Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: August 2008

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garen and sky.
by Diane Olson
AUGUST 1 NEW MOON. Summer Cross-Quarter Day. The Sun rises at 6:22 a.m. today and sets at 8:44 p.m. August’s average maximum temperature is 89°; the minimum 61°. It rains an average of .86 inches.

AUGUST 2 Separate melons from the ground with a thin board to prevent decay and wireworm damage.

AUGUST 3 Rats have been found to experience REM sleep, which suggests that they dream.

AUGUST 4 Free fertilizer! Most plants love coffee grounds, and most coffee shops give them away. Coffee grounds contain substantial amounts of nitrogen and potassium, and are acidic, with a pH of between 3.0 and 5.0. They don’t contain phosphorus, however, which flowering plants need, so either use your grounds on non-flowering plants, or in combination with super phosphate or rock phosphate on flowering ones.

AUGUST 5 Time to fertilize parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, Swiss chard and watermelons with some nice stinky fish emulsion, and to top-dress strawberries with mature compost.

AUGUST 6 Set beer-filled saucers in the garden, level with the soil, to lure slugs to a happy, drunken death. Studies show that they prefer imported beer. Really.

AUGUST 7 Corn is ripe when the husk is tight and the silk has dried and turned brown. Summer squash are at their peak of flavor and texture when they are four inches long.

AUGUST 8 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Anthophobia is a fear of flowers. Place cut flowers in a solution of one part water and one part clear soft drink, and a few drops of bleach, to make them last longer. If you dare.

AUGUST 9 Beyond kinky: Mantids, scorpions, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers and ant lions all practice sexual cannibalism.

AUGUST 10 Patrol basil plants daily and pinch off any developing flower buds.

AUGUST 11 Dog Days of Summer end today. Exposure to a type of bacteria found in soil boosts happiness levels and can help restore healthy immune functions in people who are depressed and prone to infection.

AUGUST 12 Tonight and tomorrow night look to the northeast for the Perseid meteor shower. It should be excellent this year, with a meteor a minute, and no Moon to brighten the sky.

AUGUST 13 Plant crimson clover beneath and between veggies and in empty beds to retain moisture, staunch weeds and feed the soil. Leave it in place until next spring.

AUGUST 14 How to tell if a watermelon is ripe: 1) Thump it. If it sounds hollow, it’s ripe. 2) Look at the color on the top. It’s ripe when there is little contrast between the stripes. 3) Look at the color on the bottom. An unripe watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe one will have a cream or yellow one.

AUGUST 15 Sister Moon: Scientists have found a three-mile-wide asteroid that appears to be caught in Earth’s gravitational grip, making it our second satellite.

AUGUST 16 FULL GRAIN MOON. Deadhead chrysanthemum, coreopsis, cosmos, marigolds, phlox and zinnias. Cut herbs just before their flowers open for best flavor.

AUGUST 17 Cat Nights begin. Irish legend has it that for the next seven nights, witches are able to turn themselves into cats and back again. Meow!

AUGUST 18 Lawns over-seeded now with white clover or drought-resistant grass will have time to get established before winter sets in. Water often and mulch well.

AUGUST 19 Young fruit trees will develop stronger limbs and a wider crotch angle if you weigh their branches down with clothespins. You can dry your undies while you’re at it. The neighbors will be thrilled.

AUGUST 20 Sunflowers are phototropic, turning to follow the Sun’s progression throughout the day.

AUGUST 21 Make sure potatoes aren’t escaping into the sunlight; cover them up if they are. Time to cut back berry canes that have finished fruiting.

AUGUST 22 It’s time again to plant cool weather crops, including beets, beans, carrots, endive, garlic, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach. Provide shade for the peas and greens.

AUGUST 23 LAST QUARTER MOON. A good day to go to Farmers Market: Basil, beans, beets, corn, cucumbers, dill, garlic, melons, onions, peppers, potatoes, shallots, squash and tomatoes are ripe. Yum.

AUGUST 24 When harvesting cabbage, you can leave the plant in place, cut off a chunk, and cover the remainder with plastic or foil. It will keep longer that way than in the fridge. You can also just cut off the head, cut a cross in the stump of stem, and get another crop of small heads.

AUGUST 25 Chilies were likely the first spice used in the Americas; early cooks started using them around 6,000 years ago. If you like your chilies hot, let the ground dry out before you pick them; for milder pods, pick right after you water.

AUGUST 26 Sow these seeds now for early blooms next spring: alyssum, digitalis, English daisy, forget-me-not, phlox and primrose. Plant autumn crocus now for late fall blossoms.

AUGUST 27 When attacked by a predator, minnows, snails and earthworms release a chemical that warns others in their community to avoid the area.

AUGUST 28 Give evergreens their last shearing of the year. Cut back the flower stalks of perennials that have finished blooming. If you cut delphinium flower stalks to the ground, a new flower stalk will develop.

AUGUST 29 Stop fertilizing roses and broad-leaved evergreens until next spring.

AUGUST 30 Entomologists have kept ants alive 14 years or more, although in the wild their lifespan is closer to six months.

AUGUST 31 The Sun rises at 6:53 a.m. today and sets at 8 p.m.

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.

—Lewis Grizzard

Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.

This article was originally published on August 1, 2008.