What to plant in January

Soil Blocks
Photo: Justin Russell

I reckon most humans have a psychological longing for green. Summer rain has deeply satisfied my longing and I’m filled with optimism when I look out my office window and see nothing but lushness. 

The moisture profile of the soil is equally satisfied and my rainwater tanks are brimming. The timing of the rain couldn’t be better and it means that in my cool temperate climate I’m gearing up for a major pre-winter planting effort.  

Over the next four weeks I’ll be sowing long-season brassicas such as Purple Sprouting broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, and slow-to-germinate root veg including parsnips and carrots. The brassicas will be sown into punnets, and planted out into the garden in about six weeks time. The roots will be sown direct into a prepared garden bed, hopefully germinating strongly in the warm, moist soil and powering away through late summer and autumn. I know it seems counterintuitive to plant winter crops in summer, but trust me, if you’re in an area that gets frost from about May onwards sowing now gives the best chance of cool season harvest. 

That’s not to say that I won’t be planting some more warm season veg. There’s still time in temperate climates to get in a fresh batch of sweetcorn and zucchini alongside late crops of bush beans and cherry tomatoes. If summer rains have also been kind in your area, there’s even time to get in some evergreen fruit trees such as citrus, olives and feijoa. 

January is the ideal month to plant cucurbits in the subtropics. Get in some watermelon, cucumber, zucchini and pumpkin, enriching the soil sowing with plenty of composted manure. To prevent the seeds from rotting in wet weather, sow into mounds about 20cm tall. It’s a good time to get in some more beans, corn, basil and eggplant.   

In arid and semi-arid regions, January is usually a scorcher. Temperatures regularly in excess of 30 degrees really test plants, even those that thrive in hot summers. If you have water available for irrigation and are keen to plant something this month, try things like basil, cucumber, watermelons, pumpkins, eggplant, chilli, okra and sweetcorn.  

A monsoon trough has descended upon the tropics, bringing heavy rainfall in a broad swathe from northern WA to the north east coast of Queensland. Unless you’re totally hard core and don’t mind adding to the seasonal tempest with buckets of sweat, it’s a good time to down tools, take a break and prepare for a busier planting session next month. If you really must plant something now, go for moisture lovers such as arrowroot, banana, cocoyam, snake beans and lemongrass.


By: Justin Russell

First published: January 2018

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