What to do in your Southern California garden in January
Rob D. Brodman


Plant bare-root fruits including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

Order onion sets (dormant bulbs) to plant next month. Short-day onions are best—they form bulbs with 10–12 hours of daylight. Plant them in full sun, and amend the soil with compost. Water regularly.

Shop for bare-root artichokes. Space them 4- to 6-feet apart and plant them vertically, with buds or shoots just above soil level. After growth starts, water them once a week, and feed monthly with high nitrogen fertilizer.

Plant desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) in Sunset climate zones 18-23 while it’s dormant for a beautiful, drought-tolerant large shrub or small tree. In late summer it will erupt in large, orchid-shaped blooms in magenta, blush pink, and rose.

Buy aloes. Many are blooming now, showing off coral or yellow candelabras, so you can choose the right color for your garden.

There’s still time to plant California poppies and seeds for other spring-blooming wildflowers. Choose a spot in full sun. Rake the soil slightly and water to dampen. Sprinkle seeds onto damp soil and rake gently, just enough to cover seeds. Unless it rains, continue gentle watering to keep the soil damp until seeds sprout.


If you haven’t already done so, prune dormant fruit trees and vines such as apricot, peach, apple, and grape. To prevent peach leaf curl, apply a copper-based spray.

Fertilize established stone fruit trees with a granular organic fruit tree fertilizer. The label will tell you how much to use, based on tree size.

Prune dormant roses. Clean up dead, diseased, or crossing branches; then cut back canes by about 1/3, trimming just above outward-facing canes.

Check drip irrigation systems for leaks or kinks. Open the ends of drip lines and run the system for a few minutes to flush, or install self-regulating auto-flush valves.

Make a watering basin around newly planted trees and shrubs, out to the tree’s drip line. Let the hose drip into the basin to saturate the soil, then add a 3- to 4-inch-think layer of mulch, keeping it away from the tree’s trunk.