What Can a Gardener Do With Their Spare Time in January?

— Written By and last updated by Cindy Nance

With the holiday season coming to an end, January can be a long, dull month but for gardeners January is an exciting time. January is the month that garden enthusiast spend hours looking through seed catalogs, dreaming and planning for they’re upcoming spring garden. Eventually the gardener decides what new vegetable or flower varieties to order along with ordering their long time favorite varieties.

With January almost upon us, now is the time to order seed catalogs. This way you can enjoy flipping through seed catalogs, admiring all the new flowers and vegetables available during the winter months. If you have access to the Internet, it is very easy to do a search for seed catalogs. Many vegetable and flower seed catalogs can be found on the internet where many of the websites have a place you can request a free catalog simply by submitting your name and mailing address. If you do not have access to the Internet, a trip to the local public library may be a good place to get Internet access where you can look for seed catalogs.

Although most seed companies will have sufficient quantities of seed to fill orders it is still a good idea to get your orders in early so you get the seeds you want. Some companies offer “early bird specials or discounts” or a “freebie” to entice gardeners to fill their order early and not wait until the last minute. Another advantage to ordering seeds early is to allow time for gardeners who like to get a head start growing their plants early in the house or a greenhouse instead of waiting to sow seeds directly outside later in the spring.

When deciding what seeds you are going to order it is a good idea to ask yourself a few questions about the plants you are getting ready to order to avoid purchases not needed or ones that will not be successful. Although this sounds simple, the first question to ask yourself is exactly what plants you are thinking about buying. There are times when a plant may have a catchy name or descriptions that make them sound outstanding or be a “must-have.”  This may lead to a situation of not getting the plant you thought you ordered. Common names can vary, but look for a Latin or scientific name, or determine what type of plant it actually is. If you are not able to figure out what type of plant it is, then it may be best not to order it.

Another question to ask is do you really need this plant. It is easy to get caught up in all the great pictures and descriptions in those seed catalogs, especially when you are anxiously waiting for spring so you can get out and start on that garden. The plant may sound outstanding and it probably would perform great somewhere but remember to check on the plants growing requirements. Consider the location you plan on planting the plant and then see if the plant in question fits that location. Determine growing requirements like sun/shade, soil type, hardiness zone, space, and moisture needs.

One other important question to ask when considering ordering seeds of a specific plant is how pest prone the plant is and does the variety you are considering have any disease or pest resistance. It is especially important to look for disease resistant varieties of vegetables when there has been a history of diseases in the location. The best example of this is ordering tomato seeds. Look for the tomato varieties with all those letters at the end of the tomato name. For example letters at the end of a tomato variety name may be “VFNT.”  These letters mean resistance to certain diseases like Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilts (race 1 or race 2 or both), nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, etc. The more letters at the end of a tomato’s name, the better off you’ll be.

All the Christmas decorations are packed away and we spend January complaining about money spent and weight gained during the holidays, think about ordering some seed catalogs (they are usually free to order!) and enjoy January by looking at all the plants available and planning out that vegetable or flower garden for the spring.

Reminder:  If you would like to learn more about Horticultural related topics, then join the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture.” This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.