For Zone 9 gardeners, now is the time to prepare the January garden. Time to get everything ready for spring. There are things you can do in the garden when it is warm, and things you can do indoors when it is cold like it is today (32 degrees at 10:30 in the morning here).
Planning next year’s garden:
- Look back over your garden notes for things to improve or change. Are there areas of standing water to fill in, or areas that need improved drainage? Can you grow water-loving plants there?
- Were there areas in your garden that were neglected because they were too far away? Maybe you can plant low-maintenance crops in those areas.
In my garden, I have a section of garden that is out of reach of my garden hose. Right now, I’m planning on leaving that area fallow, but I can also buy an extra section of hose to reach it. I also have changed the beds a bit to fill in a few low spots I noticed last spring.
In the garden:
- Have a soil test done to determine what amendments you need in your garden.
- Increase your soil fertility by adding compost or fertilizer.
- Mulch your garden beds to suppress weed growth.
- Continue cleaning up old tomato vines and other spent summer and winter crops to control diseases and pests.
- Prune your trees while they are dormant.
In late January, begin planting out–
- Vegetables: Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Collards, Endive, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard, Peas (English, Sugar, Snap), Radishes, Rutabaga, Turnip.
- Herbs: Calendula, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Echinacea, Feverfew, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Sorrel or Thyme.
- Be sure to have row covers or frost covers available for your tender new plants, just in case.
Check your seed packages for the proper time to plant outdoors, or sow indoors under grow lights.
Many over-wintering vegetables started in the fall garden are ready for harvest now.
- Cut cabbages when they are rock-hard; if they feel soft or springy, they aren’t ready for harvest.
- When broccoli buds are full and firm, cut the stalk with a knife. If the heads are turning yellow or loosening up, it past harvest time.
- Leave both cabbage and broccoli in the ground and they’ll continue to produce smaller heads, especially with the benefit of a side-dressing of vegetable fertilizer.
- Cauliflower only forms one head. To keep it snowy white, pull the leaves up over the head and tie them to block out the sun. Harvest when the buds are full and close together. When they begin to separate, you’ve waited too long.
- Lettuce is ready for harvest. You can cut the whole plant, or cut just the outside leaves, leaving the core to continue growing. The “cut and come again” harvest will keep you in fresh salad greens for weeks.
- Prep large garden machinery for spring use. Do a tune up; change the oil, plugs and filter; sharpen the blades.
- Check and clean your hand tools. Remove any rust; oil or lubricate; use linseed oil on wooden handles; repair or replace broken tools.
- Inventory your tools and replace any that you need now, to avoid a last-minute run to the store during planting time. Doing these things now, to prepare for the January garden, will allow you more time later in the spring.
In the house:
- Peruse garden catalogs for seeds and supplies. Order what is necessary to avoid shortages, and to have on hand when needed.
- Plan your spring garden on paper, being mindful of crop rotation to minimize disease and insect pests.
- Plant seeds indoors to be ready for transplanting when frost is over. Use a grow light, or a window sill if there is enough light.
- Look at your garden, with an eye to improve the view from your house: plan on hiding unsightly garden structures with climbing plants, or move them out of sight.
- Organize your seed packages. You can organize by whether to plant indoors or outside, or by planting date. Be sure to check expiration dates, or ‘plant by’ dates on the packages.
- Test your seed germination rate for older, leftover seed packages.
This list should keep you busy indoors and out to prepare the January garden, and get you prepped for February and planting the spring garden. Be sure to sign up below for my newsletter to be kept up-to-date on gardening information for Zone 9. Also, leave a comment on what garden tasks you do in January, in case I’ve forgotten something.
Rodale’s Organic Life