Transplant early spring bloomers like bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis, Zones 3–9), baby blue eyes (Nemophila phaceloides, annual), and spiderwort (Tradescantia spp. and cvs., Zones 4–12). While October and November are a good time to broadcast seed for spring-blooming wildflowers, January is the time to transplant the early spring bloomers, which will already be visible as small rosettes at this time. So if you have extra seedlings coming up, now is the time to move them around and expand their range in your garden if desired.
Plant bare-root trees and shrubs. While Arbor Day is celebrated in spring, the best time to plant trees in the Southern Plains is actually fall and winter. January is an excellent time to plant bare-root trees (including fruit trees), roses (Rosa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), and berry bushes, however. Planting them in January will give them several months to establish a strong root system before the heat of summer begins.
Add compost to your garden. Since many of your garden beds may be vacant this month, now is a great time to add organic matter to your beds without disturbing the plants. Spring growth is right around the corner, so any organic matter you add now will help to sustain that growth.
Cut back grasses and perennials. While much of last year’s garden growth has likely died back and been cleaned up by you already, a few things may remain. Plants that were left standing for winter interest or as a source of food or habitat for winter wildlife can be cut back now. Grasses like big muhly grass (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, Zones 7–11) or switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, Zones 4–9) can be cut back now in advance of their new spring growth.
Rifle through the catalogs. You hardcore gardeners probably received your favorite seed catalogs in the mail in December. (If you haven’t requested any yet, it’s not too late! You can request your favorites online, and they are typically sent in two to four weeks.) January is prime time for dog-earing the pages of your new seed catalogs. Get out your catalogs, a pencil, and some sticky notes, and start planning for those spring gardens. Some of my favorite seed catalogs include Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Native American Seed, and Seed Savers Exchange.
—Karen Beaty is a horticulturalist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.