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Tips from a master gardener: don't ignore your gardens just because it's January

Master Gardener John Hethrington provides a gardening to-do list for January
John Hethrington is a Master Gardener living in Meaford where he tends 20 different gardens.

John Hethrington has been gardening since the age of 9. He spent his early life gardening in Toronto and earned his certification as a Master Gardener before moving to the area where he cultivates 2.5 acres with 20 different gardens. He publishes monthly garden tips for local newsletters and his column will appear on MidlandToday as well.


In January you can do a few things to make sure your perennials are protected and you are well prepared for the coming growing season. John Hethrington suggests adding these chores (or maybe they're the best part of your day!) to your January to-do list.

  • Inspect houseplants for whiteflies, spider mites and aphids. 
  • Apply insecticidal soap and spray with water.
  • Inspect spring bulbs in storage. Discard soft or mouldy ones.
  • There has been lots of snow, but if there is a thaw and the snow melts away, mound any remaining snow over roses and tender perennials. It’s the freeze/thaw cycle that kills the plants.
  • Cut the limbs off your, now discarded, natural Christmas tree and put them over tender perennials to catch the snow for added protection
  • Expand personal knowledge through online courses, plus catalogues, etc.
  • Think about and start planning your garden for next spring.
  • Make detailed lists; BIG projects, regular maintenance, new plants to buy, plants to donate to the St. George’s Plant Sale June 5 or 12, 2021.
  • Google “seed catalogue websites” and see hundreds of seed sources.
  • Order flower and vegetable seeds. Decide which seeds should be started inside.
  • If you can find them, try forcing amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus for indoor winter bloom.
  • At the end of the month, start the slowest germinating seeds like begonias and geranium, also seeds for early spring bloom e.g., pansy, verbena, alyssum and dianthus.
  • Pick up some Triple-19 agricultural fertilizer. This is the strong agricultural fertilizer to put on top of the snow on your flower beds (not your lawns) in March, before the snow has melted. It will fertilize your flower gardens all summer long.