Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: July 2007

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
by Diane Olson
JULY 1 The Sun rises at 5:59 a.m. today, and sets at 9:03 p.m. July's average maximum temperature is 82 degrees; the minimum is 63 degrees. Average rainfall is .93 inches; it rains an average of five times.

JULY 2 Organic weed controls: Scald with boiling water; dust weeds between pavers with table salt; sprinkle dandelions and plantains with one teaspoon of baking soda per weed. Reapply if necessary. Make sure not to let the salt or baking soda leach into your garden beds.

JULY 3 Dog Days of Summer. The hottest part of the summer coincides with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, brightest star in the sky. The ancient Egyptians, who believed its appearance caused the Nile to rise and water their crops, venerated Sirius and constructed many of their temples so that its light reached the innermost chambers.

JULY 4 There's still time to plant late summer crops of beans, beets, Chinese cabbage, carrots, collards, cucumbers, kale, lettuce and radishes.

JULY 5 Crickets have supersensitive hairs, called cerci, which allow them to detect minute changes in air current, such as those caused by wasp wings or the movement of a toad's tongue.

JULY 6 Earth reaches aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun, today.

JULY 7 LAST QUARTER MOON. Now through July 22 is the chieh of the Minor Heat.

JULY 8 Ants rub parts of their hindmost section together to produce vibrations that make their jaws buzz, allowing them to saw their way through tough foodstuffs.

JULY 9 Soil should be slightly moist whenever you work it, otherwise you'll break its structure down into dust.

JULY 10 When attacked, slugs exude a rubbery slime, which effectively muzzles small predators by gluing their mouthparts together.

JULY 11 You can control aphids organically by flattening a square of aluminum foil around the base of plants to bounce light on the undersides of leaves; distracting them with the color yellow – a bright yellow bowl in a strategic spot, filled a third of the way with water, or banana peels placed at the base of the infested plant; or spraying them with a mixture of one tablespoon castile soap to one gallon of water.

JULY 12 The brown spot on the ends of tomatoes-the dread Tomato Blossom End Rot-can be caused by a lack of calcium in your soil or uneven watering. Add gypsum to your soil, water consistently and mulch.

JULY 13 The swarms of buzzing, non-biting insects that you see dancing in waves on warm summer evenings are midges. There may be as many as 50,000,000 midges in a swarm, most of whom are males dancing to attract a mate.

JULY 14 NEW MOON. Porcupines sharpen their teeth on rocks.

JULY 15 Venus, in Leo, is close to Earth tonight. Through binoculars, it looks like a crescent moon.

JULY 16 Dandelions, mullein, sorrel and nettle are indicators of acidic soil, in which hydrangeas, blueberries, rhubarb, potatoes and watermelon also thrive.

JULY 17 Feed potted veggies and ornamentals with liquid organic fertilizer every two weeks, as frequent watering leaches out needed nutrients.

JULY 18 Daddy longlegs, also called harvestmen, are more closely related to scorpions, mites and ticks than spiders. They don't spin webs, but often cruise real spider's webs, tussling for recent captures and snarfing leftovers. Daddy longlegs smell funny, though scientists don't know if the scent they emit is meant to attract their own kind or repel others.

JULY 19 Bindweed seeds remain viable for 50 years and the plant also reproduces from its root system, which can grow 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide. It's impossible to eradicate, but you can (sort of) control it. Bindweed needs lots of sun, so plant alfalfa, rye and other dense cover crops and dig or pull out as much of the root system as you can. Repeated dousing of vinegar might also help, or you can get a goat-they're the only grazing animal that can stomach the damned stuff.

JULY 20 Green lacewings, also known as aphid lions, eat more bad bugs than do ladybugs.

JULY 21 Weed killers such as Roundup and malathion turn male frogs into hermaphrodites and normally hermaphroditic fish into females.

JULY 22 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Fertilize eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and melons with some nice stinky fish emulsion.

JULY 23 Now through August 6 is the chieh of the Major Heat.

JULY 24 Houseflies taste with their feet, which are 10 million times more sensitive than the human tongue.

JULY 25 Pinch back fuchsias, geraniums, cosmos, mums, asters and any other flowers that might be getting leggy.

JULY 26 Katydids were once popular pets: In Germany, through the 18th and 19th centuries, small, colorful katydid houses were sold by street vendors. Both male and female katydids sing, which is uncommon in the insect world. Katydids have ears in their legs, a pair to each set; when they hear something interesting, they raise their forelegs to hear better. A favorite meal of many, their only protection is camouflage-they closely resemble the leaves they eat.

JULY 27 Cover crops, such as oats and clover, planted now beneath and between veggies, will retain moisture, staunch weeds and feed the soil, and can be left in place until next spring. Slugs also love red clover and will feast on it, rather than your veggies.

JULY 28 Time to trim evergreen hedges, prune espaliered fruit trees and fertilize butterfly bushes.

JULY 29 FULL THUNDER MOON. You can start planting fall crops of broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and peas now.

JULY 31 The Sun rises at 6:24 a.m. today, and sets at 8:45 p.m. Starlings sing less when exposed to insecticides and newts lose their ability to sniff out mates.

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

This article was originally published on June 28, 2007.