An opportunistic list of seeds you can sow in deep winter

Oh boy, it’s snowing outside! There were little piles of snow lying around in shady corners, from the last time it snowed, but todays snow will leave a white carpet on our garden for at least a week, if not two. I’m sure of that, knowing that it will continue to snow all throughout the evening with temperatures that will go towards -6C. This is my preferred type of weather to start the first – mostly indoor – sowings of the year. In this post I will tell you what you can sow in January, or better phrased: what I will be sowing in January.

I really benefitted from the sowing list that I made in July last year. It provided me with a path of things I should sow and as a reward it gave me some extra harvests later that year. Without the list I would have not sown much in summer. You know how these kind of things go in the midst of the growing season. You just forget to start new things, as you are focussing on other things that are already halfway harvesting. Especially during those not so obvious sowing periods in the year I need a list of things that I have- and want to sow. And winter is one of those periods. Hopefully it will help you on your way as well.


Perhaps it’s an unnecessary remark, but make sure that you investigate your local circumstances and possiblities before you blindly follow up my list. As I always mention, I live in the south/east part of France in the Alps, so I’m dealing with very interesting and specific circumstances. Although we have very warm and dry summers, we have also very cold snowy winters. At the same time I have to work with a long shadow period in the morning due to mountains and forests. And on top of that we have a super cold and horribly isolated house, so I don’t have a very good place to start some heat loving seedlings inside (more on that later). When I’m making a sowing list, I’m taking all these things into account and learning from earlier years.

I do tend to sow with a positive outlook on life, so I seem to ignore well-meant warnings that say that I can’t sow this or that during a specific period. The climate changes, the seeds change, our needs change, so fear not and just start exploring. That’s my gardening philosphy at least.
I learned last year for example that I could sow broad beans in the midst of summer and therefore got a very decent crop out of them in autumn. What a treat. At the same time I’ve learned that I can’t sow broad beans in autumn (like other people do), as my growing season is too short to get them to sprout and establish in time before winter hits in. You really have to figure these things out by yourself. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get inspired or informed by others. So here is my list for you!


  1. peppers IoH
  2. aubergines IoH
  3. okra IoH
  4. lettuce I
  5. spinach I
  6. mache I
  7. turnips I
  8. summer brassica’s (white cabbage & cauliflower) I
  9. chard I
  10. pak choy I
  11. carrots I
  12. celeriac IoH
  13. celery IoH
  14. potatoes IiP
  15. shallots O
  16. leeks I
  17. onions (sets and see ds) OuC & I
  18. garlic O
  19. flowers (sweet peas, lobelia, petunia, calendula, borage, honeywort and viola) I

I = indoors O = outdoors oH = on heatmat iP = in pot uC = under cover

As you can see I made a list of 19 things. Which is a big amount to sow before the end of the month. But I’m going to do it. And fair is fair, some of the things I have already done (like the garlic and onions), so they are just there on the list for you. Because I’m nice like that. The idea is that I will have nineteen things to sow every month. Inspired by the number of the year we live in. Giving myself this pretty random number as a goal and limit, will force me to look creatively at the possibilities I have and will hopefully reward me with a unusually good harvest.


As you can see on the list above, I will sow (or plant) certain seeds indoors and other things outdoors. Another difference is that I will place some seeds on heat mats in tiny soil blocks and others I will plant in big pots for an early harvest without a growmat.
I want to explain to you why and how I will do this and what kind of materials I use, so that you can follow my reasoning and then make your own plan based on your own options.

indoors vs outdoors

There will be only a few things planted outdoors this month. I have planted garlic, onions and shallots outdoors. I did that a long time ago, but you can still do that if your soil is accessible. The only thing that I planted under cover of all those things are the onions. I have used a simple plastic mini tunnel. I did this because I don’t think it will be possible to grow them over winter in our climate and I wanted to give them some extra protection. But we’ll see, perhaps it will work.

All the other things that I will sow in January will start their lives indoors. Indoors will mean two things, or two places for me. The heat loving crops will grow in our living area, where we use heating. On top of that I will use a heatmat to raise the heat up a few more degrees.
The other crops that don’t require such a high temperature to sprout and grow, will be sown and grown on our ground floor. This is an unheated area in our house that doesn’t freeze, but doesn’t get very warm either.

full soil, pots, blocks and other materials

Everything that will be started outdoors, will be planted in full soil. That’s clear. For the things that will be sown indoors I will use three types of pots or blocks. I will use my smallest size soil blocks to sow the slow growing crops (like peppers, aubergines etc).

For the broad beans I will use my usual big yoghurt pots. Because those are big seeds and at the same time they tend to grow very fast. By placing them immediately in big pots, I don’t have to repot them before they will be planted out. The peppers, aubergines and some other crops will be potted up from the smallest size soil blocks to the medium size and so on.

And then an experiment. I want to try and grow very early potatoes. People often do that by planting potatoes in those big black buckets or pots. I’m not a big fan of that, mostly because I don’t like to water stuff. Also, black plastic, in the sun, with food. Meh, not my kind of thing. But as I do want to try and grow early potatoes, I came up with a different idea. I will use a few paper grocery bags to plant my potatoes into. And then in March time, I will dig a big hole in my garden and replant the potatoes in the soil directly in the paper bag, that will compost in the soil. That way, I can leave them for a little while longer to grow, without having to look after them. I can’t imagine that it won’t work.


That’s it. My seeds for January. There are many more garden jobs you can do in January, especially if you are not yet ready to start sowing. Here are a few things that are on my to-do list:

  • clear and clean out your garden
  • create or work on your garden beds and paths
  • cover your garden with available mulching materials for protection against erosion or uncover your soil if you have a heavy soil so that it can break up with frost
  • protect crops (in pots) that need protection against frost
  • trim your fruit bushes (if it’s not freezing)
  • prune (some of) your fruit trees (if it’s not freezing)
  • use a hoe or cultivator to open up the surface around your fruit trees
  • plan, plan, plan for 2019
  • sort/source your seeds
  • harvest your winter crops
  • start sorting out your pots, labels and other sowing materials
  • start sourcing compost/woodchips
  • sprinkle wood ashes on your compost heap and around gooseberries and currants on a dry day
  • place your sowing compost indoors in preparation for sowing
  • plant fruit trees (if your soil is not frozen)
  • start chitting potatoes
  • start sprouting sweet potatoes