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First day of spring is cause for celebration

Plenty of sunshine and flowers welcome start of new season

Cherry blossoms herald the start of spring. The warm, sunny weather is expected to continue through Thursday.

Cherry blossoms herald the start of spring. The warm, sunny weather is expected to continue through Thursday. Kathy Morrison

It’s official (as of tonight): It’s finally spring.

The new season officially arrives at 8:06 p.m. Tuesday, March 19. That’s when the Earth’s axis is tipped just right so night and day in the Northern Hemisphere are (nearly) equal in length. The first day of spring is an equinox, which means “equal night” in Latin.

The spring equinox can fall anywhere between March 19 and 21. (The fall equinox hits somewhere between Sept. 21 and 24 each year. In 2024, it hits its mark at 5:43 a.m. Sept. 22.)

In many cultures, spring represents renewal and rebirth, and this first day is celebrated with festivals and ceremonies, often incorporating eggs, flowers and sunshine.

According to folklore, eggs can be balanced on end during the equinox. (Actually, eggs – with a little practice – can be balanced on any day.) Bosnia celebrates the first day of spring with “the festival of scrambled eggs.”

In the U.S., we roll out the eggs for Easter celebrations. Marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the full moon after the equinox. (That’s March 31 this year.) Dyeing and hiding “Easter eggs” are spring traditions dating back long before Christ.

Pagans celebrated the start of spring with lots of eggs and the festival of Eostre, the goddess of fertility and spring. Her spirit animal was a rabbit (another symbol of fertility). Over the millennia, Eostre’s rabbit morphed into our Easter Bunny.

Other spring commemorations center on flowers and sunshine. In Japan, cherry blossoms herald the new season and a time of reflection. At England’s Stonehenge, crowds celebrate the sun’s rays at dawn (while following ancient Druid traditions) and sip dandelion tea to cleanse their blood. In Mexico, celebrants wearing white climb the ancient Teotihuacán Pyramid to get closer to the sun’s warmth.

In Sacramento, spring arrives with plenty of that warmth and high temperatures in the mid 70s – about 10 degrees above average for this week.

Which means the best way to celebrate the start of spring in Sacramento: Get outdoors and enjoy this weather! Your garden is waiting.

Or just take a walk. Cherry and pear trees are flowering all over town. So are more daffodils, tulips and other spring blooms.

But keep those sweaters and umbrellas handy for the weekend. According to the National Weather Service, rain is forecast Friday through Monday with below normal temperatures. Sacramento’s predicted high for Monday, March 25, is only 60 degrees – five degrees below average.

What kind of spring weather can we expect? According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Northern California’s long-range forecast for April and May “will be warmer and drier than normal” followed by a heat spike in early June.

For weather updates:


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Garden Checklist for week of April 21

This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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