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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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