To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: January 2011

Mid-January is about as early as you can get seed going under light. That’s still plenty early for hardy vegetables and long-season crops. In any event, it always takes me a week or two after New Years to recover from the holidays and get back into a rhythm.  So, anytime from mid-month to the end of January…

The end of January is a good time to start artichokes from seed

Plan & Purchase:
The most important gardening task in January is planning. Enjoy seed catalogs, sketch out dream gardens, or figure out where to put that next raised bed or pot.  Take an inventory of your existing seeds, toss any that no longer germinate with verve or those varieties that you don’t actually enjoy. Order the seeds you will want for this season. Try a new variety or several but try not to go crazy just because everything in the catalog sounds good.  None of us has unlimited space or time.
January and February are good months to order any bare-root fruit trees, bushes, canes or vines you might be adding to your garden this year: they’ll need to get to you in time to be planted before they break dormancy.

  • Spring & Summer Vegetable Seed
  • Bare Root Fruit Trees
  • Bare Root Fruit Bushes
  • Bare Root Cane Fruit & Vines

Sow Indoors:

  • Leeks – sow summer leeks now.  Territorial Seed recommends Roxton for summer harvest but personally I save the precious summer bed space for Walla Walla’s and sow hardy cultivars of leeks as a fall/winter crop.  Remember to use fresh seed.  Allium seed does not keep well.
  • Onions – I buy Walla Walla sets at the nursery or through Territorial Seed later in the season, but it will save you some money to start your own onions from seed now.  Remember to use fresh seed.  Allium seed does not keep well.
  • Salad Greens – From the end of January until mid-October, I’ll sow salad greens (lettuce, endive, mache, etc.) every 3 weeks or so.  If you start lettuce under lights towards the end of January,  you’ll be able to transplant out under a cloche at the beginning of March.  If you didn’t get a bed prepared and cloched, keep those lettuces growing under lights and harvest them small right from the seed tray.  This month I’m seeding Winter Density, Victoria and Little Gem Romaine Lettuces, Rhodos Curly Endive (frisee) and Mache (corn salad).
  • Spinach – I start spinach along with lettuce.  Culture is the same except spinach will germinate and grow under even cooler conditions.  I even have some baby spinach growing up around the garlic in an uncovered raised bed. When we put the garlic in early last November we tossed a handful of older spinach seed around as a sort of informal cover crop.  The seed hung out over the worst of the cold weather and is now growing happily.
  • Peas & Favas – most people sow peas directly in the ground sometime between late February and April.  If you want to get a jump on peas and fava’s, you can start them indoors under lights as early as mid-January.  This year, we’ll be sowing them in late January or early February in a length of gutter.  The idea is that you can plant the gutter with a long row of peas, and when they are big enough to transplant, you gently push the whole length of soil and peas into a prepared furrow.  I love the idea – I’ll report back on how it actually works.
  • Artichokes – Most winters artichokes will over-winter in my area, especially if the crowns are protected with a thick layer of mulch.  Well, this year I was too busy with a newborn to even think about mulching, and our night temps dropped into the teens.  So guess who’s starting artichokes from seed this month?  This girl!  We grow Green Globe and Violetto cultivars and start them mid-January in 4″ pots for planting out in March.
  • Cardoons – In the same family as artichokes, but instead of the unopened flower bud you eat the blanched stem.  They are a large tender perennial.  I don’t grow them (not enough room yet) but if I was going to I’d start from seed at the same time I started Artichokes.
Plant Out: 
  • Bare root fruit trees.  I’ve got a whole mini-orchard planned, but we have a lot of soil building work to do first, so it’s unlikely to go in until next winter.  So hard to wait!
  • Bare root fruit bushes (currants, gooseberries, blueberries, etc.).
  • Cane fruits (blackberries, raspberries, etc.).
  • Rhubarb crowns.


  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Overwintering Cabbage
  • Carrots & Parsnips
  • Kale & Collards
  • Chard
  • Leeks
  • Turnips & Rutabagas
  • Greenhouse Lettuce
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Sprouting Broccoli
  • Stored Potatoes
  • Stored Winter Squash

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