When the ground is covered in frost, getting to work on your veg plot is likely the furthest thing from your mind. However, there are plenty of delicious fruit and vegetables to grow in January – all of which guarantee you some 5-a-day magic in the warmer months to come.
There are plenty of plants to sow in January, but there are several fruits and vegetables you can grow in January too. The grow-your-own trend isn't going anywhere fast, not least of all due to the ongoing cost of living crisis – although most of the gardeners filling their plots with edimentals are less interested in yields than you might expect.
'Enquiries are more about helping the environment and understanding how fruit and vegetables are cared for,' says a spokesperson for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
'Gardeners have turned away from intensive cultivation, fertilisers and watering on a lavish scale and are happy to accept modest yields but benefit from knowing they are tending their plots in a more sustainable way,' they add.
One of the best ways to achieve this admirable goal? Knowing what's in season, and what will thrive at certain times of the year: don't fight against the elements.
The best fruit and vegetables to grow in January
It is a fact universally acknowledged (by the RHS, at least) that the most popular GYO crops are tomatoes, followed by cucumbers, courgettes, chillies and runner beans.
Almost all of these, however, will benefit from being planted later in the year – unless you adhere to Monty Don's chilli seeds tip, of course – so what, then, are the best fruit and vegetables to grow in January?
1. Spring salad crops
Spring salad leaves? For winter? Genuinely groundbreaking – but Monty Don counts these tasty little morsels among the best fruit and vegetables to grow in January.
'The spring salad crops are sown in the first week of January,' he writes in his gardening blog. 'These will include rocket, mizuna, Little Gem and Tom Thumb lettuce, and curly endive.'
Noting that he sows these into seed trays or plugs using peat-free compost, the gardening guru adds that it's best to let them germinate on a heated mat in your greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.
'None of these plants will ever go outside but will be planted into soil in the big greenhouse at the beginning of February and harvested from mid-March through to mid-May,' he says.
Where to buy spring salad seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: a bumper selection of spring salad seeds
- Crocus: more than enough varieties of spring salad seeds to shake a lettuce leaf at
Another surprising entry to the list of best fruit and vegetables to grow in January is the aforementioned chilli plants.
'Sowing chillies as the first seeds of the year is a smart choice for gardeners; all you need to do to get started is sow your chilli seeds in a small pot of seed-starting compost and barely cover them,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.
Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.
Much like the salad leaves, these fiery beauties will need to be started indoors, so it's a good idea to brush up on how to grow chillies in pots.
This also means that there are endless opportunities to grow your chillies on a windowsill, terrace, patio, window box, sunny conservatory, or greenhouse – so you can have some GYO fun, no matter what your situation!
Where to buy chilli seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: a wide selection of chilli seeds
- Crocus: lots of different chilli seeds, ranging from mild to sizzling
3. Broad beans
When it comes to sussing out the best fruit and vegetables to grow in January, you can't go wrong with broad beans.
'Broad beans are very hardy, so they can tolerate this month's colder snaps,' promises Andrew O'Donoghue of Gardens Revived.
RHS-trained gardener Andrew O'Donoghue set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Christopher, in 2018 to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.
'If it's very chilly, you can pre-warm the soil and cover them with a cloche from Amazon,' Andrew continues.
'However, if the ground is too hard to sow your seeds in, don't worry: they'll grow well in pots, too. You'll just need to transplant them outdoors when they've started growing in earnest – usually around April.'
Where to buy broad bean seeds:
- Crocus: a good selection of broad bean seeds
- Thompson & Morgan: many varieties of broad bean seeds
- Sarah Raven: plenty more broad bean seeds to choose from
Herbs might be the forgotten saviours of most meals, but they truly are a fantastic way to add flavour and colour to any dish. And, thankfully, they're very easy to grow – even in the colder months. So now is the time to start prepping those herb garden ideas.
'Herbs like parsley and chives can also be started indoors in January,' says Morris.
'They don't require warm temperatures for germination, and having fresh herbs ready in early spring is convenient for cooking!'
Where to buy herb seeds:
- Crocus: we're big fans of this kitchen herb kit
- Thompson & Morgan: a multitude of herbs, including these tasty chive seeds
- Sarah Raven: lots of different herbs, including these Parsley 'Moss Curled' seeds
Now is the perfect time of year to learn how to grow garlic, according to Andrew, because these 'tasty vegetables thrive in cooler soil'.
'January is great for planting garlic cloves in well-drained soil,' he says.
Morris agrees, noting that, while garlic is typically planted in the autumn, 'you can do so in January because garlic requires a period of cold to develop properly; planting now allows for this cold stratification'.
Where to buy garlic bulbs:
- Thompson & Morgan: the Grow Your Own Onion & Garlic Collection is ideal for beginners
- Crocus: try the French garlic collection for spring planting
Should you (ahem) give peas a chance when the weather is chilly? Absolutely you should; both Morris and Andrew count them among the best fruit and vegetables to grow in January – plus they're also one of the easiest vegetables to grow for beginners, too.
'Peas can handle a light frost,' says Andrew. 'But, for an early start, try sowing them in a greenhouse or under cloches.'
Morris agrees, adding that, 'much like broad beans, starting pea seeds indoors in January allows you to transplant seedlings outside when the weather warms up in the spring'.
Where to buy pea seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: a wide selection of different pea seeds
- Sarah Raven: try the Pea 'Alderman' variety
- Crocus: an abundance of pea seeds to choose from
7. Bare-root fruit trees
As long as the soil isn’t frozen, you can still plant bare root trees in January – which is good news for anyone who dreams about picking their own fruit in the hazy summer sunshine.
'Planting trees in their bare root form is a more economical way to add to your garden, and the plants will establish more quickly because they are not in pots,' says Sean Lade, gardening expert and director of Easy Garden Irrigation.
'Planting a fruit tree is easy to do, so if you’ve not grown one before, then we’d encourage anyone to have a go – they bring so many benefits,' adds Alice Whitehead, communications officer at sustainable gardening charity Garden Organic via The Wildlife Trusts.
'From free local fruit, to helping wildlife by providing a home and food for insects and birds, fruit trees provide joy all year round. What’s even better, is that no matter the space you’ve got available – be it patio, small garden or allotment – fruit trees come in all shapes and sizes.'
She finishes by noting that 'they don’t need to be huge, with dwarf varieties suitable for large pots or you can even train apple trees to be stepped over on an allotment!'
Some examples of the bare-root fruit trees and bushes you might consider planting are:
Where to buy bare-root fruit trees and bushes:
- Thompson & Morgan: A wide variety of bare root fruit trees and fruit bushes, from blackcurrants to pears
- Crocus: A good selection of bare root fruit, including gooseberries and peaches
Keen to learn how to grow onions? Then you'll be pleased to know that, like everything else on this list, they are considered to be some of the best fruit and vegetables to grow in January.
'January is a fantastic time for starting onions from seeds because, like peas and broad beans, you're allowing enough time for growth being transplanting them outdoors,' says Morris.
Andrew agrees, noting that onions need a long growing season. 'For an early start, sow yours in a greenhouse or under cloches,' he says.
Where to buy onion seeds:
- Thompson & Morgan: A wide variety of onion seeds
- Crocus: An abundance of onion seeds
- Amazon: A selection of winter onion sets
What fruit and vegetables can you plant in January?
'January is generally a cold month with winter conditions, so the selection of fruits and vegetables to sow is more limited compared to milder seasons,' says Morris.
However, he adds that you can still get to work on your allotment – especially if you're happy to start some seeds indoors or plan for early spring planting.
From hardy and cold-tolerant options – like broad beans, onion sets, peas, and bare-root fruit trees – to seeds you can start indoors, such as chillies and salad leaves, there are plenty of options to choose from.
'Rhubarb crowns can also be planted in January,' adds Morris. 'While you won't harvest rhubarb immediately, establishing them during the dormant season allows them to develop strong root systems for future growth.'
Is January good for planting?
There are plenty of seeds you can start off undercover in January – indeed, Monty Don says this is actually the best month to plant chilli seeds.
Still, it's worth remembering that growing fruit and vegetable seeds indoors will require a lot of patience, as you likely won't be able to transplant them outdoors until the weather warms up.
Alternatively, you could take the time to prepare raised beds for winter, or focus on getting your bare root fruit trees planted and established ahead of the springtime.
With so many fruit and vegetables to grow in January, you have more than enough reasons to make 'grow my own food' one of the New Year's resolutions to get started on in earnest.
We promise that all of your hard work will pay off; in our experience, fresh fruit and veg always tastes so much better when you've grown it yourself.
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Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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