In January, about the only thing in the garden worth looking at is the moose that wander through. But when the average temperature is 10.1 degrees below zero, even the moose usually don't merit a trip outside for a closer look. Despite the weather, we can all take heart that our daylight is once more slowly reappearing, even if it is only a few minutes more each day!
Plan Your Plot. I think of January as the month to do basic pencil and paper prep work for the garden plot. Decide which varieties to plant, where to place your crops this year, and how to lay-out your gardens.
Keep Track of Your Garden. I have kept a gardening journal for over a decade now, and find great pleasure in thumbing through it every winter. I use it to remind myself of techniques that worked and varieties that performed well.
Extension Service Excellence. If you are new to gardening or new to arctic conditions, spend some time at your local Cooperative Extension Service. Better yet, sign up for a Master Gardening class, where you will meet other like-minded individuals and learn all the peculiarities of cold climate gardening.
Be Careful About Bulbs. If you have bulbs, corms or tubers nestled in boxes of sawdust, gently check for rotting specimens and discard them. And while you are out in the garage, check the moisture needs of the roses you are over-wintering.
Investigate New Varieties. Many cold climate gardeners seldom venture out beyond the standard potatoes, carrots, and outdoor tomatoes. This year, consider growing something challenging such as 'Red Warty Thing', a winter squash with a bumpy red rind that takes 110 days to reach maturity. 'Orange Queen' slicing tomatoes are a determinate variety that produce juicy, lightly seeded 4-6 ounce fruits within 90 to 100 days.
Tasty Turnips. Finally, if you have any turnips left over-wintering in your root cellar or garage, try using them instead of potatoes when you make oven fries. Slice six or eight of them into thin sticks, throw them into a pan and toss on a tablespoon or two of olive oil; mix and turn the sticks until they are well covered, and bake for 15 minutes or so in an oven set to 400 degrees F.