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Dry, warm February includes unwanted buzz


With so many bulbs and other plants blooming, it might as well be spring. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Mosquitoes out early; is drought on horizon?



Unusually warm and dry temperatures may make it feel like spring, but they also bring notes of caution from Sacramento weather watchers.

Monday’s high of 73 degrees tied a Sacramento record, with 72 degrees forecast for Tuesday. By contrast, our “normal” for early February daytime highs is 60 degrees.

What’s more alarming is the lack of moisture. So far, February – usually among the rainiest months – has been bone dry. Historically in Sacramento, this month averages more than 3.5 inches of precipitation.

With such dry weather, forecasters have been mentioning the dreaded “D” word – drought. After tracking almost normally, our rain year has fallen far off pace. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento Executive Airport reports 6.14 inches total rain since Oct. 1, the start of our rain year. Last year, it measured 10.48 inches through Feb. 10. “Normal” to date is 11.19 inches.

What’s worse is that 6 inches is only a third of the 18-inch “normal” rain year total. That means new rounds of conservation measures may be coming soon.

According to the NWS, the driest Sacramento February on record was way back in 1899 – only .04 inches. In more recent decades, February 1995 saw only .19 inches, but that followed widespread flooding in January of that year.

A consequence of all this warmth: Mosquitoes. They’re out early – and hungry. According to the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, these early biters are a species that overwintered in rice fields that surround Sacramento. This warmth woke up the bugs, and they’re now aggressively seeking first blood. They’ll follow people and pets indoors in search of a meal.

Don’t let these pests make themselves at home. Empty any standing water outdoors. Wear long sleeves and long pants when working in the garden.

For more mosquito-busting tips:
Fightthebite.net .

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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