
Indoor And Container Gardening Projects for January
  • Check all house plants closely for insect infestations. Quarantine holiday gift plants until you determine they are not harboring pests.
  • Wipe white mealy bugs on houseplants off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol -it destroys them and doesn’t harm your plants.
  • Use this time to give your indoor houseplants a good cleaning. Dust settles on leaves and clogs “pores,” hindering light penetration and gas and moisture exchange.
  • Plant coleus, impatiens, and seedling geraniums as small annual indoor blooms.
  • Scrub severely encrusted clay pots with a steel wool pad after soaking them overnight in a solution of a gallon of water mixed with one cup of white vinegar. Rinse the pots in clear water once the sediments have been removed. The pots can be sanitized in an effective microorganisms solution (EM-1®) for a few minutes.
  • Fluoride and chlorine in tap water are toxic to some plants. Before putting on plants, let water containers out overnight to allow these gases to disperse.
  • Before watering houseplants, let tap water get to room temperature.
  • Place humidity-loving houseplants’ pots on trays with pebbles and water. Pots should be placed on the stones rather than in the water.
  • To eliminate insect pests on your indoor plants, use insecticidal soap sprays or EM-1®.
  • Remove the spent flower after the flower has bloomed. Place the plant in a bright, sunny window to allow the leaves to develop fully. Maintain an equal moisture level in the soil. Fertilize with a general-purpose houseplant fertilizer regularly.

Ornamental Garden Jobs To Do

Ornamental Garden Jobs to Do in January. A picture of a rake in action, gathering leaves and debris.
Ornamental Garden Jobs to Do in January

Flower Garden

For general disease prevention, use dormant sprays of lime sulfur or copper fungicide on roses, or plan to replace susceptible kinds with resistant cultivars in February.

January is a good month to prepare rose beds for planting later in the month or early February. If the soil test shows a low pH, consider adding some lime to your rose beds to bring the pH to the desired 6.50.

Towards the end of January, you can seed claytonia and machѐ in a cold frame. You could plant cool-season annuals in January – pansies, petunias, snapdragons, and violas. In January, bulbs that can be planted include agapanthus, crinum, and gloriosa lily – remember to mulch to protect from freezing temperatures. Other flowers that can be grown by indoor seeding:

AuriniaPerennialJan 15 – 31
ColumbinePerennialJan 1 – 31
DianthusPerennialJan 15 – 31
DigitalisBiennialJan 1 – 31
OenotheraAnnualJan 15 – 31
RosePerennialJan 1 – 31
SaponariaPerennialJan 15 – 31
ViolaAnnualJan 1 – 31
WallflowerAnnualJan 15 – 31

Other General Tasks

Remove fallen leaves from the crowns of herbs and flowers. Reduce the watering of houseplants. Not much to do with ponds due to hibernating frogs and newts but remove pondweed with a net to reduce the amount in spring. This still grows over winter.

Turf Care

Other than collecting fallen leaves and debris that may have blown in, there are few lawn jobs in January. You can do nothing to help the grass grow in cold and often damp weather.

However, if the winter has been mild, you may wish to cut the top off the grass to keep it clean – do this only if the ground is firm and set the lawnmower to trim only a quarter of the grass blade length.

I don’t advise using de-icing salts on any parts of your garden area – doing so will not be without regret. Prepare your lawnmower and lawn tools for spring by sharpening them. During the winter, repair shops are less active and generally discounted.

Stay off frozen grass; the breakage will cause damage that will take a while to recover.

January Gardening Jobs to Do Summary

January is a gardener’s chance to set the stage for future success. We’ve reviewed general garden preparation jobs and the activities that prepare the future for our arrival. When that future arrives, our soil will be healthy, and we will have a log in our gardening journal of the steps we took to get there.

 Our general garden maintenance jobs included keeping soil covered, ideally in plants, but alternatively using a mulch. Part of winter maintenance is protecting plants from the cold and implementing an integrated pest management strategy.

The year started with us getting some seeds for our vegetable gardens and flowers for our ornamental garden. We pruned our fruit trees, preparing them to use all the stored sugar resources. It’s a benefit of cold winters — freezing weather helps trees convert their stored starches into high-energy sugars for a great start to fruit production in spring.

Our indoor and container gardening projects are on hold as most plants (excluding some succulents) are dormant. This requires cutting watering and nutrition but gives us time to do other less exciting maintenance tasks.

I wish you a fabulous year of gardening in which every actioned plan bears great rewards.



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