There are lots of seeds you can sow in January even thought winter is well under way. Now the winter solstice has passed, the days are starting to get longer meaning you can start growing plants right now.
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I live in zone 7 and I have a few friends in the US and Canada who like me, are itching to get started planting for spring. Luckily, there are plenty of plants you can start sowing in January even in colder climates to help get you through to spring!
What Can I Sow In January?
January’s weather for me in Utah, is usually the coldest and the heaviest for snow. It’s cold, smoggy and the air quality is awful from the stacks of vehicles and the dust from the shrinking Great Salt Lake and it is weeks before the weather improves!
To keep myself sane, I start my seeds indoors, in the greenhouse and in the cold frame. By January, I usually have my chilies, peppers and tomatoes already growing indoors as baby seedlings as well as some other cool weather veggies.
December is when I say “Cheerio and ta ta” to my kitchen table and family meals together until Spring.
I get my warm weather crops started so early to have bigger plants to transplant, over the last couple of years early spring is a tough environment with leaf smashing rains and the sow bugs which eat every baby seedling out there.
Related post: Starting Seeds Undercover
Some points to remember when starting seedlings early:
- Using a double layer of crop protection like hoop houses, floating row cover etc inside a greenhouse or cold frame can help you get your cool weather crops out a little earlier.
- Ensure you harden your seedlings off before transplanting them into your garden.
- Use movable hoop houses, floating row cover and cold frames over the beds to protect your plants from the cold weather.
- Plant out only cold hardy plants, don’t expect you heat loving veggies to make it through snow and ice.
This year, I’m sowing a mixture of seed from different companies to clear out my stash. If you live in Utah, Mountain Valley Seed Company are great local seeds and are available in organic and non-GMO and I’m still using seeds I bought from them 3 years earlier as well as some locally produced seed from local nurseries. I’m also sowing my new favorite suppliers Peaceful Valley and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
Bareroot Trees and Shrubs
Depending on where you live, if you have ordered bareroot fruit trees like apple, cherry, nectarine, apricot, pears, chestnut or plums they are likely to be on their way. Many fruiting shrubs also come in bareroot forms like roses, blueberry, currants, hazelnuts and raspberries. Many of these are shipped in winter to be planted whilst the shrub is dormant.
In the UK, January was an ideal time to plant your bareroot fruit trees whilst the trees were dormant. If you live in southern states for warmer USDA zones, you may be able to plant your trees too if the ground is workable.
You can use black plastic sheeting to warm the soil to allow you to dig and plant your trees and if you are USDA zone 8 or higher, you can plant bareroot vegetable crowns like strawberries and asparagus.
Onions take a while to germinate and to grow so are best started early. Many gardeners in the UK start sowing onion seed on Boxing Day, 26 December!
My wonderful YouTube friend and fellow Brit, William Coleman over at William Coleman’s Garden and Allotment is starting his giant onions indoors using an incredible homemade grow box set up:
Mr Coleman here is sowing giant onions like Alyssa Craig but you can sow any onion seeds now, some varieties I’m growing in my garden:
- Cabernet (F1 hybrid)
- Walla Walla
- Wethersfield Red
- Noordhollandse Bloedrode Onion
Onion seedlings take a while to grow but are usually more successful in the garden than onion sets.
Related Post: Biodynamic Gardening Experiment.
I think kale is the vegetable equivalent of Marmite, you either love it or hate it! Kale is a rockstar plant in my garden and I love growing different varieties of it. I have to hide it in my family’s food to get them to eat it. The chickens also love kale and it provides a good source of calcium to their diet.
Sow seeds into seed starter trays undercover (in a cold frame, hoop house or greenhouse) and transplant 4 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date. You can pot on kale seedlings into 4 inch pots to give them more root room as you harden them off.
Kale is made sweeter by cool weather and can be used as baby leaf salads early in the season.
Some kale varieties to try in your garden:
- Blue Curled Scotch
- Red Russian
- Forage Kale Proteor
- Lacinato/Dinosaur/Di Nero Toscana
- Scarlet Curled
I love the Scotch curly kale and the Lacinato or Di Nero Toscana varieties the most but I will be trying some of the red varieties this year too!
Known as rocket in England, arugula packs a lightly peppery kick to salads. Traditionally, arugula is direct sown into the ground after all danger of frost has past however, you can sow arugula seedsdirect in greenhouse beds or in windowsill seed starting trays for easy to pick cut-and-come-again salad leaves.
Some varieties to try in your garden:
There are lots of varieties of cabbage available from the dense and round, crinkled savoy types to the tight pointed, dark green to almost white, violet to red. There are plenty of cabbages available to gardeners and they are really easy to grow!
Cabbage is amazingly hardy in cold weather and is grown like kale. Start seeds indoors and transplant them out under a protective garden cloche, row covers or hoop houses 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost.
As long as they are protected from cold winds, early cabbage varieties transplanted into cool soil will quickly establish themselves and start growing for an early harvest.
Some varieties I’m growing in my garden:
- Greyhound (early)
- Quintal D’Alsace
- Glory of Enkhuizen
- Early Jersey Wakefield (early)
- Brunswick (very cold hardy)
Just like cabbages, there are lots and lots of winter lettuces available for gardeners and urban homesteaders! Varieties suited for lower light levels include Winter Density, Black Seeded Simpson and Arctic King. Sow seeds into seed starter trays undercover or in flat trays to prick out into larger seed starting modules. Transplant into the garden under floating row cover about 2 weeks before the last frost date. You can grow winter lettuces as cut-and-come-again varieties indoors.
Related post: Homemade Seed Starting Trays
Similar to arugula, oriental or Asian greens add a peppery bite to salads. Mizuna and Tatsoi are popular, easy to grow greens as well as pak choi and Chinese cabbage. Sow like winter lettuces or arugula.
Beautiful white and green slender members of the onion family. They are best started 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date in spring. Just like onions, leeks take a long time to germinate and grow. Some good varieties to try include:
- American Flag
Another garden rockstar packed with vitamins and minerals! Rainbow chard is beautiful in the garden and on the plate. Other great varieties include Bionda Di Lyon, Foodhook Giant, Verde De Taglio and Perpetual spinach. In mild winter areas, start these seeds about 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date in the garden, undercover. Alternatively, start in seed starter trays earlier and harden off in a cold frame before transplanting under floating row cover.
Broccoli & Calabrese
Sow indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date or sow direct 2 weeks before the last frost date. Sow seeds into seed starter trays undercover earlier and transplant 4 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date. You can pot on the seedlings into 4 inch pots to give them more root room as you harden them off before transplanting. Be sure to use floating row cover, cold frames or cloches to protect your baby broccoli.
Varieties we enjoy growing:
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli
- Walthan 29
Baby carrots like Parisienne or Chantenay are wonderfully sweet and a beautiful spring harvest. You can sow carrot seeds direct in the garden about 2 weeks before the last frost date. You can start carrots earlier indoors or undercover using toilet paper inserts as pots or root trainer seed starter modules. Transplant in the garden under floating row cover tunnels to protect your seedlings from the worst of the weather.
This year I’m going to be growing lots of carrots including:
- Atomic Red
- Cosmic Purple
- Purple Dragon
Cauliflower have the same seed starting requirements as broccoli. Some nice varieties include Snowball, Erfurter, Rober, Green Macerata and Purple.
Spinach needs 6 weeks of cool weather from seeding to harvest and grows well in cool weather. Try Bloomsdale Longstanding, Space and Verdil varieties. Spinach is best direct sown and grows well in cold frames. Spinach can also grow well in pots and containers.
Related post: How to Build a Cold Frame.
Culinary and medicinal herb seeds and be sown indoors any time. Some seeds like parsley are slow to germinate and benefit from starting early to become established before being transplanted. Fresh herbs are always a great addition to cooking and are easily grown on a windowsill in recycled containers.
Celery & Celeriac
Both of these crops have long growing seasons and long germination times and can be started in January in zones 6 and above. Prague and Mars are good celeriac varieties whilst I grow Utah Tall celery.
These babies are quick to grow at around 25 days to maturity during the growing season! They grow slower in the winter however Cherry Belle and French Breakfast are our favorites to grow and add to salads and slaw. Sow radishes direct undercover or grow indoors as microgreens.
A classic cool weather crop which may be grown and eaten as sprouts indoors or planted out in warmer zones for an early harvest.
Varieties to try in the garden include:
- Snow Pea Carouby De Maussane
- Oregon Sugar Pod
- Progress #9
- Green Arrow
- Alaska Garden Pea
- Kelvedon Wonder
Grow collards as you would kale above. Popular varieties include Vates, Tree Collards, Morris Heading or Cabbage Collards and Georgia Southern Creole.
Sowing Hot Weather Crops In January
Typical hot weather crops are peppers, eggplant, chilies and peppers among others like okra, jicama and tomatillos. These crops have a long growing season and days to maturity are often 110-120+ days.
To enable a harvest of these crops start early indoors in a south facing window or with a grow light set up. You will need to start these in modules or flats then prick out to 4 inch pots or bigger to give them more root room as you harden them off. You must spend at least 2 weeks hardening these plants off before transplanting into the garden after all danger of frost has past.
To make this transition into the garden earlier, Wall O’ Water plant protectors can be used to protect these tender plants to 16°F.
Some varieties you might like to try in your garden:
Peppers – Bullnose pepper, Corbaci, Chocolate Beauty, Himo Togarashi, Habanada.
Chilies – Biquinho, Brazilian Starfish, Carolina Reaper, Chinese 5 Color, Peach Habanero.
Tomatoes – Black Icicle, Berkely Tie-Dye, Dark Galaxy, Costoluto Genovese, Jersey Devil.
Eggplant – Applegreen, Black Beauty, Casper, Lie Ke Yieh Chieh Tzu, Little Sailor.
Learn more about gardening undercover in the following books:
The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman
The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman
Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live by Niki Jabbour
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