Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: August 2011

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

AUGUST 1 Summer Cross-Quarter Day/ Lammas. The Sun rises at 6:22 a.m. and sets at 8:44 p.m. August’s average maximum temperature is 90°; the minimum 61°. It rains an average of 0.80 inches.

AUGUST 2 Vesta, the only asteroid visible with the naked eye, is visible high in the sky around midnight. This week’s approach is the nearest for the next decade.

AUGUST 3 App of the month: Wild Edibles with “Wildman” Steve Brill.” Learn which common plants are edible, where to find them and when to harvest, so you, too, can become an urban food forager.

Look to the west at nightfall for Saturn hanging just above the waxing Moon.

AUGUST 4 Common mallow, common plantain, curly dock, daylily, pokeweed and purslane are edible.

AUGUST 5 For happy peppers, spray plants with water and Epsom salts every other week (10 ounces water/1 tablespoon salts). And harvest often: The more peppers you pick, the more peppers you’ll get to pick.

AUGUST 6 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Fall Planting workshop at Wasatch Community Gardens. www.wasatchgardens.org.

AUGUST 7 Keep deadheading chrysanthemums, coreopsis, cosmos, marigolds, phlox and zinnias. And don’t forget to pinch the basil.

AUGUST 8 Allergies kicking up? It’s ragweed time. A member of the sunflower family, silvery-green ragweed is the most noxious allergen in the Northern hemisphere, with each plant producing about one billion grains of pollen per season. What’s it good for? Moth and butterfly larvae feed on the plant, and birds on the seeds.

AUGUST 9 Farm and Feed Volunteer Day. Garden, harvest and feast with Wasatch Community Gardens. www.wasatchgardens.org.

AUGUST 10 Fertilize garden vegetables and house plants every other week with a mixture of fish emulsion and teaspoon or so of apple cider vinegar. Stinky, but effective.

AUGUST 11 The Dog Days of summer, when the Sun is at its zenith over the Western Hemisphere, end today.

Tonight’s Perseid meteor shower will be mostly washed out by the Moon.

AUGUST 12 FULL GRAIN MOON. The water ice found on the Moon likely came from meteorites. Since the Moon has no atmosphere, and on a typical day (which lasts 29 Earth days) the temperature in direct sunlight reaches around 250°, the only way ice can exist there is buried in permanently shadowed craters.

AUGUST 13 “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.” –Garrison Keillor.

AUGUST 14 Make a batch of fresh corn chowder. You’ll find vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes at www.jamieoliver.com and about a million other websites.

AUGUST 15 It’s the way they breathe that causes bumblebees to buzz, not the beating of their wings. The sound is created by air rushing through their spiracles, or breathing holes.

AUGUST 16 Approximately 8% of flowers require sonification, or buzz pollination, to shake their pollen loose. Enter the bumblebee.

AUGUST 17 Cat Nights begin. According to Irish legend, witches can turn into cats for the next eight nights and still come back, but if they try it on the ninth night, they’re stuck.

AUGUST 18 Catfacing is a common tomato ailment, thought to be caused by too-cold weather while the plant is blossoming, and characterized by misshapen fruits with weird scars and holes on the end. Not much to do about it except plant later next spring.

AUGUST 19 If your grass doesn’t get enough water, it will probably just go dormant, not die. If you actually want to kill it, cover it with black plastic.

AUGUST 20 Tasty summer salad: Chop a couple of fresh tomatoes, a cucumber and a red bell pepper. Toss in some artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and lots of feta. Dress with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and oregano.

AUGUST 21 LAST QUARTER MOON. What is conservation photography? Watch this sublime video and find out: http://vimeo.com/18498629

AUGUST 22 Anthocyanins, found in berries, black turtle beans, purple cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, red onions and red and purple grapes may prevent age-related cognitive decline and neuro-degenerative disease, and help to prevent cancer, heart disease and insulin resistance.

AUGUST 23 Look for Jupiter, the second-brightest object in the night sky, rising around 10 p.m.

AUGUST 24. Ant weddings are the synchronized nuptial flights of queen ants and their courts, and they generally occur on hot, humid, windless late-summer days. The winged virgin queens, along with accompanying males, fly anywhere from a few feet to many miles to mate with ants of the same species from other colonies.

The queens usually mate with several males (who die shortly thereafter), storing their sperm in an abdominal compartment called a spermatheca. Each queen then drops to the ground, sheds her wings, and excavates a new nest. Once settled in, she begins fertilizing her eggs with sperm parsed out of the spermatheca. Queen ants can live as long as 20 years, and fertilize millions of eggs, all with the sperm received during the nuptial flight.

AUGUST 25 Approximately 10% of plants contain toxic alkaloids. Small amounts of alkaloids are sometimes beneficial, and often recreational. Caffeine, cocaine, morphine, nicotine, strychnine and quinine are alkaloids.

AUGUST 26 Lupines, larkspur, delphinium, hollies, English ivy, foxglove, poppies, laurel, vinca, periwinkle, hellebores, clematis, monkshood and privet contain enough alkaloid to cause a rash. Gloves recommended when handling.

AUGUST 27 Scientists are now able to determine a person’s age, within five years, using 0.1 ounces of saliva—about the amount left on a coffee cup.

AUGUST 28 NEW MOON. Hummingbirds are starting to migrate south.

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

AUGUST 30 Time again to plant cool weather crops, including beets, beans, carrots, endive, garlic, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach.

AUGUST 31 The Sun rises at 6:53 a.m. today and sets at 8:00 p.m.

“Summer is kind of like the ultimate one-night stand: Hot as hell, totally thrilling and gone before you know it.” —Cosmopolitan

This article was originally published on July 29, 2011.