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Rain? What rain? We're still in dry year

Yes, we've had some rain this month, but less than normal. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Could we be inching towards another drought?

No March miracle for Sacramento this year; we’re still dry.

Although March had some rain, it didn’t add up to that much: 1.68 inches total for the month. “Normal” for March is 3.02 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

That sub-par March followed a bone-dry February, the first Sacramento February in recorded weather history with no precipitation at all.

So, where does that put us on the rain scale? We could be inching towards another drought.

According to the NWS, Sacramento’s rain total since Oct. 1 – the start of our rain year – is only 7.71 inches. That’s less than half of our average to date – 16.08 inches. Last year (which was a wet one), we had received 20.31 inches by the end of March.

That soggy 2019 will help get us through this dry 2020. Our reservoirs are in good shape, which likely will stave off irrigation restrictions and other drought precautions.

But your garden may need some deep watering – especially large trees and shrubs.

Keep an eye on soil moisture. Check your landscape for dry spots. If you can’t plunge a long screwdriver or similar tool at least 6 inches into the ground, give those nearby plants a long, slow drink.

Will spring showers make up for that rain shortfall? It’s unlikely. Historically, Sacramento’s April, May and June average 2 inches of rain combined.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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