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January Gardening To-Do List

Updated on December 18, 2023

Even in the doldrums of winter, there are garden tasks to tackle. Find out what chores you can do now to keep your garden growing and get ready for spring.

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Photo: EQRoy

Order Seeds for Spring + Summer

Order seeds for the new year around New Year's Day, if not before, especially for spring crops like radishes, peas and lettuce. Everyone else has the same idea and there's only so much seed to go around, so it's best to be an early bird. Go ahead and order for summer, too, and take this slow time to think about your garden goals and make a plan.

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Photo: Tomas Espinoza

Maintain Garden Tools

Spring is the busiest time for gardening, so that makes winter the perfect time to get your garden tools in shape. Hand tools should be cleaned and sharpened. Remove rust and treat handles and blades with a protective coating. Power tools like mowers, weed trimmers and blowers should also be cleaned, motors tuned up, blades sharpened, etc. For battery-powered tools, make sure to store the batteries indoors. Extreme cold temperatures can considerably shorten the battery life.

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Photo: Derek Trimble

Host a Seed Swap Party

Before the growing season starts, gather your gardener friends to share seeds and seedlings that can be started indoors. Ask your guests to share self-gathered seeds as well as commercial seeds from last year that they may not have been able to plant. (Many of us with big garden aspirations buy more seeds than we have room for.) If they don't have any seeds on hand, there are no rules against going out and buying some new seeds to share.

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Photo: ThamKC

Test Seeds for Viability

If you’ve got seeds from previous growing seasons, you can test them to see if they’re still good. To test seeds, space several out on a few layers of moist paper towels, roll it up so that the seeds don't touch, and enclose the bundle in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out. Place in a warm bright location (65 to 70 degrees is fine) but away from direct sun. Check the seeds every couple of days. If they haven't germinated — or only a few have sprouted — in a couple of weeks, chances are they're no good.

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