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Freezing temperatures forecast for Sacramento region

Overnight lows could reach 29 degrees, kill crops and damage plumbing

Wet today, frozen tomorrow? The predicted temperature drop could harm tender plants and blossoms on fruit trees.

Wet today, frozen tomorrow? The predicted temperature drop could harm tender plants and blossoms on fruit trees.

Kathy Morrison

Get ready for a big chill. Tuesday morning, the Sacramento office of the National Weather Service issued an “Urgent Weather Message” – freeze warnings for the next two nights.

With overnight lows expected to dip down to 29 to 32 degrees, back-to-back overnight freeze warnings will be in effect from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday (March 1 and 2) for Southern Sacramento Valley-Carquinez Strait and Delta-Northern San Joaquin Valley, says the bulletin. That includes the cities of Sacramento, Fairfield, Suisun City, Stockton and Modesto.

Potential impacts could be costly, warns the weather service. “Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops, other sensitive vegetation and possibly damage unprotected outdoor plumbing.”

Those subfreezing temperatures will hit after the Sacramento skies clear and the rain stops late Tuesday, so there’s little chance of snow or graupel, says the forecast.

These two freezes to start March follow a rainy end to February. With rain on six consecutive days, Downtown Sacramento recorded more than 2 inches, including a record 0.91 inches Friday (Feb. 24). All this precipitation will keep soil moist, which is good frost protection. Moist soil retains heat better than dry soil. That difference can raise the temperature around trees and shrubs by three or four degrees – just enough to stay above freezing and frost damage.

That rain also means there’s no need for added irrigation; turn off the sprinklers and drip systems.

Making sure there’s no water in landscape pipes, tubes and heads can help prevent damage during freezing temperatures, too.

Between showers Tuesday, take action. Move plants or add frost covers. Harvest ripe citrus.

The weather service recommends these precautions: “Take steps now to protect tender plants from the cold. To prevent freezing and possible bursting of outdoor water pipes, they should be wrapped, drained, or allowed to drip slowly. Those that have in-ground sprinkler systems should drain them and cover above-ground pipes to protect them from freezing.”

For more tips on freezing and frost:


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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