January Garden/Planting Tips

  • If a few, consecutive, warm days have caused your bulbs to nose out from under protective mulch, plan to thicken the mulch layer as soon as cold weather returns to prevent freezing by exposure. 
  • Watch for poison ivy when working outdoors. The leafless vine and roots can cause a powerful reaction if accidentally touched even in the winter. 
  • Start seeds of these and other slow-developing flowers in January or February: alyssum, coleus, dusty miller, geraniums, impatiens, marigolds, perennials, petunias, phlox, portulaca, saliva, parsley, and verbena. Bottom heat and a bright grow light close to the growing plants will encourage sturdy growth.
  • Plant asparagus, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, and rhubarb roots in beds well worked with compost. Mulch them heavily and fertilize as these are all heavy feeders. If you haven't done so already, test the garden soil for these plants and add lime according to recommendations. 
  • Review your vegetable garden plan. Perhaps a new layout and/or smaller footprint will help you keep up with weeding and care. Think about trellis options and creating raised beds to make access to produce easier. Keep bed widths under 4 feet so you can easily reach weeds and produce. 
  • Turn under cover crops planted last fall in areas which will be used for vegetables in February and March. 
  • Before ordering your spring seed, do a "rag doll" germination test on those seeds left over from last year's order. Roll 10 or 20 seeds in a damp paper towel. Keep them moist and in a warm location. For most crops, germination of viable seed will occur within a week. If half the seeds germinate and you have enough left, plant twice as many as you usually do, you should get an adequate stand. Otherwise, order more seed. It's a small investment of time to insure success and maybe save some money.
  • You can prune trees now without hurting them. Deciduous shade trees (those that lose their leaves during the winter) and flowering trees should have one central leader/trunk and 5 to 8 strong lateral branches along the main trunk. Major limbs should begin about 5 feet above the ground and have good spacing around the main trunk. 
  • Prune fruit trees. Pruning fruit trees improves the tree’s health and fruit production. Most of the critical pruning should occur the first 3 years of the fruit tree’s life. Not all fruit trees are pruned the same. For correct pruning instructions Google “UGA Home Garden Fruit Trees”. 
  • This is a great time to plan new construction projects and planting zones. Research what you want to plant and begin creating beds. You can still plant trees and shrubs now if the ground isn’t frozen. Just remember to water consistently. Mulch the areas that will be receiving new perennials and annuals later in the spring.
  • A garden needs water even when the temperature is low. Water in the morning to allow the foliage to dry out before night. Pay special attention to trees and shrubs planted this past fall. Evergreen plants especially need regular watering. Remember to water outside containers.
  • Check indoor plants for insects like spider mites, scale, and mealybugs. Most pests can be controlled without the use of chemicals if the infestation is light. Remove a light infestation of mealybugs or aphids with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Treat with insecticidal soap. For more information Google “UGA Growing Indoor Plants with Success”. 
  • Continue to feed the birds. Nutritious winter foods for birds include black oil sunflower seed, hulled peanuts or peanut hearts, Nyjer (thistle) seed, suet mixes with seeds and fruit, peanut butter and white millet seed.
  • Sterilize your tools, pots, and anything you use around your plants. Use one part household bleach to nine parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes, rise, and let dry. Sharpen shovels and other cutting blades. Lightly oil the metal surfaces to prevent rust.
  • If you are spreading the ashes from your wood burning fire/stove in your garden, be aware that, over time, you are raising the pH of your soil. Have your soil pH tested before applying any more wood ashes. 

These tips for the landscape & garden were adapted from Bob Westerfield, State Consumer Horticulturist for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, and Walter Reeves, Retired Extension Agent for DeKalb County and Saturday Morning Gardening Show Host on WSB Radio