What’s on the gardening checklist for January?

Now that the days are slowly gaining more daylight time and the prospect of spring is on the horizon, there are plenty of maintenance tasks to do and lots of prep work for the season ahead. Let’s kick off a new year of gardening with a quick checklist for January.

  1. Start keeping a gardening journal — If you’re not already doing so, a month-by-month, season-by-season gardening journal can be a great resource as you move through the year. This is where you can write down what works — and what needs improvement — in your garden. It’s also a great way to keep track of monthly chores and seasonal plantings. Keep track of what’s going on in your garden all year, then when the calendar rolls over to January next year, you’ll have an excellent record of things you tried, things you’d like to try, favorite plants, plants you’d like to replace, what grows best where and so on. You can even record major weather events (a big snow storm, a summer heatwave) that might help you remember why certain things in your yard and garden are like they are. All it takes is your favorite kind of notebook and a pen or pencil to get going.
  2. Begin planning this year’s vegetable garden — f you’ve got a notebook or journal (see #1 above), you’re already well on your way. January is the time to go through seed catalogs (the old-fashioned printed kind or via websites), visit local garden stores for seeds and plot out your springtime plantings.
  3. Give your soil a checkup — If you haven’t done so in a while (or ever), it’s a good idea to get an analysis done on the soil in your garden. Knowing its chemical makeup gives you the upper hand on being able to make your soil the best it can be in order to maximize your growing output. The Soil Testing page of the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences website is a great place to start — with information on how to take a soil sample, a list of analytical labs that do soil testing, and how to interpret your results. The better the soil, the better the garden.
  4. Survey your trees, shrubs and perennials — Long heatwaves, heavy snow, insects, and poor air quality and other environmental challenges take their toll on your plants. When you have the time (and the weather cooperates), walk through your yard and look for any signs of damage in the plants. If it’s something like a broken branch or dead section in a shrub that you can address with pruning shears or clippers, have at it. If the plant is too damaged to save, tag it for removal. Make a list of replacement plants you need to purchase or areas of the yard you’d like to work on.
  5. Look for plants needing water — Even when the rains come, there may be certain plants in your yard that don’t get enough water. Plants underneath your eaves, for example, or shrubs positioned in a way where they are protected by nearby trees that serve as umbrellas, keeping the rain at bay. Remember to water these plants every so often, even in the middle of the winter.
  6. Watch out for mice — Field mice can damage the lower trunks of trees and shrubs in your yard. If you spot any damage, start by removing nearby weeds to eliminate hiding places, making them more susceptible to natural predators. Traps can also be used if necessary.
  7. Reapply mulch — Remember that mulch you added to your beds last fall? Wind and rain have blown or washed some of it away. If you see areas looking a little sparce, reapply mulch throughout your yard as needed. Rogue Compost is a great resource! It’s protection for your plants and soil against the elements and helps keep things in good shape for the planting months ahead.
  8. Clean your tools — his has been a chore listed on previous months as well, but if you haven’t cleaned your pruners, spades, clippers and other small garden tools with rubbing alcohol yet, there’s no time like the present.
  9. Give your roses a little January love — Hit your rose bushes with a dormant spray that contains lime sulfur or copper fungicide. This works well for general disease control.
  10. Keep an eye out for moss — Winter rains often bring moss in your lawn — typically caused by too much shade or poor drainage. Moss is a simple plant with a shallow root system that will take hold wherever it can. In your lawn, it usually pops up any place the grass isn’t thick and healthy enough to crowd it out. If you start to see moss in your yards, make plans now to modify site conditions in the spring. You can also apply a variety of products designed to kill the moss but not the grass — everything from simple organic options to chemical herbicides.

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