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Vegetable garden in January: how you can prepare yourself

31.12.2021  /  Reading time: 7 minutes

January. The Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations have come to an end and everything is getting ready for the new year. So is nature. It may still seem to be in deep hibernation, but appearances are deceptive. The days are getting longer again and spring is fast approaching. For us gardening enthusiasts, it's now time to start planning for the new year and work through the remaining legacy of the past year.

This article contains:

  1. Bringing the old gardening season to a (final) close
  2. Winter sowing: What you can sow now
  3. Harvesting winter crops
  4. Preplanting plants in January
  5. Herb garden
  6. Frequently asked questions about January Gardening Month

Quick Overview

Vegetable garden in January: these gardening tasks need to be done

  • Finish off the old gardening season: Complete outstanding gardening tasks such as tidying up the garden shed or planning the next season.
  • Winter sowing: Certain crops such as cabbage, lettuce and some flowers can be sown as early as January.
  • Harvesting winter crops: Harvest winter vegetables such as spinach and chard; protect plants that are not ready to harvest from frost.
  • Pre-cultivate plants: Start pre-cultivating heat-loving plants such as peppers and eggplant to get a head start on growth.
  • Herb garden in winter: Some herbs, such as parsley and chives, can also be harvested in winter if they are properly protected.

Bringing the old gardening season to a (final) close

Everyone knows this: in winter, people are usually reluctant to spend long periods of time outside, which means that work is often left undone, especially in the garden. That's not a bad thing at all. If you want to do something productive in January, you can finish off all the things you didn't get to in December. Whether it's tidying up your garden shed, cleaning your garden tools or planning the next season. Otherwise, you may fall behind schedule and not be properly prepared when the gardening year really gets going again in March. If you have already completed the tasks mentioned, there is little for you to do right now and you can rest on the laurels of your work. However, if that's too boring for you and you want to be productive in January too, we have a few suggestions for you here.

Blackberry leaves covered with snow
Winter lets nature sleep soundly. The perfect time for you to complete any outstanding work from the previous year.

Winter sowing: What you can sow now

Wait a minute: sowing in January doesn't make any sense at all, does it? Yes it does, with winter sowing. This refers to sowing plants whose seeds can tolerate the cold and which are sown during the cold winter months and not in the spring when it gets warmer. The seeds lie in the cold soil and wait to germinate. They can decide the right time for this much better than we can. Suitable crops for winter sowing are all types of cabbage and lettuce, chard, spinach, carrots, radishes, parsley, dill and many summer flowers such as sunflowers, cosmeas, mallows and zinnias. You can find out exactly how to do this in our article on winter sowing.

Harvesting winter crops

If you planted winter vegetables in the fall, you can enjoy them now: spinach, lamb's lettuce, chard, parsnips, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes are now ready to be harvested. You should only harvest Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips as long as the ground is not frozen. Of course, all plants that are not yet ready for harvest must still be protected from frost. You can use spruce branches or breathable fleece, for example. You can also find everything you need to know about growing winter vegetables here.

Preplanting plants in January

It may seem a little premature to many, but you can start growing your first plants for the summer as early as January. Peppers, chili peppers and eggplants, for example, are well suited for this. Due to their relatively slow juvenile growth and the increasingly warmer spring, it makes perfect sense to germinate the first seeds indoors at the end of January. However, you should wait with most crops, as otherwise they will only grow unstably. If you start sowing your first seeds now, you should definitely get a plant lamp, otherwise your plants will not get enough light and will go to seed. You can read everything you need to know about plant lamps for growing here, so that you are sure to buy the right lamp.

Note: Very early propagation is definitely not a must! It's perfectly fine if you wait until the end of February or beginning of March to start your first bell pepper plants.

Tomato seedlings
Some gardeners plant their seedlings in the open before the Ice Saints.

The general rule is that heat-loving species such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, etc. should not be planted outdoors in our latitudes until after the"ice saints" in mid-May. The ice saints can bring the last late frosts of spring and thus damage frost-sensitive plants. If you stick to this rule, it makes little sense to start pre-cultivation in January. Otherwise, your bell pepper plants would spend the period from January to mid-May in pots and "stand around" in your house for quite a long time.

However, frosts from the beginning of April have become a rarity in many parts of Germany. So if you live in a fairly mild area, you can try growing them earlier. The young plants will then have a head start, so you can start harvesting earlier. If late frosts are forecast in May, you can protect your plants with a fleece.

In spring, summer temperatures are now often above 20 degrees. The warmer spring also shifts the possible cultivation period for plants. Mediterranean plant species such as tomatoes, zucchinis and peppers can be planted out in good locations as early as April. In this case, pre-cultivation from the end of January is not so far-fetched. Of course, there is always a small residual risk. Find out about the weather before the Ice Saints and protect your plants if necessary. You can find out more about the ice saints and the question of whether they are a farmer's rule or a myth here.

Yellow pointed bell pepper plant
In mild locations, you can also plant out peppers before the ice saints.

Herb garden

You can also leave parsley and winter purslane in the garden over the winter. Cover them with spruce branches in good time and you will be able to harvest from them for a long time to come. Chives also cope well with winter conditions. However, they spend the winter in a dormant phase, also known as dormancy. To awaken from its dormancy, chives need a certain cold stimulus. Therefore, dig up a ball of chives and leave it on the bed for the time being. After the first frost, you can pot up the root ball and take it indoors to sprout. Choose a place for it that is not too warm. The chives will soon sprout new, aromatic green shoots.

Chives flower
A real eye-catcher in the garden: the flowers of the chives.

That's it for the gardening work in January. Winter will soon be over and another exciting gardening year full of new discoveries and experiences awaits us. Until then, be patient!

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Eric is 23 years old and has been studying agricultural sciences at the University of Hohenheim since 2015. Together with a friend, he has been cultivating an allotment garden in Stuttgart since 2017.

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Yes, there are certain plants that have hardy seeds and can be sown as early as January, including some cabbage and lettuce varieties and certain summer flowers.

Winter vegetables such as spinach, lamb's lettuce, chard, parsnips and leeks can be harvested in January as long as the ground is not frozen.

Yes, particularly heat-loving plants such as peppers, chilies and eggplants can be brought forward at the end of January to give them a head start on growth.

Some herbs such as parsley and winter purslane can be harvested in winter if they are protected from the cold. Chives should be potted up after the first frost and stored in a cool place to sprout later.

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