January To-Do List for Your Southern California Garden

Written by Susan B.

Now that you’ve put the holidays behind you, and you’ve taken down all of your decorations, and put your home back and order, your life can return to normal – if that’s possible during this challenging time. It also means that you can do chores in your garden to keep it in tip-top shape for the rest of the year. And we’re one of a few states where we can grow things and enjoy our gardens all year long. We’ve put together a list of items that may or may not belong on your January Southern California Garden To-Do List. Still, regardless, we hope you find some helpful suggestions on this list so you can add them to your own lists.

Give Wildbirds Some Extra Care

  • Get rid of stale and wet birdseed and clean out the feeders thoroughly.
  • Because of our temperate climate, many of the birds we see regularly are year-round inhabitants. That means they’ll be getting ready to mate and will need fresh cotton nesting material and nesting balls, so they have places to lay their eggs. 
  • Continue putting out nectar feeders and refreshing the nectar every few days. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, which means changing feeders more often. Hummingbirds can get severely sick from contaminated or spoiled nectar. 

Divide and Transplant Old Perennials

Some perennials that will need to be divided and transplanted in January include Lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus), Daylilies (Hemerocallis), and grasses such as Rudy Grass (Melinus nerviglumis), Foothill sedge (Carex tumicolia), and Perez’s sea lavender (Limonium perezii.)

Continue Planting Edible Plants

We’ve talked about the fact that Southern California gardeners can grow edible plants all year, so this is a reminder about what you might plant this month. 

If you are interested in having a juice garden, plant beets, carrots, ginger, kale, spinach, and wheatgrass. 

Consider planting beans, brassicas, chard, garlic, kale, onions, peas, and shallots for regular edibles. You can also plant potatoes now – or at any time of the year. Potato pieces should have at least two eyes each. Plant them between 8-and-12-inches apart to ensure there is room for new potatoes that emerge. 

Bring Forced Amaryllis Bulbs Outside

Our mild climate is ideal for amaryllis bulbs, and you can either leave your forced bulbs in the pot or transplant them in the ground. Please place them in a spot where they’ll get full to partial shade. Ensure that the spot where you choose to place your pot or plant your Amaryllis will not get too wet from the rain. Although bulbs need plenty of water, too much water will make them rot. 

Plant Poinsettias in the Ground

When we talked about Poinsettia plants, we mentioned that they are native to Mexico. That’s why they make an excellent addition to your winter perennial garden. Find a spot in full sun and make sure that the soil drains well. Prune the tops of your plants often to keep the plants looking full and bushy. If you don’t prune them regularly, they will get tall and mangey looking. 

Sort Through and Inspect Seed Collection

Many gardeners like to buy extra packets of seeds they especially love. It’s primarily a good idea when you fall in love with a plant for which seeds are hard to find. But it can also help keep a variety of seeds on hand if you plan to keep growing edible plants throughout the year. Or you may have received packages of seeds as a gift and forgotten about them. If you have a stash of seeds, it’s helpful to go through them and make an inventory. It’s also wise to note the expiration date – if there is one on the seed packet. 

If you keep seeds around – without storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer, you can expect them to remain viable for 3-to-5 years. Seeds stored in the fridge or freezer will last longer. 

Before you decide whether to save or discard your un-dated seeds, do a germination test to see if the seeds are still viable. The simplest way to do your germination test is with a paper coffee filter or paper towel. 

Soak the paper towel or coffee filter and wring it out. Spread your seeds on half of the paper and fold it in half. Secure the top of the paper or coffee filter with a rubber band and place it in a clear plastic bag. Poke a couple of air holes in the bag to let air in and prevent rapid mold growth. 

After a couple of days, open the bag and unfold the paper or coffee filter to see if the seeds have germinated, and if so, how many did. Keep a record of the number of seeds that sprouted, and remove them from the paper. Only count seeds that have a healthy root and stem. Fold the paper bag up, and spritz it with water if it feels dry. Put it back in the plastic bag and continue to check on it every few days. At the end of the experiment, you should have a good idea of the seeds’ viability in your collection. 

Plant Bare-Root Berry Plants

January is the time to plant blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Strawberries spread via runners on the ground, so consider that before planting. Allow plenty of space between plants so runners can fill in the bare spots. 

Buy and Plant Aloes, Poppies, and Wildflowers

January is the time to buy and plant aloes now. Many cultivars are in bloom, and you’ll find a range of colors from coral to yellow candelabra. You can also plant poppies and other spring-blooming wildflowers. 

Plant Other Dormant Shrubs

January is the time to plant dormant Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis), which is a drought-tolerant tree or large shrub. The plant produces gorgeous blush pink, magenta, and rose-colored blooms in late summer. 

When you have weather conditions that make it possible to garden all year, there are always monthly chores to do. If you’ve got questions about maintenance chores, or plants you can add to your garden to create winter interest, call our stores or come into one of our shops. Our garden experts are always available to assist you.

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