Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: April 2009

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden, and sky.

by Diane Olson

APRIL 1 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 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Look for Venus, Mars and Jupiter in the morning sky.

APRIL 3 Any soil amendment-except compost-causes environmental problems when added in excess of what a landscape system can absorb and utilize. Before you add anything, get your soil tested, and then add only what is necessary to correct deficiencies.

APRIL 4 Start uncovering mulched perennial and strawberry beds. Don’t fertilize strawberries in the spring, when the leaves are developing. Otherwise you’ll get lush growth and a few mushy berries. Wait until blossoms appear.

APRIL 5 Time to plant fruit trees, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Contrary to old-school rules, a planting hole should be at least twice as wide, but no deeper than the root mass.

APRIL 6 Look for the Moon and Saturn, hanging together at nightfall.

APRIL 7 Time to start squash, pepper, cucumber, melon, tomato and eggplant seedlings indoors.

APRIL 8 Soil should be slightly moist-but not wet-when you work it; otherwise you’ll damage its structure.

APRIL 9 FULL SPROUTING GRASS MOON Every gardener knows human manure does not belong in the garden. Pathogens and toxins in human urine, however, are killed and digested within 24 hours of leaving the body. Human urine can provide organic nitrogen for compost teas and activate free nitrogen in the compost pile, according to composting expert David Hall.

APRIL 10 Watch for April showers the next two days. Speedy little Mercury is glittering about 12 degrees above the western horizon just after sunset.

APRIL 11 Are apple blossoms budding? Then it’s time to plant arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. Swiss chard is a beet with no “beet.” It is tasty sautéed in oil with garlic and lemon juice, or tossed with pine nuts in hot pasta.

APRIL 12 The origin of Easter is sooo pagan: It falls upon the first Sunday after the first Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox. Know someone with bunnies? Rabbit manure is one of the best fertilizers around.

APRIL 13 Scatter spinach or lettuce seeds around spring bulbs to get extra greens and cover soon-to-be gawky foliage. Plant pansies, snapdragons and other hardy annuals when aspens start leafing out.

APRIL 14 If you need to add iron to your lawn or garden, use Texas greensand. Never, ever use Ironite, which contains arsenic and lead.

APRIL 15 Time to finish pruning summer- and fall-blooming shrubs and deciduous trees, and to plant new ones. Use hydrogen peroxide on wounds on trees, just like you’d use it on yourself.

APRIL 16 Cool film: “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. Discus­sion to follow. 6 p.m. Day-Riverside Library meeting room. Info: TreeUtah, treeutah@treeutah.org

APRIL 17 LAST QUARTER MOON. Don’t mulch seedlings or new plants yet; it keeps the soil from warming up.

APRIL 18 Today is the average last snow day. Goldfinches and meadowlarks are trading their drab winter plumage for gold. House finches, kestrels, mourning doves, robins, sparrows, yellow rumped warblers and wrens are mating and nesting.

APRIL 19 Plants love apple cider vinegar. Use one tablespoon per gallon of water on house plants, and about an ounce per gallon as a foliar spray for outdoor plants.

April 20 Phase out or reduce your lawn by spot planting perennials around the edges and slowly working your way in. Clear at least a foot of space for each plant and mulch heavily. Plant either low-growing ground covers, like ajuga, creeping juniper, or moss pink phlox, or taller perennials such as asters, bee balm, goldenrod, hairy penstemon, black-eyed susan, yarrow and ornamental grasses.

APRIL 21 Time to divide crowded summer-blooming perennials, and to give roses a good (organic) feeding and trim.

APRIL 22 EARTH DAY. Today is the beginning of the Green Generation Campaign, a two-year initiative that will culminate with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Find out more at www.earthday.net. It’s also a busy night in the sky: The Lyrid meteor shower livens things up to the south in the predawn. Earlier, Venus and the Moon get together, with orange Mars hanging below and fat, striped Jupiter hovering in the upper right.

APRIL 23 Start preparing beds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, corn, basil and other warm-weather crops. If your soil is healthy, add two or three inches of compost; if it’s depleted, four to six inches.

APRIL 24 NEW MOON. ARBOR DAY. www.arborday.org. Plant a tree. Or fertilize the ones you have with a well-balanced slow-release fertilizer. Or kiss a Druid.

APRIL 25 Sunflower seeds have growth-retarding properties, so move birdfeeders around to avoid dead grass or flowers below.

APRIL 26 When planting perennials or annuals, don’t add amendments to planting holes; use the native soil, then add amendments as topdressing. Amended planting holes inhibit root exploration into the surrounding soil and disrupt water movement between the soil in the hole and the surrounding environment. Espe­ci­ally, don’t add manure, as it can burn the roots. Look for Mercury hovering below the crescent Moon tonight.

APRIL 27 Clove oil can be used as an anesthetic for aquarium fish, or to euthanize them humanely. Research the dose for either.

APRIL 28 To break up hardpan soil, plant lupines or clover; their deep taproots will break through the hardened layers.

APRIL 29 Purple martins and wood thrushes travel more than 300 miles a day on their annual migrations.

APRIL 30 BELTANE/MAY EVE. The Sun rises at 6:26 a.m. this morning and sets at 8:23 p.m. Stop, take a deep breath, and look around: Isn’t the world beautiful?

A garden is the best alternative therapy.
– Germaine Greer

Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.

This article was originally published on March 30, 2009.