Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: April 2008

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and  sky
by Diane Olson
APRIL 1 The Sun rises at 6:12 a.m. today and sets at 6:53 p.m. The

average maximum temperature this month is 61° and the average

minimum is 37°. It typically snows 7.3 inches along the Wasatch Front.

APRIL 2. The seeds of the sweet pea, this month’s flower, contain a neurotoxin and should not be eaten. Sweet pea is a favorite of geneticists, due to its ability to self-pollinate and its easily observed Mendelian traits, such as height, color and petal form.

APRIL 3 Kestrels, robins, house finches, wrens, sparrows and mourning doves are mating and building nests. Listen for the mourning dove’s plaintive woo-oo-oo-oo call, and the distinctive whistling of its wings as it takes flight. Mourning doves are fast fliers (55 mph) and prolific breeders.

APRIL 4 If you planted cover crops last fall, don’t bother to till them under; just dig holes for the new plants among the old.

APRIL 5 NEW MOON. Astrological gardeners believe the Moon controls the amount of moisture in the soil, just as it does the tides. Moisture content is said to be at its peak during the New Moon and Full Moon, when tides are highest, making those the best times to plant.

APRIL 6 It’s time to plant arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, peas, radishes, spinach and Swiss chard. Brussels sprouts contain sinigrin, a glucosinate believed to protect against colon cancer. Don’t eat too many, though; they can also disrupt thyroid function.

APRIL 7 Time to finish pruning summer- and fall-blooming shrubs and deciduous trees, and to plant new ones.

APRIL 8 Mars, in Gemini, is high in the sky at nightfall. Gemini resembles two parallel stick figures, and is associated with the myth of Castor and Pollux, twins accused of stealing cattle from the Milky Way.

APRIL 9 Time to start squash, pepper, cucumber, melon, tomato and eggplant seedlings indoors. The first known writings about eggplant are found in Qí mín yào shù, a Chinese agricultural treatise published in 544 CE. Eggplant can help block the formation of free radicals and control cholesterol, and is a good a source of folic acid and potassium. It also contains more nicotine than any other edible plant, and some health practitioners believe that it, like other nightshades, can cause or worsen arthritis.

APRIL 10 Spiders, which are loaded with taurine, an amino acid needed to develop visual acuity, intelligence and resistance to anxiety, are a favored food for baby birds. Parents load their chicks up with

spiders during the mid-point of

their development.

APRIL 11 Some plants, like stinging nettle, appear in early spring so they can soak up lots of sun before the trees leaf out and shade them.

APRIL 12 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Here’s a cool class to take: Introduction to Ecological Gardening. Learn about soil building, companion planting, and the use of native and perennial plants. Day Riverside Library, 10 a.m. Email britt@treeutah.org for details.

APRIL 13 Keep on top of those stubborn perennial weeds, such as bindweed, mallow, plantain and crabgrass.

APRIL 14 Baby raccoons, otter, porcupines and red foxes are being born. The red fox, a common Wasatch Front resident, has the widest range of any terrestrial carnivore. Insects make up the majority of its diet; small vertebrates, fruit and carrion round it out. Average litter size is five kits. The kit’s eyes open by two weeks, first steps are taken at five weeks, and they are weaned at 10 weeks.

APRIL 15 Plants exude scented oils that enter into the soil, and when the relative humidity of the soil reaches 75% or greater, the scent of those oils is released into the air. That’s one reason why the world smells so good in spring.

APRIL 16 Hardy hydrangea, narcissus, lilacs, money plant, violets and fruit trees are blooming. Mmmm.

APRIL 17 Think about creating a water feature in your yard. The birds and bugs will thank you if you do.

APRIL 18 Today is the average last snow day.

APRIL 19 Finish removing winter protection from roses and other perennials, and give the roses a good feeding and cutting.

April 20 FULL SPROUTING GRASS MOON. Thin cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, radish and spinach seedlings.

APRIL 21 If the skies are clear (it often rains the two days following a Full Moon) look for the Lyrids meteor shower tonight. The Lyrids were first described in China in 687 BC, as "stars that fell [like] rain."

APRIL 22 EARTH DAY. Now’s the time to divide crowded summer-blooming perennials.

APRIL 23 Butterflies require warmth to fly, so most butterflies active in the early spring, like mourning cloaks, melissa blues, painted ladies and red admirals, have dark wings that absorb solar heat.

APRIL 24  Start hardening off warm weather seedlings. They’ll be ready for transplanting in a couple of weeks. Here’s how to do it: www.wasatchgardens.org/Library/Hardening.

APRIL 25 ARBOR DAY. Trees are the longest living and largest organisms on Earth.

APRIL 26 Rake and fertilize the lawn. Begin cutting it when blades are about two inches high.

APRIL 27 Tonight, look for Jupiter, just above the waning Moon.

APRIL 28 LAST QUARTER MOON. Start preparing beds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, corn, basil and other warm-weather crops. Healthy soil needs two to three inches of new compost; depleted soil four to six inches.

APRIL 29 Look for Mercury, low in the western sky 35 minutes after


APRIL 30 The Sun rises at 7:10 a.m. this morning and sets at 7:23 p.m.

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want-oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just

fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

 -Mark Twain

Diane Olson is a freelance writer, proofreader and wanna-be fulltime naturalist

This article was originally published on April 1, 2008.