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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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