Travel, Leisure & Fun for South Valley Adults

January Gardening Tips from the Master Gardeners

January can be a busy month in our Central Valley and foothill gardens. Hopefully, we will be dodging rainstorms and working on foggy days. That's what our gardens rely on for health later in the year. On the other hand, there are some jobs that can easily be put off or skipped altogether this year. Is that heresay to say?

Sometimes, taking garden care too seriously can make us forget this should be enjoyable. Gardens are never perfect. It will never be "finished." Enjoy the time you spend in it as much as possible. And if other parts of your life take priority, relax. You may find some surprising things happened that you quite like. If you have a few hours to spend in the garden this month, here are some suggestions:

Planting: January is bare root planting month, for everything from roses to fruit trees, berry and grape vines and some vegetables. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting.

You can also start planting beets, carrots, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, radish, seed potatoes, onions, peas, radish, spinach, artichokes and asparagus directly in the garden this month. Begin sowing seeds for summer annuals and vegetables like tomatoes and peppers in a protected location where you can keep the seedlings warm and where they will receive enough light.

Maintaining: January is the month to spray dormant oil on deciduous fruit and almond trees and roses to prevent or control over-wintering insects. Spray the branches, crotches, trunk and the ground beneath the tree's drip line.

Hold off spraying if rain is forecast or if the temperature is below 45 degrees, and never spray oil on walnut trees. Spray copper spray or synthetic fungicide on peach trees to control peach leaf curl. Other ways to limit over-wintering insects and disease issues are to keep your orchards clean of old leaves, old fruit and weeds.

January is a great month for pruning deciduous trees, shrubs and roses. Keep pruners and loppers sharp. Sterilize the pruners or loppers in between plants. Use a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or white vinegar. Remove all broken, diseased or crossing branches first. Two basic cutting techniques are used in general pruning: thinning and heading. Thinning cuts remove entire branches, resulting in a more natural look. You want to end up with a tree that looks balanced and well-structured.

Heading cuts shorten branches and should only be used on small branches. Use heading cuts judiciously to shorten over-long branches. Make sure to cut back to an outward facing bud to direct new growth away from the interior of the tree. Prune from the bottom up and from the inside of the plant to the outside.

Cut back and divide perennials. Fertilize perennials, annuals and emerging buds. I don't recommend fertilizing California native plants, or woody shrubs and perennials from Mediterranean climates.

Apply pre-emergent herbicide to lawns and garden beds later in January. Read and follow the package directions carefully. If you don't choose to use chemical weed control, lightly till your young seedling weeds frequently to keep your garden beds fairly free of weeds. You may also replenish mulch this month or top dress with finished compost.

Finally, don't forget to monitor or turn off your irrigation controller. You will want to deep water your trees, shrubs and perennials, and water your lawn if we have an extended dry period but don't waste water and threaten the health of your plants by over watering.

Remember, fog can also provide moisture to plants. It's one reason to not hate our Tule fog: it's good for the plants. I'm not sure I will ever hope for more foggy days, but I have learned to not wish them away entirely.

As we are making plans and goals for the year, we consider how we are creating and managing our patch of the earth. If we farm, can we plant a hedgerow? In all types and sizes of gardens, can we use "least toxic first" pest control methods, tolerate a little wildness in parts of the garden, grow some plants just for the birds, pollinators, lizards, toads or even small mammals, tolerate some damage to keep the chain of life healthy?

Your garden, even in January, should be busy with natural activity. If no one visits except the weekly gardener, you are missing out: the garden can be and do so much more!

The Tulare-Kings County Master Gardeners will be available to answer your questions at Visalia Farmer's Market from 8-11 a.m. on first and third Saturdays at 2100 W. Caldwell Ave (behind Sears Building).


You can call Master Gardeners in Tulare County at (559) 684-3325, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

To search past articles, find links to UC gardening information, or to email us your questions, visit

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