Sow There! Yes, its time to water the yard, 2-28-20

February 28, 2020 at 3:30 a.m.

CHICO — Life is full of mixed blessings. Some that easily come to mind include food – too much chocolate or the second basket of cheesy muffins at Red Lobster.

Over the past month, our group of 22 visiting Fulbright* teachers from 22 countries has taken three weekend trips, each during nearly perfect weather. Sunday, we clomped across compacted snow in inappropriate footwear. Several of the travelers had never touched snow, and had no problem with the one-mile walk to the Sulfur Works near Lassen National Park’s visitor center.

“I can’t wait to feel what snow feels like,” one bus rider said.

“Does it hurt when you get hit by a ball?” another wondered aloud.

On the way home, almond bloom in the valley was about as bright as it gets. This was even better than a week ago, when we returned from San Francisco with horizon soft with pink petals. I noticed, however, that this week the farmers had turned on their irrigation.

Perfect weekend weather. Days that make you itch for a hike in the park. Sunshine that stirs up the serotonin and makes washing your car in the driveway seem like a better use of time than a matinee.

Yet, before you share that infectious smile with too many people in line for Schubert’s ice cream, consider that this could be too much of a good thing.

Dave Kasler in the Sacramento Bee notes that the ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure is parked ominously over the Pacific, blocking the rain from making its way to my back yard. This happened five years ago, and we all learned about tiered water pricing.

The good news, of sorts, is that there isn’t much alive in my yard right now that would die in a drought.

Yes, we need to water our yards in February. If my lawn wasn’t already mostly dead, I would be watering it right now. If I had planted winter vegetables, I would be watering them right now. I do have about 82 plants in pots, and I’m watering them right now.

Life has been good lately, so I’ll choose not to dwell on distant dismal ideas about summer. It could be bad. Let us enjoy this beautimous spring while we can, with daffodils, hyacinth, flowering quince and just about every flowering tree in full bloom.

We can even celebrate by visiting Lassen Peak — in shorts.

Prep now

Another upside to the lack of rain is that giving the soil a good workup should be an easy task. Digging in moist garden plots can cause clumps that need another work-up later in the season. This time of year, every weed known to the north valley sprouts before most big-box stores can restock seeds for the season. If you water your bare soil, the weeds will sprout and you can kill them with a hoe. That’ll stop one generation of new weeds in the yard, if you time it right.

It’s tempting to feel the glow of the sun on your shoulders and get a jump on spring planting. However, it’s still too early. Chances are we’ll have a few nights that will leave some frost on the windshield of your car, which you washed on the lawn because it was such a nice day.

You might, however, plant some vegetable or flower seeds indoors. For seeds like tomatoes and peppers, plant the seeds in a small container cover with plastic, and put in the warmth of the windowsill. Bring them in at night, because that windowsill sill will get cold as well. Check every few days, and mist with a squirt bottle if the top of the soil feels dry. Once seedlings emerge, uncover and rotate the pot so you don’t get a plant that grows at a 45-degree angle.

Or maybe we can all have some afternoon springtime barbecues. The weather is nice enough and could lead to a rain dance or two.

  •  The Fulbright program at Chico State is funded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State and International Research & Exchanges, administered by Chico State.
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