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Rain coming soon to clean air

We'll all be relieved when the air quality map no longer looks this red. At least there's no purple on it today. (Image courtesy

Storms will help wash away smoke, ash

Help is on the way -- both for firefighters and gardeners.

According to the National Weather Service, rain will start arriving in Northern California late Tuesday night. Sacramento has a 90 percent chance of rain Wednesday, off and on showers Thanksgiving Thursday, then another good soaking on Friday.

Bad for travel, great for air quality. This welcome rain, the first real precipitation of our current season, will wipe away most of the lingering wildfire smoke, ending almost two weeks of unhealthful air. It also (hopefully) will help extinguish the remains of the Camp Fire, the worst in state history.

These storms end a significant dry spell. So far this rain season (which started Oct. 1), Sacramento has received only 0.04 inches; normal is about 3 inches for October and November. Sacramento is expected to get at least a half inch before a sunny Saturday and Sunday.

In anticipation of this storm, turn off the sprinklers this week. Then, plan to get busy next weekend. Soft ground is great for transplanting.

Meanwhile, avoid the bad air outdoors. According to the Sacramento region air quality districts, Sacramento reached 189 Sunday on the Air Quality Index, with 179 predicted Monday. That's unhealthful for outdoor activity. Rain will bring those numbers way down, at least into the moderate range (which is still unhealthful for sensitive individuals).

What is in that bad air? According to, Fine Particulate Matter - known as PM2.5 -- is "a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulfates, dust, water and tire rubber." The AQI measures the particulate level at five sites in Sacramento County plus several other stations in the region. Sacramento's measurement is made at 13th and T streets downtown.

When is the air worse? Usually late at night. According to the National Weather Service, overnight inversion traps pollutants close to the ground. All that smoky air acts like fog, then gradually lifts after dawn.

Here's the forecast timeline for our region. (Image courtesy National Weather Service, Sacramento)


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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