January Gardening Tasks

January, the start of the new year falls right in the middle of the summer season in South Africa. This time is a great opportunity to take stock and implement some new resolutions, even in the garden! Some TLC may also be needed after the festive season as many of us have been too busy to tend to our gardens.

General Tasks

  • Mulching is always a priority but especially in summer. Mulch around all plants and veggies using a light 5 – 10cm layer of mulch (dried leaves, straw, bark, coarse compost). It will allow water to penetrate easily but reduces evaporation. It can reduce watering requirements down to 50%.
  • Water 2 – 3 times a week. Monitor the soil moisture by pushing your finger into the soil up to 5cm. If it’s moist, leave for another day before watering. Remember to water early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
  • Rotate plants from indoors and shady patios, as well as hanging baskets, towards the light regularly to ensure even leaf growth.
  • Weed and tidy up overgrown beds.
  • Keep an eye on the water levels of ponds and bird baths. Keep them topped up in the summer months, from January through to March.

Sowing in January

  • Sow sweet Williams, godetias, argeratums and verbenas.
  • If you have left your clivia seeds on they should be a good shade of red by now. Sow them into seed trays while fresh.
  • Start sowing delphiniums in seed trays. You can plant out in March for flowering in November.

READ MORE: Get all the steps for sowing Clivia seeds in our article or watch our how-to video on YouTube.


  • If your beds need late summer colour, plant seedlings of celosias, red salvias, vincas, portulacas and marigolds. All of them will hold the fort for the months ahead.
  • You can also refresh flower beds with seedlings of petunias, impatiens and begonias.
  • Plant the common rush (Juncus effusus) in your water feature to provide cover and nesting sites for wetland birds and other wildlife.
  • Plant cupheas in full sun. They are perfect for neat and uniform borders.

READ MORE: Want more ideas on summer flowers, take a look at these pink, summer-flowering beauties.


  • Feed fruit trees like mangoes, avocados, lemons and granadilla vines. Apply specialised fertilisers for roots, foliage, and future fruit production – use slow-release fertilisers at this time of year.
  • Garden containers, young seedlings and indoor plants must now be fed every two weeks with water-soluble all-purpose products.
  • Azaleas and camellias need their acidic fertiliser and deep water regularly, to help them set buds.

Diving and replanting

  • Pull out the old flowering stems of Inca lilies with a firm tug. You can dig up some roots and new shoots and replant them in other parts of the garden.
  • Lift and divide overcrowded white arum lilies. Cut off old leaves and replant the rhizomes in rich, well-composted soil. Keep the soil moist.
  • Divide overgrown clumps of bearded irises and replant.

READ MORE: Need help dividing your arums? Get the steps here

Plant Cuttings

  • January is the best time to take cuttings, which will be well-rooted and already strong enough to plant out before winter comes around again. Plants to propagate are all the vygies, pelargoniums, viburnums, daisy bushes and lavenders.
  • For vygie cuttings, snip off sturdy stems, pull off all the bottom leaves, leaving just a few at the top. Press them firmly into damp, coarse river sand or a commercial seedling mix. Keep damp and shaded and you will soon have rooted plants.

Pruning in January

  • Refresh your petunias if they have become lanky and listless by cutting them back and giving them a good feed. This will encourage another flower flush.
  • Nip out the growing tips of chrysanthemums and poinsettias to encourage bushy growth.
  • Don’t allow evergreen hedges and topiaries to grow out of shape. Keep them regularly trimmed.
  • Thin out deciduous climbers like wisterias, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and ornamental vines (Vitis coignetiae).
  • Cut spent lilium flowers, leaving the leafy stems to produce enough food for next season. Keep well-watered and well fed until they die down.


  • Feed the lawn with slow-release organic lawn fertiliser to maintain a good colour.
  • Infestations of lawn caterpillars cause brown patches on your lawn and generally peak between January and March. Treat with an organic caterpillar insecticide.
  • If possible, mow lightly and frequently. When watering, do it less often and deeply, rather than frequently and for shorter periods. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil in search of moisture, making it stronger.


  • Pests generally target nutrient-deficient, drought- or heat-stressed plants. Fertilise and water to prevent infestations.
  • Control infestations of whitefly, thrips, aphids and other pests with an organic insecticide spray. If infestations are bad, spray three times in 10 days, followed by once a week for the next 28 days.
  • If you have scale and aphid infestations, you may also see ants. Ants feeds off honeydew and in turn guard aphids. Spray the ants first, then treat aphids and scale.
  • Watch out for hawk moth caterpillars feeding at night on impatiens, arum lilies and fuchsias – remove them by hand.
  • Flush out stagnant water from bromeliads with your hose to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching in there.

Rose Tasks For January

  • Cut back tall growers with flowers towering over your head. When cutting back a stem, make sure there are still leaves below the cut. Don’t undercut all the stems at once but do it in two or three stages a week apart.
  • Thin out dense bushes to allow air and light into the middle of the bush.
  • Rejuvenate neglected or defoliated rose bushes by lightly trimming the top growth and increasing watering. Spray with an organic insect spray. Do not fertilise at this stage.
  • Water deeply 2 – 3 times a week in the absence of good rainfall.
  • Renew mulch on the rose beds but keep a space open around the rose stems for water to penetrate.
  • Spray once a week with an organic insect spray and once a month with an organic fungicide to prevent black spot.
  • Cut off dead blooms to keep the bushes looking neat and to encourage new stems to sprout.
  • Cut back rambling roses to remove branches that have finished flowering – new growth will bring the new flowers.
  • Fertilise leafy rose bushes towards the middle of January. Well-fed roses are more resistant to disease and pest damage.

READ MORE: Take a look at this list of our top 10 favourite roses.

January Veggie Sowing Guide

Highveld and KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

  • Artichokes (globe), bush beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, spinach and Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips.

Middleveld (Pretoria and other less frosty areas)

  • Artichokes (globe), bush and runner beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard, squash (bush and trailing), tomatoes, turnips.

Eastern Cape and Little Karoo

  • Artichokes (globe), bush beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

Western Cape (and Southern Coast)

  • Artichokes (globe), bush and runner beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbages, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, bush and trailing squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

Northern Cape and Great Karoo

  • Artichoke (globe), bush beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, spinach, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips.

Lowveld and KwaZulu-Natal coast

  • Artichokes (globe), brinjals, capsicums (sweet peppers and chillies), tomatoes.

January Veggie Tasks

  • Harvest summer vegetables regularly to encourage constant production.
  • Plant more seedlings of tomatoes, chillies, basil, lettuce, celery, parsley and brinjals.
  • Fertilise summer-fruiting vegetables with a potassium-rich fertiliser. Feed leafy crops after picking.
  • In very hot and dry weather, protect vegetables with 30 – 70% shade cloth.
  • Mulch container-grown veggies just as you would in the garden. It keeps moisture from evaporating, and prevents the soil from compacting, which happens when watering by hand.
  • Remove fallen fruit to discourage pests from breeding in them.
  • Pull out veggies that are past their prime or are diseased. Don’t leave crops to rot. Remove mouldy, damaged or excessively diseased plants to prevent disease from spreading.
  • Pull off the bottom leaves of eggplant up to 30cm as these leaves can create a moist micro-climate for mildew and fungal diseases.
  • In frost-free or moderately warm areas, consider sowing a last crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and Swiss chard.
  • Refresh herb pots with chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage and coriander.
  • Feed herbs in pots with a water-soluble fertiliser every two weeks.
  • Use cuttings of aromatic herbs like catmint, lavender and rosemary as an insect-repellent mulch around plants.
  • If it’s very hot, delay sowing winter veggies in seed trays by a month. The same applies to root veggies that germinate in cooler ground, as well as lettuce.

Weekend Projects

Light up your garden and outdoor areas with solar lights. Make your own by following the steps in our DIY.

Easily harvest those hard to reach fruit from your fruit trees with this 5-minute DIY fruit picker.

Summer recipes to try

Summer in South Africa means endless evenings by the pool and the braai, try these tequila lime prawns with chipotle mayo or make these BBQ chicken pizzas on the braai.

The Gardener