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January Garden Tasks

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of gardening tasks you can do in January. Here are some to consider.

For those of you who received poinsettias or other flowering holiday plants, be sure that they are near a bright window and water as the top of soil becomes dry. Most holiday plants will last many years with proper care.

The most obvious January gardening activity is caring for houseplants. Remember that most of them prefer a humid, warm environment. Increase humidity around houseplants by grouping plants together, placing them on pebble-water trays, or running a humidifier. Houseplants typically do not need fertilized in the winter, but do water them as needed. Now is also a good time to repot those that have outgrown current pots.

If you plan to start seeds indoors this year for spring planting outside, begin gathering supplies. You'll need starting trays, lights, starting mix, and seeds.

Seed catalogs are arriving in abundance. Read, dream, and make tentative selections. Order seeds and plants as early as possible for best selection and timely shipping. As you plan your garden, sketch it your plans on paper, including what to grow, spacing, arrangement, and number of plants needed. This will help as you develop a budget and spring shopping list.

On the next warm day, take some time to venture outside to inspect your gardens. Check young trees for rodent injury on lower trunks. Prevent injury with hardware cloth or protective collars, being sure to move them in the spring. During this winter of ice and snow, keep road and sidewalk salt away from desirable landscape plants. Construct a screen of burlap, if necessary, to keep salt spray off plants.

Wood ashes from the fireplace can be spread in the garden, but don't overdo it. Wood ashes increase soil pH, and excess application can make some nutrients unavailable for plant uptake. Have soil tested to be certain of the pH before adding wood ash.

These are a few of the January tips from our 2016 Garden Calendar, which provides garden tips for each month. I used information from University of Illinois and Purdue University sources and created lists that are appropriate for gardeners in the four counties that I serve: Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties.

The calendar is available for as a free pdf-format download at Happy gardening.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.