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How 'normal' is current water year for Sacramento, NorCal?

Rain totals add up to something rare for area

The "normal" rainfall we had this year was well-timed, producing abundant blooms on many plants this spring, including this pink and white pelargonium (often called geranium).

The "normal" rainfall we had this year was well-timed, producing abundant blooms on many plants this spring, including this pink and white pelargonium (often called geranium). Kathy Morrison

How would you describe Sacramento’s “water year” so far? According to the rain totals, we had a very wet winter; the rest of the time, not so much. In other words, our rain picture is finally “normal.”

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, which makes this a good time to catch up on our water picture.

The good news? Sacramento (and Northern California overall) had enough big storms this winter to refill reservoirs and boost our overall soil moisture. On May 22, Folsom Lake – the main reservoir serving the greater Sacramento area – was at 95% of capacity and 120% of its historical average on that date.

As gardeners, we saw the results in our landscapes this spring, with abundant blooms and heavy fruit set on trees.

After an above-average April and thunderstorms in early May, Sacramento has totaled 17.60 inches for the current water year, which started Oct. 1. Average for that period: 17.60 inches.

So, according to the National Weather Service, our current water picture couldn’t be more normal. And after recent prolonged droughts, normal feels just right.

How normal are our rain totals right now? Take the current month of May as an example. In Sacramento, its rain total – 0.57 inches – all fell on one day (May 4). Historically, the entire month of May in Sacramento averages 0.57 inches, says the weather service.

There’s little to no chance we’ll see any more precipitation this month, says the weather service, which estimates the probability of rain at “0%” through May 31.

While temperatures will dip into the 70s leading into the long Memorial Day weekend, seasonal heat is coming soon, adds the weather service. A high of 87 is forecast for Monday, Memorial Day, followed by several days in the low 90s (or close to it).

Summer really is right around the corner.

For more on Sacramento weather: https://www.weather.gov/sto/#.

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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* 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 early 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.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* 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. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* 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.

* 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.

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