Be prepared; forecast calls for freezing temperatures and strong winds
So much for our sunny skies! Grey clouds and gusty winds have returned. Near-freezing temperatures, too.
Sacramento is about to get a double-dose of wintry weather: Intense cold and strong wind.
According to the National Weather Service, a storm front will create hazardous conditions Wednesday through Friday – including rare snowfall in the Sacramento Valley.
“Heavy low elevation snow with dangerous travel impacts expected tomorrow through Friday,” the Sacramento NWS tweeted Tuesday morning (Feb. 21). “Snow levels will fall to 1,000-2,000 feet tomorrow, with snow levels down to about 500 feet to the northern Sacramento Valley floor early Thursday morning and Thursday night to early Friday.”
Yes, snow is possible on the floor of the northern Sacramento Valley – and closer to home. Auburn, at 1,227 feet elevation and Placerville (elevation 1,867), definitely fall within the potential snow zone. But there’s a slight possibility flakes will fall as low as Roseville (elevation 164).
It’s not just the cold but the wind.
“Gusty winds will increase this afternoon over interior Northern California, slowly decreasing overnight,” the Sacramento NWS tweeted Tuesday. “Expect gusts 30 to 45 mph in the Valley and foothills and 40 to 70 mph over the mountains. Downed trees and branches, local power outages and difficult driving conditions are possible.”
In addition, overnight frost warnings are in the forecast Tuesday through Friday. Daytime highs will drop 20 degrees; the expected high on Thursday and Friday in Sacramento is only 48 degrees.
After several days of sunny, springlike weather, this downturn will be a shock to our plants, most of which already are in high-growth mode. Blooming fruit trees likely will lose their blossoms and may not set fruit. Expect to see some dieback on sprouting shrubs (such as roses). Newly transplanted vegetables or sprouting seeds are in danger of damping off.
What’s a gardener to do? Hold off on planting anything more until after this cold spree. Protect tender seedlings with row covers, milk cartons, water jugs or other shelter. Deep-water shrubs, trees and perennials; moist soil radiates heat and can raise the soil temperature (and surrounding space) just enough to prevent frost damage.
For more on freezing and frost, check out these recommendations from the UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners: https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/ENVIRON/frostdamage.html.
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For week of Dec. 3:
Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!
* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.
* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.
* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.
* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.
* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.
* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.
* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.
* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.
* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.
* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.
* Plant garlic and onions.
* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.
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