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Sacramento catches a break in hottest July on record

Weather roller-coaster continues; triple-digit temperatures return this weekend

At Harvest Day 2022, master gardeners Peggy Ruud, left, and Debi Brakebill were among the greeters handing out gift bags at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Visitors at Harvest Day this Saturday also will receive gift bags.

At Harvest Day 2022, master gardeners Peggy Ruud, left, and Debi Brakebill were among the greeters handing out gift bags at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Visitors at Harvest Day this Saturday also will receive gift bags. Kathy Morrison

We’re riding a weather roller-coaster. After another warm weekend to end July, temperatures are expected to dip into the low 80s for parts of the greater Sacramento area before returning to triple digits by week’s end -- and Harvest Day.

Saturday’s forecast will be in the range of 97 to 105 degrees, says the National Weather Service. Sunday will be even hotter.

Harvest Day, the Sacramento region's biggest free gardening event, is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, at Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in Fair Oaks Park. The forecast high: 102 degrees at 5 p.m. 

The first week of August follows a yo-yo weather pattern of temperature dips and spikes that we’ve seen all summer, including four times in July. We saw record highs (107 each time) on July 1 and July 16, but we also saw record overnight lows (53 twice) on July 9 and 10. (The high on July 9 was an almost-shivery 76 degrees.)

The warmer days outnumbered the below-average ones; 17 days recorded highs above average for their dates. July’s high temperatures averaged 94.3 – almost two degrees above average for this month in Sacramento.

“Remember, even normal temperatures this time of year are still quite warm and can cause heat-related illnesses,” tweeted the NWS Sacramento office on Monday morning. “Be sure to stay cool & hydrated!”

Compared to other places, Sacramento got off easy during what will be remembered as a red-hot July. Climate scientists estimate that July 2023 is the hottest month ever recorded on Earth with three continents – North America, Europe and Asia – experiencing deadly heat waves. Last week, heat advisories or warnings were issued for the home communities of more than 128 million Americans.

Some heat has been truly extreme: Phoenix recorded highs of 110 degrees or hotter every single day in July, hitting 119 degrees three times. Helping to maintain that record heat, overnight lows stayed above 90 degrees on 19 nights.

Fortunately for the greater Sacramento area, August is expected to be a more normal month with most days in the low to mid 90s – thanks to the Delta breeze.

Those lower temperatures literally take the heat off our tomatoes, peppers and other summer crops. It still will be warm enough for steady ripening and harvest, but cool enough for these plants to also set more fruit. For example, tomatoes need temperatures below 95 degrees to set.

Keep your garden evenly hydrated – not too wet but never completely dry. Provide afternoon shade if possible for developing tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

And start planning and planting for fall; those little lettuce seeds sprout faster in warm soil.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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