Take Charge of Your Garden Chores for January

A person with a hand full of fresh soil.

Use this time to get the mower into the shop for a tune up and sharpening. You should be able to take a break from the lawn the rest of the month.

This is also a good time to do selective pruning on shade trees. Make a clean cut at the branch collar. See Tree & Shrubbery Tips from the N.C. Cooperative Extension. Cut back ornamental grasses, as well as liriope and mondo grass, before spring growth begins. Inspect house plants for insect infestations such as spider mites, scales and whiteflies.


  • If the weather is mild and you want to go ahead and apply the spring fertilizer, you can.


  • The live Christmas tree should be planted as soon as possible. Do not leave the root ball exposed to freezing temperatures after removing the tree from the house.
  • Evergreen shrubs can be pruned now.
  • Fertilize shade trees if they have not been growing well.
  • Selective pruning may be done on shade trees. Make clean cuts at a branch collar.
  • Liriope and ornamental grasses can be cut back if desired.
  • Avoid pruning spring blooming shrubs as this will remove the spring flowers.
  • Yellowing and dropping leaves on house plants can result from several possible causes: too much water, too little water, too little sun, cold temperatures.


  • Plant fruit trees, grape vines and brambles.
  • Prune grape vines and highbush blueberries.
  • It is best not to prune fruit trees until March, especially peaches.


  • Start your garden plan on paper as you browse the garden catalogs. This will help prevent ordering more than you have room to plant.
  • After checking your seed inventory, make a list and place seed orders for things you may not be able to find locally.
  • When the soil dries out enough to work, go ahead and prepare a spot for the late February planting of peas and kale.
  • If you are maintaining winter vegetables in a greenhouse or under plastic tunnels, remember that venting on sunny days will be important to prevent over-heating.


  • Clean out bird houses and put up new ones. Bluebirds and some other songbirds start scouting for spring nest boxes in February.
  • Use deicing salt sparingly. Sweep excess salt off the pavement as soon as it has dried. Some newer salt products are less damaging to plants, but still need to be used with care.

Prepared by Buncombe County Cooperative Extension.