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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: .


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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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