All right, y’all. We made it past the holidays, and now we’re into big gardening time. So, you’re probably wondering, “What can you grow in January?”
January is kind of a dull month. All the major holidays are over, we’ve all got sticker shock at how much we spent in the past couple months, and it’s freakin’ cold. So, not much fun, which is where starting your seedlings comes in. The seed catalogues are rolling in, and it’s time to start figuring out what you’ll grow.
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(this article is an excerpt from my bestselling book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. You can get a copy on Amazon or buy it directly from me which will save you 10% and you’ll get the digital copy for free. Buy your copy right here)
What can you grow in January?
Now, there’s definitely some vegetable seedlings you can start indoors under lights, which you can eventually transition out to cold frames. I show you in this article which vegetables do best in cold frames. And there’s some things you can grow right in your kitchen, such as sunflower microgreens (tasty for you AND your chickens). So, if you’re still wondering “what can you grow in January?” then hang onto your pants (please, do, really. No one wants to see you with your pants down), and check out the list below.
Kale (Brassica oleracea acephala)
My old friend kale does well in cold weather, and because of that, you can start it right now if the gardening itch is getting to you. You can buy kale seeds from my favorite store Seeds Now. Keep that grow light about 1-2 inches above the pots. I tend to broadcast kale and then thin because the seeds are so tiny. My old eyes and cranky finger joints can’t handle the fiddly-ness of individual potting. If this sounds like you, then broadcast in trays filled with soil, and cover lightly with dirt. In Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, I show you how to care for kale, harvest it, and save the seeds. All important stuff for a self-sufficient garden!
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
So, confession time. I grow lettuce for my chickens and my rabbits because it’s fun watching them eat it, and I’m not a huge fan of lettuce personally. You can get organic lettuce seeds for a reasonable price right here. I started using this plan because I always wanted to grow in January, even though I’m not a huge fan of lettuce. But it works out, and the critters are happy with everything I grow for them (in January and the rest of the year, too). So, lettuce isn’t that much different than kale, although it IS less cold loving.
Because we live in Missouri, and don’t have a spring, I start these in January. The rule of thumb is to start lettuce seeds indoors under lights about 6 weeks before the last spring frost date. Go here if you want to grow in January based on the last spring frost date.
Lettuce seeds like a heat range of 45 – 75 degrees for germination, so if you’re startings seeds inside your house, you should be okay, but if you’re starting out in a garage, you might need a heat mat like this one. If you care for your lettuce seedlings well enough, you should get quite a few early spring harvests out of them. Just remember that your lettuce will be with you indoors through January and on into the later months before transplant, so they’ll need a bit of space – go with 6 inch pots to start them so they have plenty of room to grow.
Mustard (Brassica juncea)
Mustard is another one I start to grow in January. It’s best to start mustard 3 weeks before your last spring frost date, but in this neck of the woods, that can be very early. In 2017, we had a series of very warm weeks in February and into March, and it never really cooled down again. And mustard doesn’t like heat, so it shoots up, and I lose my crop. Which is why I start it under lights as early as January 15. Like kale, mustard seeds are small and fiddly, so I broadcast in a tray and then thin.
Those seeds like temps at least 55 degrees, so again, if you’re starting them outside in a greenhouse or garage, use a heat mat. You can also learn how to heat your off grid greenhouse, which is simpler than it seems. Mustard seeds are another one I save. It’s easy, and I show you how to do it in Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening.
Onions (Allium cepa)
Onions are a bit tricky, and if you want to grow in January and transplant, now is a good time to get going. Now, fair warning: They need a lot of space and it’s easier to start them from sets. But if you’re dedicated, you can definitely have success starting them under lights in January. Onions need temps over 30 degrees to flourish, so just remember that when you start your grow tray.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
I’ve never had much success growing spinach indoors since it doesn’t transplant well, but maybe you’ll have better luck. You can buy organic spinach seeds here. I prefer direct sowing, especially since it can survive light frosts (the plant, at least. The seedlings….that’s another story). Spinach needs soil temps of at least 40 degrees to grow, but doesn’t do well if soil temps are above 70 degrees. So, this is a good one to start in a cold frame or in a garage under lights. Or a greenhouse!
You can start various herbs now for transplant in your garden in spring/early summer. If your house is warm enough, you can start them under lights without a heat mat (although it’s easier with the heat mat). You can buy organic herb seeds here.
Use these tricks to starting seeds easier
There are some seeds that take a few extra steps to start (or, it can help them start better). In this article, I show you 2 easy tricks that should be in your master gardener toolkit to starting seeds from certain vegetables easier! Wondering what can you grow in January for your chickens? Well, luckily, pretty much all the veggies we discuss in this article are great for chickens. Mine particularly like kale, herbs, and spinach!