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Is it too hot for February favorites?


Jonquils in a container are particularly susceptible to drying heat. Make sure to water bulbs in pots. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Heat wave toasts daffodils, speeds blooming



This dry, warm February feels good to people, but not so comfortable for winter-blooming plants.

Daffodils open one day, wilt and brown the next. Tulips topple over in the afternoon. Flowering pears shower white petals.

Camellias appear two weeks ahead of schedule. Saucer magnolias are almost over the top.

These unusual conditions are expected to continue several more days with record or near-record highs in the upper 70s. Starting Tuesday, Sacramento is expected to hit at least 75 degrees on three consecutive days.

February’s rain meter remains stuck on zero. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento has never had a rainless February. The driest on record -- 1899 -- had 0.04 inches. (That was followed by a very wet March.)

While it may feel like we’ve jumped weeks ahead on the calendar, cooler conditions are expected to return next week. Forecasters predict some much-needed precipitation in early March.

During this warm weather, concentrate on making your plants comfortable:

* Check soil moisture and deep irrigate where needed.

* Turn on the sprinklers and evaluate coverage. Make adjustments as needed.

* Apply insulating mulch around shrubs and trees.

* Pick up fallen camellia blooms to cut down on spread of fungal disease.

* Hold off on planting summer favorites such as tomatoes and squash. Nights are still too cold for their root development.

* Watch out for aphids; knock them off plants with a strong blast of water or insecticidal soap.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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