1) Planning & Ordering - I received my first seed catalog the day after Christmas and they have been arriving steadily since. I love these catalogs - what gardener doesn't? - and they really get you excited about spring. Now is the perfect time to plan a garden. If you haven't discovered the joys of mail-order, I urge you to order something. I find it thrilling to get a live plant in the mail (but then again, I'm a very odd person, but I have heard other people say it so I know I'm not alone!) Some of my favorite mail-order companies are ForestFarm, Chamblee's Roses, Song Sparrow Nursery and Lazy S Farm Nursery. You simply can't find the wide selections in a local nursery that you do from these places. The only drawback these days is the exorbitant shipping prices. I admit they have curtailed my mail-order spending habits quite a bit but I try to treat myself to as least one plant from some of my favorite nurseries.
2) Planting - Do you have daffodils that you forgot to plant in December? If so, plant them as soon as possible. I'm always planting daffodils in January. As long as the bulbs are still firm, they are good and they will come up in the spring - they may not bloom like they would if planted earlier, but they will there for next year.
This is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. The ground can be very wet in January but if you can find a dry time to do it, get them in the ground. The roots will begin to grow during the remainder of the winter and they will get a head start on the stressful heat and drought of summer.
3) Clean up planting beds and reapply mulch. This is what I did a few weeks ago. I was driving through a sub-division and saw a tremendous mountain of pine needles right there on the street. I have a confession to make - pine needles get me very excited. I was back in a flash with my rake to get them before the street department did. Seriously, who would throw away pine needles??? The mind reels.
If weather permits, beds can also be prepared for plants, including vegetables. Cover crops, planted in the fall, can be turned under.
4) Clean and sharpen tools. Okay, I'm not good at doing this. But this is a good time to do it!
6) Apply dormant oils. If you have bugs or diseases in your garden and you want to get a head start, consider applying dormant oil (also known as horticultural oil) especially to roses, broadleaf evergreens and fruit trees. The oils are effective and ecologically friendly. They work by smothering the insects that are hiding out for the winter. Do not apply when temperatures are below freezing and apply when temperatures will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.
7) Take dormant cuttings of shrubs and roses. Cuttings can be taken, rooted and placed in a sheltered location, away for winds and sun. They should root by early spring.
8) Prune fruit trees. A subject I know little about but there are several neglected apple trees on my mother's property that needs attention. I'm doing my research and I'll keep you posted.
9) Start seeds indoors. If you have a large basement or a similar place, you can set up lights and start your vegetable and flower seeds indoors and have them ready in time to plant in the spring.
10) Start a gardening journal or better yet, a blog! - I can't stress the importance of record keeping. A journal can be very rewarding and full of useful information to you in the future. And if you'd rather do it online and publicly, start a blog. Take photos of everything. In years to come, you will look at your older photos and be amazed at how things have changed!
transplanting. This is a good time to move plants, especially roses. Check out my link for details.