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Shadow or no shadow, we could see an early spring

Sacramento's February weather outlook looks good for gardening

Thin winter sunshine highlights narcissus in bloom. We could have more dry days than wet this month.

Thin winter sunshine highlights narcissus in bloom. We could have more dry days than wet this month.

Kathy Morrison

After a very wet January, what can we expect in February?

Will our local groundhogs (OK, they’re ground squirrels) see their shadows on Thursday’s Groundhog Day? More important: After three years of drought, can we expect more rain?

 Accuweather predicts a few other stormy days this month with the longest stretch of wet weather likely to be Feb. 20-23. Even then, rainfall totals are expected to be low.

That is unlikely to fulfill February’s average rainfall total. This month’s rainfall in non-drought years averages 3.63 inches – a major chunk of our annual total.

Our February days will be mild, predict the weather experts. Most of this month will be right around average – highs of 60 and lows of 42 – before warming into the high 60 by month’s end. But record temperatures (high of 76 degrees and low of 23) on either end of the scale are unlikely.

December and January storms have put plenty of moisture into our water bank. Downtown Sacramento totaled 9.52 inches in December and 7.54 in January; those two months almost surpassed our annual average of 17.6 inches.

Heavy Sierra snowpack looks like it will assure relatively good snow melt – and fuller reservoirs. Our drought isn’t over – yet – but we at least have a more positive water outlook for the hotter months to come.

Before turning on the sprinklers or irrigation system, check soil moisture; your landscape may not need watering. With these cooler temperatures, soil is slow to dry out, and plants may get too much water. Be on the lookout for crown rot.

Expect to see rapid growth sooner than later this month. Prompted by rain on the warmer side, daffodils and other bulbs have been quick into bloom. Newly pruned roses are sprouting shoots. Buds are already swelling on fruit trees.

This could be a good month to plant bare-root trees and shrubs, too. The same goes for perennials. They’ll put down roots quickly in that moist soil.

Afternoons in the high 60s are forecast for the last week of February, ending winter on a warm note. Maybe we’ll be in for an early spring, no matter what the groundhog’s shadow predicts.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* 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.

* 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 wee 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.

* 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.

* 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.

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