Home & Garden

January can be a guessing game in the garden

January is the perfect time to start cool-season crops indoors for transplanting, such as these cabbage seedlings.
January is the perfect time to start cool-season crops indoors for transplanting, such as these cabbage seedlings.

Q: The recent cold snap was tough on some of the plants in my garden. What can I do in my yard in January? — Patty, Atascadero

A: Record cold temperatures throughout the county were tough on many plants and trees. January will be a guessing game in the garden because we just don’t know if another bout of severe cold weather will arrive. A lack of seasonal rainfall and continuing drought are also a possibility and a source of stress for many plants.

One of the most important things we can do now is to assess the current condition of our yards. Gardening is a hands-on and eyes-on process. Are beds adequately mulched? Is irrigation applied at appropriate levels for the current conditions?

It is important to pay attention to weather conditions and to heed freeze warnings, as January is a long way from many last frost dates in the county. You can find your average first and last frost dates here: http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/newsletters/Frost_Dates_and_Chill_Hours29199.pdf.

In January, we recommend pruning rosebushes, fruit trees and vines, tidying up lilacs, and cutting back bushy perennials such as Mexican sage, ornamental grasses, lavender and chrysanthemums. Now is the time to select and plant dormant fruit trees, berries and vines.

Our master gardener educators will hold an “Advice to Grow By” gardening workshop Jan. 18 on “Planting Bareroot Trees and Winter Pruning of Trees & Vines.” To learn more about our 2014 workshops go to: http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/files/177729.pdf.

January is also a good time to amend vegetable beds before spring planting. Add sev eral inches of compost and mix it into the soil. It’s also time to start seeds for cool season vegetables indoors for transplanting in early spring. In coastal areas, seeds for bulb onions can be sown directly into the garden.

If you’ve not already done so, clean and repair gardening tools and equipment. Sharpen hand pruners and lawnmower blades; tune up garden power tools and oil garden hand tools and you’ll be ready for a great gardening year!


Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu  .