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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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Garden Checklist for week of April 21

This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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