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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 Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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