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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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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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