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A few chores in January will bring rewards later

This 2-year-old branch is being shortened back to a 1-year-old fruiting branch.
UC regents
master gardener 12-29-10
This 2-year-old branch is being shortened back to a 1-year-old fruiting branch. UC regents master gardener 12-29-10 Chuck Ingels

Q. I don’t usually feel much like gardening during the winter. Are there things I should be doing in January?Patricia Seery, Los Osos A. When it comes to January on the Central Coast, there are basically two kinds of gardeners. Some take full advantage of our mild winters and enjoy year-round gardening. At this time of year they’re starting seeds of winter vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and most salad greens. Their garden beds are perfectly cleaned out, enriched with compost and mulched, and their bushy perennials have all been cut way back.

They spend time in nurseries checking out the wide variety of bare-root plants available, researching which ones do best in their particular part of the county. They get bare-root fruit trees, roses, berries, etc., that are significantly less expensive and are available in wider variety than later in the season. They have planted their Christmas amaryllis bulbs outdoors as soon as the blooms faded, and look forward to another bloom the following spring.

Then, there is the other variety of Central Coast gardeners. They see January as a time to sit by the fire in bunny slippers, sipping tea and concentrating on indoor activities. These gardeners get to garden centers in the spring when what’s left of the bare-root plants have been potted up, the prices raised, and the most interesting varieties sold out.

Whether or not you want to plant and maintain a winter garden, there are a few January chores that should not be put off, since they can determine the success of your garden later in the season. For example, fruit trees and roses will reward you all year if you spend some time on them in January. Choose a dry -- not rainy -- day, prune them carefully, clean up the area and consider a dormant spray. Clear old vegetation out of your garden beds to prevent possible spread of disease.

Many gardening activities can be performed indoors, such as cleaning and repairing garden tools. Dry winter air is hard on house plants, so they benefit from some extra care. Hopefully we’ll have many rainy January days, and if you’ve planned ahead, you can be collecting rainwater for later use while sitting by the fire or perusing gardening catalogues online.

Even if you’re an indoor person in January, you’re sure to find that spending some time in your garden this month will pay off all year long.

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