Thinking ahead: Month-by-month gardening tasks

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January is a good time to plan for spring and summer gardening. Gardeners, in particular, suffer from cabin fever, and sometimes in the excitement of those first spring days it’s hard not to put the cart before the horse. It’s wise, then, for gardeners to perform their chores throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to keep on hand a list of garden tasks that must be performed during specific times of the year. It’s January – might as well get ready to garden!


  • Toss old seed packets.
  • Peruse and order from seed and plant catalogs.
  • Sharpen garden tools.
  • Discard broken tools.
  • Donate unwanted garden supplies (pots, etc.)


  • Order seeds (if you haven’t already).
  • Buy any needed seed-starting equipment.
  • Start super-hot peppers.
Seedling cup

Seedling cup. Photo by Stacie/girlingearstudio, Wikimedia Commons.


  • Gather soil and send it off for testing.
  • Sterilize previously used seed-starting equipment.
  • Start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds.
  • Pick up any debris (tree limbs, etc.) that may have fallen over winter.
  • Check trees for winter damage; prune any broken branches.
  • Prune trees and shrubs that must be pruned in winter dormancy.


  • Prepare garden beds for cool-season crops.
  • Plant cold crops mid-month (dependent on temperature and soil conditions (onions, potatoes, radish, spinach, turnips, lettuce, kale, carrots, etc.)
  • Clean and sanitize containers and planters.



  • Harden off seedlings for 2 weeks before planting.
  • Prepare garden beds for warm-season annuals and edibles.
  • Plant annuals and edibles! Usually around the 15th, but watch the 10-day forecast for last frost and be prepared to cover plants, if necessary, to protect them from frost.
  • Mulch to keep weeds down.
  • Fertilize roses.
  • Prune lilacs and other spring flowering woody plants right after they’ve finished blooming.


  • Enjoy your garden.
  • Plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants around June 1. They prefer warmer soil and air temps.
  • Mulch to keep moisture in and weeds down.
  • Start a gardening journal so next year you know what worked and what didn’t.
  • Plant perennials. Be sure to give them enough space to grow over the years.


  • Keep enjoying your garden.
  • Keep weeding.
  • Keep watering, especially new plantings and especially during dry spells.


  • Keep watering perennials and trees.
  • Don’t fertilize perennials after the 1st – the 15th at the very latest.
  • Form a plan for saving leaves for leaf mulch to use next year.


  • Begin to clean out garden areas that have finished performing well.
  • Plant mums.
  • Harvest vegetables.
  • Plant perennials on cool days, keep well-watered for best winter survival.
  • Feed your lawn.
  • Have your soil tested for next year.


  • Cover ground with black poly, a tarp, or cardboard to prepare for a new garden next year.
  • Cut remaining herbs for drying or freezing.
  • Cut back (certain) perennials after a killing frost.
Male winter cardinal

Male winter cardinal. Photo by Eraheem, Wikimedia Commons


  • Keep watering perennials, trees and shrubs until the ground freezes solid.
  • Mulch perennial beds with straw or marsh hay after the ground freezes.


  • Whew! Time to relax and reflect on your gardening successes.
  • Order gardening catalogs.
  • Mark your calendar to keep feeding and watering the birds (it can be easy to forget in cold weather).

The seasons come and go, but gardening can still be a year-round activity. Or if you prefer, take a couple months off and condense some of these tasks into fewer months. Really, this list is just a jumping off point – add your own item and rearrange chores as it best suits your gardening needs. The real benefit is in planning and being prepared in order to maximize the enjoyment that gardening brings.

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