What does a gardener do in January?

By Sarah Goff

Houston County Master Gardener


It’s cold outside. Everything is covered with snow, and more is on the way. The skies are gray, and the days are short. What’s a gardener to do? Well, it is all about dreaming, planning and preparation.

The garden catalogues are out with beautiful pictures of shrubs, trees, flowers and vegetables. There are no weeds to pull and no mosquitoes to bite us. We are not behind in planting, deadheading or cleaning up last year’s mess. At this time of year a gardener can sit back, read and dream of starting anew.

Now is the time to make plans.  Do you want to put in new beds?  Are there perennials to be moved or divided? What about planting trees to replace those lost to the Emerald Ash Borer?

Make plans and write them down. Get out white paper or graph paper and plan the new beds.  Make lists of seeds to order and order them. Put starting and transplanting dates on a calendar. Remember to rotate annual vegetable crops from last year’s plan.

Do you want to start seeds or buy bedding plants? Starting seeds offers a greater variety of types, colors, sizes and growth habits than purchasing started plants later in the spring, but does take more effort and space. If you decide to start seeds you should make plans now. Some flower seeds need to be started in late January. Be sure that you have the clean trays and small pots needed. Buy seed-starting mix.  Consider both grow lights and electric heating mats. Plan space for all of this.

A Houston County Master Gardener will have an article on seed starting in our March column. There are good articles on seed starting available online and in some garden magazines.  (See references below.)

Seed packets and catalogues have information on dates for starting seeds indoors, for starting from seed outdoors and for moving plants to outdoor soil.

Cleaning and sharpening tools is a good winter activity as well.  These activities can be done inside; and the tools will be ready to go when you need them. You may wish to order a new tool or other supplies from a mail-order supplier.

Plan to attend a class or workshop in your area. You might even decide to attend a home and garden show with good garden presentations. Workshops and classes are sponsored by Community Education and Master Gardeners and provide sound information about many topics as well as loads of inspiration. Both include the opportunity to talk with other gardeners. Workshops almost always include demonstrations and vendor booths with items for sale.  There are Home and Garden shows in larger cities that include demonstrations and presentations. (See below.)

Dream big, plan well, and enjoy you garden from now to frost.


Upcoming garden workshops and references


We Dig It: Fourth Annual Gardening Workshop at Caledonia Middle School/High School, Saturday, March 29, contact the UM Ext Office in Caledonia with questions at 507-725-5807.

Master Gardeners of Winona County Gardener’s Day: Saturday, Feb. 15, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at the county History Center, 160 Johnson Street, in downtown Winona. Call 507-457-6440 for more.

Minneapolis Home and Garden Show: March 2–3, Minneapolis Convention Center, www.homeandgardenshow.com.

Minnesota State Horticultural Society: www.northerngardener.org.

UM Ext Houston County: [email protected]

Minnesota Tree Care Advocate: http://www.mntca.org.