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January Garden Work

Updated on December 30, 2019
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren gardens in PA, specializing in earth-friendly, unconventional, creative, joyful artistry. She works for eco & climate health.

Stash of Seeds

Seeds from annuals in a big mess of cups and plastic bags.
Seeds from annuals in a big mess of cups and plastic bags. | Source

Snow and Ice Doesn't Stop Gardening

If your land is snow-covered or is frozen from the topsoil down about a foot, “garden work” may not make sense.

However, there is gardening support to be done.

And, it is SO much fun to think about gardening that I love engaging with my little plot, even from indoors!

How Gardening Goes Spring and Summer

As I play and toil through a luxurious summer of heat and sun, the garden starts to race with me. It is like the fabled tortoise and the hare (perhaps with a twist.)

It doesn’t start that way, however.

I commence spring as enthusiastically as a spry hare: digging, planning, composting, expanding, and spending money, of course, on the various plots throughout the yard.

Alas, the plants in the garden resemble the most intransigent tortoise awakening from a winter of hibernating. They grow so-o-o-o-o slowly. My daily inspections for little green points of leaves uncover the teeniest bits of progress.

Then, the temperatures warm and become reliably hot. Annuals begin to grow. Weeds begin to grow! My gardens become joyous playgrounds and showcases. Grass needs mowing and bushes need pruning. Those hardy shrubs require trimming at least three times through the summer.

Sneakily, all these outside tasks multiply and I am almost tempted to use the word “work” for my garden tasks. The garden has become quite a steady, energetic tortoise. Although I, as the hare, do not stop for a nap, my enthusiasm flags. (Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but it happens.)

Fall Holds Changes

If it is a hot autumn, the garden still requires harvesting, weeding, composting, and more.

The tortoise seems to have ingested amphetamines! It wins the race.

I wonder when the first freeze will land and gamble on allowing plants to continue growing or start putting garden plots to bed.

I am lucky to just get vegetables frozen, a few seeds collected, and outdoor furniture repainted and put away.

After that I collapse, figuratively speaking.

Catching Up During the Dormant Time

My end-of-autumn “collapsing” leaves things undone. Plus, I actually abandon my focus on the garden to concentrate on Thanksgiving and winter holidays.

Finally, after January 1st, I can tackle these two tasks:

  1. Organizing the seeds
  2. Cleaning and maintaining the tools

Piles of Seeds

Where to begin . . . these seeds are not organized.
Where to begin . . . these seeds are not organized. | Source

"Unfinished" Seeds

Throughout the final weeks of fall, I bop around the yard collecting mature seed heads of annuals or seeds from beans.

Because the plants do not mature on the same day, this collection occurs spontaneously and I put the seeds either in a plastic bag, a piece of paper, or just in a pile on a shelf. These bags and piles are spread throughout the house, basement, and garage. I try hard to include a scrap of paper identifying the plant name, but sometimes that, too, falls by the wayside. So, January presents the opportunity to right things.

I gather up all the bags and piles and lay them out. Like seeds are consolidated. Unlabelled seeds are labeled (sometimes with a question mark behind the name.) Bags with the hint of mildew are aired out. Fortunately, there aren’t too many of those.

Goal: Organized, Labeled Seeds

The finished, consolidated and labeled bags of seeds.
The finished, consolidated and labeled bags of seeds. | Source
Airing out slightly mildewed coneflower heads.
Airing out slightly mildewed coneflower heads. | Source


Oh my goodness! Would you like to guess the condition of my tools?

You are right. They need to be cleaned, oiled, possibly have a little rust sanded, and some need to be sharpened.

The month of January is great for these jobs. Doing these now also spreads out the costs of gardening through the year, rather than concentrating them in the spring and summer.

So, if you are twiddling your green thumbs anticipating the opening of gardening season, you may want to evaluate your situation.

Are your seeds in the same sorry state as mine were?

Could your tools use some tender, loving care?

Then, hop in and do some garden work in January.

Climate Disruption

One would think that the warming which lengthens my growing season would delight me.


I shudder about the future my grandchildren have ahead. Please, join me in doing what you can do to change national policies and to change your life habits to reverse the destruction of the earth.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Maren Elizabeth Morgan


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