The Urban Almanac
A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the home, garden and natural world.
—by Diane Olson
MAY 1 BELTANE/MAY DAY. Halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, this has long been a day to celebrate fertility and abundance. Go outside, breathe in the flower-scented air. Roll around on the grass. Look at the stars. Enjoy the natural world in all its luscious fecundity.
MAY 2 May’s birth flower is the sweet-smelling, seriously poisonous lily of the valley. Ingestion leads to a host dreadful symptoms, ranging from blurry vision to diarrhea, vomiting headache, drooling, cardiac arrhythmia and possibly death. Walter White, AKA Heisenberg, put it to bad use in Breaking Bad.
MAY 3 It’s better to keep tomatoes in pots for a while, rather than plant them in cold soil. Otherwise, root development will be stunted.
MAY 4 Robert E. Freed, manager of Lagoon during the 1940s and 1950s was born this day in 1919. Freed and his brothers were civil rights pioneers, desegregating both Lagoon and the Rainbow Randevu—later the Terrace Ballroom—despite significant local pressure.
MAY 5 CINCO DE MAYO On this day in 1862, 6,000 well-armed French soldiers were soundly beaten by 2,000 poorly provisioned Mexican soldiers. Though a minor holiday in Mexico, in the U.S. it’s evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture.
MAY 6 Tonight is the peak of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, the remnants of Halley’s Comet. If the weather is clear, it will be a good show, thanks to no moonlight. Look to the southeast, ideally after midnight.
MAY 7 Asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, greens, peas, potatoes and shallots can be planted until mid-month.
MAY 8 The spring songbird migration is peaking. This would be a great day to walk or bike the Jordan River Parkway and look for avian passersby.
MAY 9 Planting seeds? Don’t amend the soil. Wait until seedlings sprout their second leaves, then feed with diluted (organic, of course) fertilizer. Each seed contains endosperm, an internal food supply that the plant embryo uses to grow until it can manufacture its own food.
MAY 10 Blackberry Winter, a late-spring cold snap, often occurs when berry bushes are in bloom.
MAY 11 This month’s favorite word: Sylvan. Relating to or inhabiting the woods.
MAY 12 The critically endangered June sucker is endemic only to the Provo River and Utah Lake. Unlike other sucker fish, it’s not a bottom feeder; it hoovers zooplankton from the mid-water.
MAY 13 FIRST QUARTER MOON. What’s super-cool about the June sucker? It has a lifespan of over 40 years.
MAY 14 It should be safe to plant heat-loving flowers and veggies now, including cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes and watermelon. Though late frosts are most common the week before the Full Moon, so check the forecast.
MAY 15 Hands and wrists sore from gardening? Massage the Xi-Cleft Gate point, located slightly lower than halfway between your wrist and inner elbow. Rub in small circles between the tendons.
MAY 16 Earlier this year, the first flower grown in space—an orange zinnia—blossomed on the International Space Station.
MAY 17 Want to see the International Space Station as it passes overhead? Check spotthestation.nasa.gov for optimal sighting times.
MAY 18 Be sure not to plant sunflowers too close to vegetables or other annuals. The phytotoxins in their roots (and shells, as you’ve probably noticed if you have a birdfeeder) inhibit seed germination and seedling growth.
MAY 19 It takes up to three years for a mayfly naiad to develop. Adult life, however, lasts but a single afternoon, during which they hatch, mate and die—en masse. Some species have a synchronized hatch, with as many as 18 trillion emerging at once. Mayflies are excellent environmental indicators, as the naiads can survive only in very clean water.
MAY 20 The Moon’s gravity causes Earth’s atmosphere to bulge toward it, which affects the weather (reduces rainfall) on the Moon-facing side of the planet.
MAY 21 FULL FLOWER MOON. Look for a glorious triangle formed by the Full Moon, Mars and Saturn tonight.
MAY 22 Mars is at its closest to Earth tonight and is bigger and brighter and more visible than it’s been in over decade. It rises at sunset and stays out all night long.
MAY 23 During thunderstorms, wind updrafts can exceed 60 MPH. That’s enough force to pick up lightweight insects and animals. So yes, it can and does sometimes rain fish and frogs. Though probably not cats and dogs.
MAY 24 Not up to a full garden? Plant one on your patio, porch or deck. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, beans and cucumbers all grow well in pots. Some even come in miniature varieties.
MAY 25 Stinky disposal? Make a tray of vinegar ice cubes and run them through.
MAY 26 Under-sowing vegetables with white or red clover or vetch will keep weeds down, help retain moisture and feed the soil.
MAY 27 A group of cats is called a clowder. Multiple litters of kittens are called a kindle.
MAY 28 Going camping? Watch for fireflies! Yes, fireflies in Utah. They’ve been spotted in the wetlands south of Utah Lake, in Nibley, and around Moon Lake in the Uintas. There have even been sightings in Canyonlands.
MAY 29 LAST QUARTER MOON. Start looking for flashing fireflies around 9:30 p.m. If you see any, log on to https://nhmu.utah.edu/fireflies to report your coordinates.
MAY 30 MEMORIAL DAY Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day emerged in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday only in 1971.
MAY 31Studies in the developing field of acoustic ecology show that birds, crickets and frogs are altering their behavior in response to human noise. The dawn chorus is starting earlier, so birds can communicate before traffic drowns them out. And some, like the white-crowned sparrow, are even changing their tone and tune to better rise above the din.
Diane Olson is an author, content strategist at MRMMcCann and long-time CATALYST writer. long-time CATALYST writer.