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Showers break Sacramento's record dry spell at 66 days

Storm drops 0.34 inches; more rain -- then heat -- coming soon

Moisture meter in pot
Well, it's better than "dry" but Tuesday morning's rain isn't going to solve all the
garden irrigation needs. Pots especially, as the meter above shows, didn't get
thoroughly soaked. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

During the last week of winter, Sacramento finally snapped its dry streak. At long last, we got measurable rain.

“Drought buster? Hardly, but we did finally snap the longest dry streak in winter at downtown Sacramento this past hour,” the National Weather Service tweeted at 3 a.m. Tuesday. “After 66 days of dry, we can now add 0.02 (inches) to the water year totals.”

Fortunately, more rain fell during Tuesday morning. According to the weather service, as of 1 p.m., Downtown Sacramento had received 0.34 inches, making Tuesday the rainiest day of 2022 (so far).

Tuesday’s showers broke a record winter dry spell that was three weeks longer than Sacramento’s previous longest streak without measurable precipitation during our October-April rainy season. Before these almost-spring showers, downtown Sacramento last got measurable rain (0.05 inches) on Jan. 7. Normally during January and February, Sacramento gets more than 7 inches of rain.

March will add to its rain total later this week. The weather service forecasts more showers on Saturday, starting sometime after 11 p.m. Friday. But we’ll need a lot more to get on track with something approaching normal; March historically averages 2.75 inches of rain in Sacramento.

What does this mean for your garden? You probably need to water. Irrigate young transplants and keep newly planted seeds evenly moist. Put down a fresh layer of mulch around tender (and thirsty) plants.

Before irrigating, check the soil for moisture. If you can’t plunge a 6-inch screwdriver more than an inch or two into the ground, deep water now.

Or use a trowel to actually take a look at your soil. Dig down and roll some dirt in your hands. If it clumps into a ball, it has enough moisture. If it doesn’t, irrigate.

Fast-growing and blooming plants will really need that moisture next week. After a showery and cool Saturday, temperatures are expected to climb rapidly. Sacramento’s forecast for next Tuesday: 84 degrees.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 27

Before the rain comes later in the week, take advantage of sunny, calm days:

* This may be your last chance this season for the first application of copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now, but they need a few days of dry weather after application to really “stick.” If you haven’t yet, spray now.

* Rake and compost leaves, but dispose of any diseased plant material. For example, if peach and nectarine trees showed signs of leaf curl this year, clean up under trees and dispose of those leaves instead of composting.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of any debris.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above the ground after they’re done blooming. Keep potted mums in their containers until next spring. Then, they can be planted in the ground, if desired, or repotted.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

* Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Other suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas.

* Seed wildflowers including California poppies.

* Also from seed, plant sweet pea, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons and other spring flowers.

* Plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from winter rains.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cool-season greens can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* If you decide to use a living Christmas tree this year, keep it outside in a sunny location until Christmas week. This reduces stress on the young tree.

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