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Dry November follows soggy October


Moisture meter
This moisture meter in a grow bag tells the story
of November: Mostly dry. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Totals so far this month similar to recent drought years

One bomb cyclone is not enough to end a drought.

October’s deluge posted record one-day rain totals (including 5.41 inches at Sacramento Executive Airport), but a very dry November is putting that wet start to our rain year in perspective.

So far this month, we’ve received only .72 inches – about the same precipitation for November 2019 and November 2020. Normal for the month: 2 inches.

Our forecast for the remaining week (including Thanksgiving) looks dry, too. According to the National Weather Service, the next chance of rain won’t arrive until Dec. 1.

That’s after a soggy October in Sacramento that totaled 6.72 inches, more than four times average for that month.

Thanks to all that early rain, Sacramento is still in pretty good shape, water-wise, compared to where we stood in drought years 2019 and 2020. Sacramento Executive Airport has received 7.44 inches so far since our new rain year began Oct. 1. That’s 41% of our average total (18.1 inches) and more precipitation than we received in all of the previous rain year (6.61 inches) that ended Sept. 30.

Although that stormy October made quite a splash, winter is when nature really builds its moisture reserves with Sierra snowpack at higher elevations and slow-moving, soaking rain in the Valley.

Unfortunately, our long-range forecast looks pretty dry. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, our winter will be warmer and drier than average. Late December can expect some big storms, but January, February and March – usually our rainiest time of the year – will see lower than normal precipitation, perhaps 5 to 6 inches below normal.

With that dry forecast in mind, local water providers are still offering rebates and resources for water-efficient upgrades. Learn more at www.bewatersmart.info .

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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