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Get ready for warmer days ahead

As Sacramento weather finally feels like spring, expect rapid changes in your garden

Enjoy spring flowers while you can. They'll be gone soon.

Enjoy spring flowers while you can. They'll be gone soon.

Kathy Morrison

Is your garden ready for the 70s?

Sacramento temperatures are expected to warm up dramatically – at least for a few days. After a rainy (and very cool) Friday, Sacramento could see 78 degrees on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. We’ll also see a warm and sunny Easter Sunday with a predicted high of 76.

Normal for this week in Sacramento: 71 degrees.

But another cold front is expected to tamp down temperatures again midweek with a high of 64 degrees on Wednesday and overnight lows in the low 40s. Don’t worry if you just set out your tomatoes; the long-term forecast sees more 70s coming soon.

Usually, we’re hotter by now. On average, Sacramento sees its first 80-degree day on March 27. We haven’t topped 80 degrees all year. March 13 and 17 both recorded highs of 68 degrees, and that’s as warm as it got all month. On Feb. 12, we hit 72 degrees (and expected an early spring); that was our warmest day of 2023. It’s been kind of damp and chilly ever since.

So far, Thursday (April 6) was our warmest April day at 65 degrees – six degrees below normal for that date. Nights have also remained cold; four out of the first five nights in April dipped down into the 30s with one frost warning.

That’s kept the ground cold, too, and slowed growth of many young plants – including weeds.

So, if your early vegetables are just kind of sitting there and doing nothing, that’s why. Blame the weather.

That excuse will soon be gone. With this rapid warm-up, be ready for change:

* Enjoy the last days of spring-blooming bulbs. Our cool March extended the season for daffodils, tulips, freesias and other spring favorites. They’re fine in 70-degree weather, but will quickly fade as we approach 80 degrees. Cut some bouquets to bring indoors.

After they finish blooming, these bulbs still need water so they can finish their growth cycle. Their foliage is collecting energy for next spring’s flowers. Remove spent blooms, but keep the leaves attached until they yellow.

* Keep an eye on soil moisture. Recent rain may have dampened the mulch, but what about soil roots? Is there enough moisture where plants need it? Use a soil moisture meter or a trowel; dig down 6 inches and look.

* Container-grown plants can dry out quickly in warmer weather. Make sure to give them a drink.

* Watch seedlings and new transplants. Keep them evenly moist. Mulch will help insulate their roots.

* Attack weeds. Don’t wait; weeds love, love, love this weather – especially after a little rain.

* Be on the lookout for powdery mildew. This fungal disease is triggered by warmer weather; 72 degrees is its sweet spot. Examine rose leaves or foliage on other vulnerable plants such as peas. If you see an infected leaf, remove it immediately.

For more on powdery mildew:


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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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