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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: https://www.weather.gov/sto/.

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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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