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Is Sacramento headed for an early spring?

Warm days and early blooms belie true weather conditions

These narcissus seem to be ready for spring, but we still have several weeks of winter ahead of us.

These narcissus seem to be ready for spring, but we still have several weeks of winter ahead of us. Kathy Morrison

This weekend will feel almost balmy in Sacramento. According to the National Weather Service, we could hit 70 degrees on Sunday and Monday – 16 degrees above average for the last week in January.

While other parts of the country are still digging out from snow, are we headed for an early spring?

Anecdotally, several signs of impending change (and warmth) fill my garden. Japonica camellias and daffodils are starting to open – weeks ahead of their usual appearance. Rose bushes are pushing out new growth. Those bushes still waiting to be pruned are already blooming again.

But all this spring-like growth and weather could be just an illusion. We’re still in winter – and will be for several more weeks.

Although we can enjoy these few warm winter days, our highs will be back in the low 50s by next weekend. That return to “normal” temperatures will be accompanied by another storm system that’s currently charging across the Pacific Ocean. When, where and how much rain it will deliver are still to be determined.

“A wet system will likely bring widespread precipitation around the end of the month,” noted the weather service on Friday. This system has “potential for gusty winds, heavy rain and heavy high elevation snow.”

We’ve already had a wet January. According to the weather service, downtown Sacramento has recorded 3.11 inches so far this month (through Thursday); that tracks .15 inches above average through that date.

Daytime temperatures also have been on the warm side, with highs averaging 56.4 degrees – almost a full degree above normal.

Saturday represents another kind of weather benchmark. After decades of recommending a “last frost” date of mid March, most experts now cut off our frost period at the end of January. According to the Sacramento County master gardeners, our average last frost date is Jan. 27.

But still keep those frost cloths handy, just in case. In 2022, Sacramento hit 32 degrees on Feb. 24 and dipped down to 35 degrees on March 6. Our latest-ever freeze on record (30 degrees) hit March 27, 1898.

And wait to set out those spring seedlings until temperatures stabilize in late March – when it really is spring.

For weather updates: https://www.weather.gov/sto/.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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