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Huge storm puts trees at risk

Watch out for leaning trunks and sagging branches

This 25-foot elm in the Pocket neighborhood of Sacramento came down during the New Year's Eve storm. Note the fissures in the lawn.

This 25-foot elm in the Pocket neighborhood of Sacramento came down during the New Year's Eve storm. Note the fissures in the lawn. Debbie Arrington

With the downpour on New Year’s Eve, 2022 made up for what had been a very dry year. And 2023 is starting soggy, too.

Record rain had a huge impact on the greater Sacramento area with flooding in south Sacramento County, major power outages and fallen trees all over the place.

According to the National Weather Service, downtown Sacramento received 2.37 inches on New Year’s Eve – a record for that date – and 4.81 inches fell since Christmas. That brought December’s total to 9.5 inches – almost triple the normal (3.49 inches) for that month.

December brought our seasonal total to 10.66 inches since Oct. 1, the start of our “water year.” That total is 148% of normal for that period, which is good news for our reservoirs and drought perspective.

More rain is on the way, says the weather service. Today (Monday) will see a quick-moving storm with less than one-third inch predicted for downtown Sacramento. The real threat comes Wednesday and Thursday; over 48 hours, an estimated 2.5 to 3 inches of rain is expected to fall.

All this moisture puts trees at risk. Be on the lookout for sagging branches and leaning trees.

Water accumulates in the needles of evergreens, stressing limbs with the extra weight. Horizontal limbs are at the greatest risk of breaking. The tree may groan or creak, often a signal that a branch is about to fall – or the whole tree is coming down.

Lawn trees – particularly those affected by drought – are especially susceptible to uprooting; all it takes are strong winds to accompany that moisture. Need proof? On New Year’s Eve, dozens of trees fell in Sacramento neighborhoods, pushed over by 40 mph gusts.

Lawn trees tend to have shallow roots and less of a foothold. If the soil is soggy, those roots give way.

Before the tree falls, there are usually warning signs, such as fissures in the soil around the tree. That’s a sign the roots are pulling loose.

If you see such fissures, stay away from the tree and call a certified arborist immediately. Your tree may be saved with quick action (and support). Never walk under a leaning tree; the soil may be too unstable.

For more information on tree care and finding an arborist, go to:


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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