In the Southern California garden, January is the month of opportunity. We average about 3 inches of rain in January, leaving lots of opportunity go out and play in the garden. Now is the time to plant everything from barefoot trees such as plum and apple trees to cool-weather flowers such as snapdragons.
Here is a handy set of January gardening tips primarily from Agromin, a Southern California manufacturer of earth-friendly soil products made from organic material collected locally.
Plant Dormant Trees: January is the perfect month to plant dormant trees. Plants that go dormant—stop growing and lose leaves—in winter include most deciduous trees such as maples, poplars, ashes, birches and oaks. Your local nursery should have a variety of these plus bare root rose, vine and fruit trees, including apricot, plum, apple, pear and peach trees. Add organic compost planting mix to existing soil when planting so the soil is the right consistency to receive nutrients and water. Stay away from planting citrus and avocado trees if frost is a concern.
Prune Dormant Trees: Prune dead, diseased limbs or overgrowth. Doing so strengthens the remaining branches and encourages new, stronger growth in the spring. Remove any new growth at the tree's base or unwieldy stems from branches. Avoid pruning large, well-established branches. This can cause stress on the tree and stunt growth. Now is your opportunity to shape the tree so it looks its finest in spring. Winter is also a good time to trim evergreens.
Use Mulch as A Defense Against Weeds: Only a small amount of rain can mean an onslaught of new weed growth. Place a three-to-four-inch layer of mulch in garden beds and other landscaped areas. The mulch will prevent sunlight from penetrating the soil and keep weed seeds from sprouting. By adding mulch now and eliminating new weed growth, you'll be saved from the hassle of pulling weeds in spring. Mulch also helps to regulate soil temperature so frost damage is less of a worry.
Add Color to Your Flower Garden: There is no reason why your garden can't be in full bloom in winter. Add cool-season annuals including pansies, snapdragons, linaria and calendulas. These flowers can withstand temperatures in the low- to mid-30s.
Maintain Your Winter Garden: By now, some of your cool-season vegetables including peas, lettuce and spinach should be producing their crop. Pick these vegetables continuously to promote more vegetable growth. There is still time to plant artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and strawberries for a late spring, early summer harvest.