January To-Do List in the Garden

The holidays are past and hopefully as much of your tree as possible has gone into your compost pile.  The same with all those live garlands and wreaths.  I love forcing Amaryllis bulbs in the house and, when they are done, they go right outside into the garden.  Honestly, they don’t need any extra care or attention.  This Amaryllis was planted in the ground over fifteen years ago and has multiplied and flowered profusely every spring. They do equally well in part sun to complete shade, in pots and in the ground.  

If your Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is still alive, you can transplant that out into the garden as well.  This plant is native to Mexico and can take full on sun here in Southern California.  It prefers well drained soil but I have seen it thrive in clay and sandy soil.  They do tend to get rangy and respond well to regular pruning to keep them more bushy.  

By now grape vines will have shed all their leaves and it is time to prune them.  Exactly how you prune them depends on the structure on which they are growing as well as the variety.  Don’t just throw away those branches, though.  I love to make up wreaths and adorn them with all sorts of goodies throughout the year.  All you need is a pair of clippers and some thin wire or string.  An abandoned hummingbird nest finds a place on this grapevine wreath.  I painted two pebbles and glued them inside.  

Take care of our feathered friends.  Now until the spring time is when they need our help the most, so keep your feeders stocked.  Discard any old, stale seed and replenish your supply.  Put out nesting balls for the birds to use.  You will find that they like to build their homes near the building supply store, so expect to find one or more nests in your garden.  You can find these online or you can make your own.    

Fig trees should have dropped their leaves by now and are ready to be pruned.  The wood is very soft and it could make for a quick and easy job.  Don’t rush through it, however.  As with all tree pruning, it is best to do a bit at a time, stepping back often to get a good feel for the shape you are creating.  You also want to maintain it at a size that is manageable for picking the fruit without risking life and limb (yours) on a tall ladder.  It is always good practice to clean your tools and I can recommend isopropyl rubbing alcohol as an easy and inexpensive disinfectant.  

Divide and replant perennials like Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), daylilies (Hemerocallis) and Statice (Limonium perezii).  It is also a good time to transplant any offspring of grasses that have volunteered themselves into the garden, like Ruby Grass (Melinus nerviglumis) or Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola), for example.  

Edibles can be going all year round.  January is a good time to plant all kinds of lettuce and brassicas, spinach, chard, kale, peas, beans, garlic onion sets and shallots.  Too many choices??  How about planting a juice garden with your favorite things to put in your morning drink, like beets, wheat grass, carrots and ginger.  This lacinato kale is a highly nutritious choice for a juice garden.

Just like working in the ground, disrupt the soil in raised beds as little as possible by digging just what you need and gently moving the soil back after planting.  

Potatoes can be planted year round.  Cut them so each piece has two eyes on it and  leave the pieces to dry, or heal, for about a day before planting.  Space them about 8” to 1’ apart.  At this time of year, you can plant lettuce right on top and by the time the lettuce is done, the potatoes are ready to take off.  

I can always think of more to-do’s, but instead I would like to give you one “to-don’t”.  If we get a frost and any of your plants are damaged, resist the temptation to cut away the browned leaves.  These leaves are best left in place to protect the rest of the plant in case of another frost.  Be patient and cut back after all chance of frost is past.

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