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January jobs in the garden: Plant, prune, prepare

Fill the soil around the roots of a bare-root tree and lightly tamp the soil to remove air pockets.
Fill the soil around the roots of a bare-root tree and lightly tamp the soil to remove air pockets. Chuck Ingels

Q. What tasks should I be doing in my garden in January? — Philomena Reid

A: If you’re interested in working off that holiday fare, look no further than your garden. January is a quiet month, especially on the first, and meditation is never better than when working outdoors. But just because you have survived the holidays does not mean that it is now the time to sit back and watch the weeds grow.

The Rose Parade may be inviting, but planting a rose bush of your own is infinitely more rewarding. January is just the month. Bare-root roses are available and ready to plant. Choose according to growth habit and your growing conditions. Along the coast, disease-resistant varieties thrive in cooler conditions.

Bare-root fruit trees are another option at this time of year. Select trees based on the chill hours required for each type of tree. Plant lowchill varieties in coastal areas.

Existing fruit trees and rose plants should be pruned at this time of year. Pruning should be done on a dry day. While you have your pruning tools at the ready, cut back bushy perennials such as Mexican sage, ornamental grasses, lavender, oregano, chrysanthemums, marguerites and yarrow. Cut just above bottom growth for a nice, healthy plant later.

Keep your spirits bright with winter color by planting winter-flowering shrubs. Acacia, breath of heaven, camellia, hibiscus, leptospermum and marmalade bush are worth considering.

That holiday Amaryllis may be fading, but take heart. Plant this beauty now and you should be rewarded with more blooms later. Sink the bottom half of the bulb in the ground, leaving the top half above the ground.

For those who grow their own cuisine, start seeds for cool-season vegetables indoors or in cold frames for late transplanting. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and celery are a few examples. Coastal gardeners can sow seeds for bulbing onions.

Fall-planted brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, may still be chugging away. Continue harvesting these to encourage more production.

Prepare beds for future use by covering the soil with a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost. Mix soil and compost with a garden fork. Watch for moisture content, however. Soil that is too wet will not work easily — soil should break and mix readily.

Stake new trees to serve as ballast before spring winds blow in. Drive stakes one foot from opposite sides of the trunk and in line with prevailing wind. Tie the tree to each stake with plastic tree ties, allowing for movement of the trunk.

Don’t forget to repair and clean your gardening tools and equipment. Sharpen mower blades and tune up and oil tools.

The Christmas tree, last year’s monument, serves as this year’s mulch. Place old branches across acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas.

There is no better time to collect rainwater. Indoor and outdoor plants can always use free refreshments. Speaking of which, all this talk of work...