Planting in the January Thaw

Photo via freedigitalphotos

Although not a regularity, the January thaw happens almost every year, and most parts of the country enjoy a slight rise in temperatures that last about a week before dipping back down again for the arrival of February. During this time, temperatures rise on average about ten degrees from the week before, making it an optimal time for more southerly areas to begin planting.

What Regions Can Start Planting?

Some areas of the country experience below freezing temperatures all winter long, and even with the January thaw, are still too cold for planting. The more southerly regions where temperatures hover around freezing or are a few degrees warmer throughout the winter months can take full advantage of the January thaw to get their gardens started.


[image via  MotherEarthNews]

Looking at the map above, the Gulf Coast and Southern Interior regions are optimal areas for January planting. The coast of the Southwest also enjoys a warmer winter and with the January thaw, can get a head start on planting as well. Aside from planting new crops or flowers, these areas may begin to see new growth of already established plants during this time.

What to Plant

One of the easiest and hardiest plants to sow during the January thaw is bulbs. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, it is easy to get hooked. The optimal time to plant bulbs is in the fall of the previous year, but they can be planted as early as mid-August and as late as the end of January.

When planting bulbs in January, keep in mind they may not bloom when spring comes because they have not established themselves yet. If the bulbs you are planting are ones that bloom in the summer, you may get lucky and see their beautiful color the first year. The weather in your area plays a big role in determining when and if your newly planted bulbs produce blooms the first year or not.

Other Things to Plant During the January Thaw

Besides planting bulbs, the Gulf Coast region is warm enough during the January thaw to allow for planting of some vegetables and trees, too. Some things you may want to sow include:

  • Potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Asparagus
  • Horseradish
  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, kale Brussels sprouts, etc.)
  • Iceland poppies
  • Violas
  • Pansies
  • Toadflax
  • Gerbera daisies
  • Fruit trees
  • Flowering trees (weeping cherry, dogwood, etc.)

Take advantage of the January thaw so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor come springtime.