It’s a new year, and soon we’ll be into the thick of gardening again! Here’s some tips on what to do to get ready:

Check over your tools. If you didn’t do this in the fall, scrub spades, forks and hoes with hot water, then dry thoroughly and wipe over with an oiled cloth to prevent rusting. Blades can be sharpened, but don’t over do it. Replace any toools that have worn out or become lost somewhere in the garden. Take your pruners in to have them professionally sharpened – it will make the spring pruning chores so much easier.

Spend some time looking through seed and flower catalogs to decide what you want to grow this year. Try something new! The West Coast Seed Catalog is the best free planting resource available. Not only does it list hundreds of vegetables, herbs and flowers to grow, but it tells you when to plant them and how to grow them successfully. Pick up a copy at one of our stores. We also recommend checking out Renee’s Garden for a full range of very reasonably-priced flowers and vegetables. And we love the amazing selection of tomatoes available through Baker Creek Seeds. Check for local seed companies at each Dig This store.

Check the dates on any seeds you have saved from last year to see if they will still be viable. Most seeds are good for 3 years, and some even longer. I once planted 7-year old lettuce seed and still had good results. However, onion seeds will usually not last more than 1 year. Germination rates will get lower as seeds get older, but they are still worth a try.

Don’t forget the birds. Food is scarce at this time of year, so keep your bird feeders topped up. Put up bird houses or nesting boxes to attract birds into your garden. The birds will help you by eating annoying insects and watching them is just plain good entertainment. Don’t forget the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds. They really appreciate the extra food that hummingbird feeders provide in the cold months.

Do a soil test.  Find out now what nutrients your soil is missing and then apply the appropriate fertilizers before you plant.

We’ve been spared really cold weather here on the Coast so far this winter, but we could still get a cold snap before spring. Hopefully, you mulched plants well in the fall , but if you didn’t, do it once the weather’s warmed up a bit in case we get another cold snap.it’s not too late. You can protect pots outside from freezing by wrapping them with bubble wrap plastic or simply cluster them all together in a sheltered corner on the patio or close to your house, this really helps to protect the roots against the frost.

January is a good time to take stock of your garden and think about redesigning certain areas that maybe in need of a re-vamp or change. This may mean disposing of some older, more mature plants to make way for new young plants next spring.

Check for slugs and snails hiding under pots, old bricks or stones. Winter digging will expose their eggs, which will be a welcome feast for the birds.