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After storms, expect several frosty nights

December has been good for rain totals -- so far

Keep frost cloths handy but not on tender plants -- such as this lime tree -- during the daytime this week. Clothespins or binder clips can help keep the cloths together at night if you have to use more than one cloth to cover a plant.

Keep frost cloths handy but not on tender plants -- such as this lime tree -- during the daytime this week. Clothespins or binder clips can help keep the cloths together at night if you have to use more than one cloth to cover a plant. Kathy Morrison

Turn off the sprinklers! After our recent soaking rain, our irrigation systems can take a break.

How much rain did we get? Enough to get our current water year back on track.

According to the National Weather Service, downtown Sacramento has received 4.69 inches since Dec. 1. (That includes 1.71 inches this past weekend.) Normal through Dec. 12 is 1.27 inches and all of December averages 3.25.

This month’s storms help make up for a bone dry October and barely moist November. So far, Sacramento has received 5.75 inches since Oct. 1, the beginning of our “water year.” Normal to date: 3.98 inches.

That means Sacramento’s rain totals are currently at 144% of normal. Yay!

That’s good news for our reservoirs, too.

“The foothill and valley rains have begun to saturate our very dry soils with resulting runoff beginning to filter into the interior NorCal reservoirs,” tweeted the NWS Sacramento office. “Current water storage at Shasta Lake at 31% of capacity, Oroville 29%, Folsom 28% and New Melones at 25%.”

That Folsom Lake percentage is not as bad as it sounds. It’s 69% of historical average for Dec. 12. Still, there’s room for a lot more.

And it illustrates just how dry we were in 2022, likely still the driest year on record in Sacramento history.

We’ll need many more rainy days to make up for our current water deficits – and right now, none is in the forecast. A ridge of high pressure is keeping our skies clear – and cold.

Instead of an umbrella, keep your frost cloths handy and be ready to protect tender plants.

According to the weather service, Sacramento can expect “widespread frost” and overnight lows right around freezing every night through at least Monday.

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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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