For most of us, January is not really a time when we are thinking about gardening. That’s reserved for a little later in the year, about April, when the snow has melted and the promise of warmth is just around the corner.

However, for beginners, January is a great time to start planning a garden. As opposed to figuring everything out on the fly, starting early allows ample time for finding the right plants and getting a good line on soil, mulch, and all the other stuff that’ll make the garden more of a success but less labor-intensive. Then, there’s coming up with a good plan for why and how to plant what when and where.


For those vowing to grow a garden this year, it’s time to start thinking about it, and this article is going to provide some helpful little insights. The more time spent prepping the garden beforehand, the less time required with the burdensome business of weeding and watering. So, here’s a handy January garden to-do list.

Research the Right Plants


Start by finding out what USDA zone you live in, and then consider what plants grow well in that zone and when that happens. Tomatoes might not fare well in a Minnesota April, but down in Louisiana, they’ll be warm and happy. On the other hand, cool weather crops — think various members of the cabbage family — might not like late Louisiana springs at all.

Find the plants that are best suited for your zone and master those first. Five or ten different crops is a good number to start with. Look for heirloom and organic varieties from local seed suppliers. These plants will be much more likely to be suitable, and being from local providers, they’ll be adapted to the area already.


It’s January, so there is plenty of time to do the homework and choose wisely, and there is plenty of time to get the details about growing the plants that make the cut.

Create a Garden Schedule


For beginning gardeners especially, it is very easy to lose track of all that is going on in the garden. Peas should be planted before peppers and all that jazz. Likewise, different vegetables should be planted in particular sequences (crop rotation) in order to keep soil lively and rich, as well as to avoid pests and diseases.

The only way to keep track of these types of things is to plan well. Successful cultivators schedule out the garden so that something is always being harvested and something new is always being planted. This is how to avoid having 150 cucumbers showing up all at once in July or August, but none the month before or after.


Knowing what plants are going to work well, it’s time to start figuring out the timing so that they perform their best. It’s January and cold outside, which is the perfect weather for plotting out planting sequences.

Design the Garden Space


Avoid sticking the garden in the back corner of the yard because that’s the best place to forget about it. Instead, consider designing a garden that’ll work in high traffic areas around the house, where you’ll constantly be passing it to notice the lettuce needs a little water, or a bit of weeding is as easy as bending down on the regular route.

Using garden beds around patios and/or containers on a balcony is a much better idea than stuffing the garden in no man’s land. Instead, when gardens are part of the spaces we commonly use, they’ll be much easier to care for. The easier gardens are to care for, the more likely they are to be well-looked after.


Rather than making a rowed garden off the beaten track, map out a plan for gardens that go next to sidewalks, that decorate patios, and that use balcony rails for garden stakes. Looking out the windows in January provides a good assessment of the places we commonly see and use.

Beginning in January Is Working Smart

In permaculture, the accepted modus operandi is to spend ample time planning before working up a sweat. The idea is to work smart before rather than work hard later. January then, long before any shovels hit soil or seeds go in the ground, is a great time to start gardening. Do the mental work in the winter, and that’ll make the spring and summer so much more bountiful.

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