Judging from March flowers, this spring looks like many others: Abundant daffodils glow in morning sunshine. Saucer magnolias cover bare limbs with giant purple blooms. Flowering pears cover the sidewalks with white petals.
But Sacramento gardeners realize there’s a major difference this spring. It follows a rainy winter.
The ground, which had been rock hard following four years of drought, still feels moist. A shovel slips in easily as we turn the soil, preparing vegetable beds for planting. We can think about growing a summer garden without a twinge of water guilt.
Plants feel the change, too. Trees and shrubs, which looked near death just a few months ago, sprout fresh foliage. Sacramento’s heritage camellias, survivors of many droughts, have bloomed like they haven’t flowered in decades. In the foothills, wildflowers paint hillsides with swaths of vibrant yellow and blue.
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Recent weather remains cool and wet. All this moisture has put us in an optimistic gardening mood. For Sacramento, the drought finally feels over. A record 17.89 inches of rain fell in January and February, 10 inches more than normal. But that doesn’t mean we should replant dead lawns.
No matter how much it rained this winter, our summer will still be dry. Sacramento averages about a quarter inch of rain for June, July and August combined. And that new grass will need at least an inch of irrigation a week during those hot summer months.
That’s why this spring is full of opportunity. This is the right time to replant that landscape with water-wise perennials, native shrubs and other drought busters. Those new transplants have a chance to become “established” – deep rooted and healthy – before the next drought arrives.
Because this is California; more drought is as inevitable as sunshine. These rainy days gave us an opportunity to be better prepared for dry months ahead.
Need inspiration? That abounds this spring, too.
On Saturday, March 25, the California Native Plant Society hosts its annual spring plant sale at its Elderberry Farms Native Plant Nursery at Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova. Best suited to survive our up-and-down water availability, thousands of plants native to our region will be available along with expert advice on selecting the right native for the right spot.
See how other city dwellers incorporated natives into their gardens during the annual “Gardens Gone Native” tour Saturday, April 8. More than 1,000 interested gardeners took this free self-guided tour last year.
This spring, 28 gardens – including a dozen first timers – will be on this popular tour, according to organizers. With featured gardens in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties, there’s something for almost every soil type and local growing condition.
Also hosted by the Sacramento Valley chapter of CNPS, the tour includes plant lists of what’s growing and blooming in these gardens. Docents will be on hand to discuss each garden’s unique attributes and designs. To receive the map of gardens, sign up now at www.sacvalleycnps.org.
Gardeners also can find a spring respite and more plant suggestions at the UC Davis Arboretum. Freshened by that winter rain, its water-wise gardens look spectacular this month. They’re open daily to visitors.
In addition, the arboretum’s teaching nursery will host two more public plants sales, set for Saturdays, April 8 and 29, featuring a wide selection of proven drought busters.
Because the best time to drought-proof a garden is when we have water.