Urban Almanac

The Urban Almanac

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of wisdom for the home, garden and natural world.
by Diane Olson

APRIL 1 All Fools’ Day. In some French-speaking countries, this is April Fish Day, when people attempt to stealthily attach paper fish to people’s backs.

APRIL 2 This is a good time to separate perennial grasses and flowers, including aster, Echinacea, coreopsis, dahlia, delphinium, gloriosa daisy and yarrow.

APRIL 3 In 1877, Sierra Club founder John Muir visited SLC on assignment from the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He called it a “city of lilacs and tulips.”

APRIL 4 Check out the pop-up parks on Main St. in SLC, between South Temple and 300 South, now through May 8.

APRIL 5 April, or Aprilis, was the Roman name for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and transformation. Her name is rooted in the Latin verb aperies, “to open.”

APRIL 6 Sweet peas, this month’s flower, smell exquisite but contain a neurotoxin, so don’t interplant with edible peas. They appreciate morning sun and afternoon shade.

APRIL 7 NEW MOON. On the day of new moon, the moon rises and sets at exactly the same time as the Sun, so it’s invisible in the glare. Its lighted hemisphere is also facing away from us. That’s why we can’t see it.

APRIL 8 It’s time to feed fruit trees. The easiest way is to rake fertilizer into the ground and cover it with mulch. Or use pound-in spikes at 12 to 18-inch intervals. Either way, start a foot from the trunk and work your way to the drip line (the per­imeter of the furthest reaching branches).

APRIL 9 Plant trees, shrubs, arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips this month.

APRIL 10 Playwright Oscar Wilde visited Temple Square on this day in 1882. In a letter, he described the Tabernacle as resembling a soup kettle—one with decorations suitable for a jail.

APRIL 11 Beware the dread cutworm, larvae of Noctuidae moths, which rudely gnaws through seedlings from below the ground. They are stout and squishy and particularly fond of broccoli. Put cardboard collars (cut from paper towel or toilet paper rolls) around seedlings as you plant, sinking them two inches into the ground.

APRIL 12 Time to start turning the compost pile again. Around 45% of the average household’s waste can be composted.

APRIL 13 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, was born on this day in 1866, in Beaver, Utah to Mormon settlers from England.

APRIL 14 Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is harvested from Crocus sativus, a lovely fall-blooming bulb (actually corm) you can plant now. Bury in rich, well-drained soil and don’t expect to see sprouts until late fall. Each corm produces only one bloom with just three stigmas—hence the cost.

APRIL 15 It’s time to clear winter mulch from around roses and give them a good pruning and feeding. Same with berry plants.

APRIL 16 Baby raccoons are being born. Maybe that’s why the parents are particularly bold and hungry around now. Three years in a row, I discovered raccoons in my Sandy, Utah kitchen on this same day. Weird.

APRIL 17 Look for Jupiter just above the waxing Moon tonight. Jupiter is crazy far away, but so large that it reflects a lot of sunlight. There are lots of great astronomy apps to help you locate it and other heavenly bodies, including SkyView, SkySafari, Star Walk 2, and Stellarium.

APRIL 18 Wouldn’t it be awesome to have your swamp cooler serviced and ceiling fans installed before it gets hot? Do it now.

APRIL 19 Look for speedy little Mercury, bright in the western sky, 40 minutes after sunset. Mercury circles the Sun every 88 days and one day on Mercury lasts 59 Earth days.

APRIL 20 Lawn should be cut when the blades are about two inches high. Make sure your lawnmower blades are sharp, or they’ll tear, rather than cut. Aerating lawn is beneficial, as it allows water to penetrate deeper, so you can water less often.

APRIL 21 Low-flying birds are a sign of imminent rain; high-flying birds mean good weather.

APRIL 22 FULL SPROUTING GRASS MOON. EARTH DAY. Phenology is the study of seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year. (I’ve been keeping a nature journal for 20 years for this column.) Nature’s Notebook is an online citizen phenology project monitoring the effects of climate change. It’s a great reason to really pay attention to your personal environment. Why not celebrate Earth Day by joining? https://www. usanpn.org/user/register

APRIL 23 This would be a great time to repair or replace window screens, before fly season really gets underway. Clean out the dryer vent while you’re at it.

APRIL 24 Neat new trend: Painting fences, arbors, trellises—and even houses—dark green, deep blue or charcoal gray to provide a dramatic backdrop for the landscape.

APRIL 25 Look for Mars, Saturn and the gibbous Moon in a gorgeous, glittery triangle tonight.

APRIL 26 This month’s cool word: Telluric, meaning of the earth or soil.

APRIL 27 Average last freeze (benches). But don’t trust it: In both 2010 and 2011 it snowed this week and the following one. You might want to hold off on the tomatoes and peppers, unless they’re protected.

APRIL 28 Dried eggshells are the gardener’s friend. Worked into the soil around plant roots, they both provide calcium and deter snails and slugs. Powdered and sprinkled onto vegetable leaves, they kill flea beetles and Japanese beetles.

APRIL 29 LAST QUARTER MOON. Recent research shows that broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound extremely effective in killing helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers.

APRIL 30 Beltane/May Eve. This was long a night for celebration in the British Isles, when sacred bonfires were kindled and rituals performed to protect the season’s livestock and crops.

Diane Olson is an author, content strategist at MRMMcCann and long-time CATALYST writer.

This article was originally published on April 1, 2016.