I have seen garden editors right that there is very little to do in January. How wrong! This is a very busy time of the year for vegetable production. In our cold desert climate with warm days and cold nights some of the best vegetables of the year are produced. Cool and cold winter temperatures slow growth of plants which concentrates flavors and reduces bitterness in many of our cool season vegetables.
Germination from seed. As long as temperatures are warm enough during the day, seed germination of cool season vegetables may take longer but they will germinate if the soil is warm enough. Loose, dark, fluffy soils are warmer than heavy soils. Work in enough compost so that the soils are no longer compacted. Warm air during the day must be able to enter the soil through loose pores to warm it.
Select vegetable seed of known varieties that have performed well in the past or have been recommended to you by others who are good gardeners. Don’t use varieties of seed that are unknown to you unless you just want an experience and don’t care about the end result.
Know the temperature of your soil. This is important because diseases that are dormant in the soil may affect some vegetable varieties if the soil temperature is borderline for them. Beans are a good example and may fail due to root diseases if planted in soils that are too cold.
Prepare the area to be planted with seed with a high phosphorus fertilizer of your choice. Triple super phosphate is a good choice for conventional gardeners. Bone meal, bat guano, mushroom compost are good choices for organic gardeners.
Cover soils to be planted with clear or black plastic to warm the soil. I prefer clear plastic. Cover the soil with plastic two or three days before planting. Pin the edges of the plastic to the soil. Cover the edges of the plastic with soil so the wind does not lift the plastic. Just before planting cut slits in the plastic where seed is to be placed and leave the plastic on the soil surface until plants have germinated or longer.
Pre-germination of vegetable seed initiates seed germination. Pre-germinating the seed is wetting the seed long enough for a long enough period so the seed absorbs water. This is the first step in germination. The seed is kept in water at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours. The seed is then removed from the water and the surface dried in the air or with paper towels. The seed should be planted as soon as it is dry enough to plant.
Planting depth of seed is related to its size. Very tiny seeds are placed on the surface and covered lightly with soil. Larger seed are planted in the soil to a depth twice its diameter.