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Reminder that it's still winter: Frost warning!

Plant kale and other leafy greens now — not tomatoes. Remember to protect tender seedlings. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

After record February heat, chilly nights are coming soon

This is why you don’t plant tomatoes in February. It’s still winter!

Need a reminder? We’re about to get one.

According to the
National Weather Service , Sacramento can expect frosty nights coming soon. Rain? That’s still a question mark.

But change is in the air, says the weather service, with an “unsettled weather pattern” starting Monday.

After enjoying spring-like temperatures in the high 60s and record warmth only a week ago, Sacramento will see several days in the 50s and more typical February weather. Overnight lows will plunge down into the low 30s with possibilities of frost on Wednesday and Thursday nights – especially in the foothills.

Gusty winds of 20 to 30 mph are expected Monday and, with them, the threat of winter wildfires. Brush is tinder dry. Be careful using power tools outdoors; one spark can start a blaze.

What about rain? A storm system is expected to dust the Sierra with a little fresh snow late Monday and early Tuesday. The foothills may see showers, but Sacramento’s chance of rain from that system is estimated at only 5 to 10%, say the forecasters.

If no measurable precipitation falls before Monday, Sacramento will set a record for longest dry streak during what’s supposed to be our rainy season. Sunday will tie the current record of 44 consecutive rainless days, set in 1976.

As for frost, protect any tender seedlings or frost-sensitive plants such as succulents. That includes covering new transplants with large water bottles, gallon milk jugs or other clear plastic containers. Leave an opening for plants to breathe.

Find more frost tips here .

This weekend, take the opportunity to deep water, especially citrus, shrubs and perennials. Camellias could really use a drink. This pre-frost irrigation will help plants cope with cold, too.

If you feel the urge to plant something, choose kale or other cool-season greens. Leave the tomatoes indoors where it’s warm for at least a few more weeks.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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