Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: July 2008

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°; the minimum is 63°. Average rainfall is .93 inches and it typically rains five times.

JULY 2 Go count butterflies: This week is the North American Fourth of July Butterfly Count (www.naba.org).

JULY 3 NEW MOON. The Dog Days of summer begin. Gross—but effective—wasp trap: fill a soda bottle halfway with fruit juice and hamburger. Add a couple drops of vinegar to discourage honeybees, and rub oil or Vaseline around the mouth to prevent the wasps from crawling out.

JULY 4 Earth reaches aphelion, its farthest position from the Sun, today. At nightfall, look for Mars, Saturn and Regulus, all in a line, with the crescent Moon hanging just below.

JULY 5 There’s still time to plant beans, beets, carrots, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, cucumbers, kale and radishes.

JULY 6 Here’s a cheap, organic shrub and plant fertilizer: Add 1/2-cup of apple cider vinegar to one gallon of water; pour around the root zone or spray on leaves.

JULY 7 As melon vines develop, bury each runner at two or three leaf nodes to encourage root growth.

JULY 8 Bufonophobia is a fear of frogs and toads. For a quirky look one of the world’s worst ecological blunders, watch Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.

 JULY 9 Look for Jupiter, at its brightest and closest, the next two nights.

JULY 10 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Whenever you plant, spread two to four inches of mulch on top of the surrounding soil. Pull back at least two inches from the trunk or stem. Use alfalfa hay, bark, compost, grass clippings, leaves, pine needles or shredded tree trimmings. Look low to the west tonight at nightfall for a Saturn/Mars rendezvous.

JULY 11 Put a couple of drops of mineral oil on corn silks the week they appear, to prevent corn earworm.

JULY 12 Wasps, like soldiers, rank each other by their stripes. The yellow and black stripes on their abdomens, combined with colored blotches on their faces, indicate their place in the hierarchy of the nest. Wasps also coat themselves with wax from their home nest to prove where they come from. If they leave and return without the proper wax coating, they’re driven away.

JULY 13 Time to thin creeping phlox, sedums, snow-in-summer and other rock garden plants, and transplant Oriental poppies. You can cut poppy roots into pieces and plant them like bulbs.

JULY 14 If you can see your footprints, your lawn needs more water.

JULY 15 Stake delphiniums, gladiola and other tall, floppy flowers. Pinch back fall bloomers like asters and mums.

JULY 16 You can add nitrogen to your lawn by interplanting it with Dutch white clover. Butterflies, bees and deer love it, and it mows well. Order from your local garden store or online.

JULY 17 Plant basil, artemisia and bachelor’s button near doors and outdoor seating areas to repel mosquitoes, and peppermint to shoo flies.

JULY 18 FULL THUNDER MOON. The Moon is moving away from us. Each year, it steals some of Earth’s rotational energy and uses it to propel itself about 3.8 centimeters higher in its orbit. When it first formed, the Moon was about 14,000 miles from Earth; now it’s more than 280,000 miles.

JULY 19 Pay attention: birds always stop singing just before a thunderstorm.

JULY 20 Two things can cause the icky brown spot on the bottom of tomatoes: calcium deficiency and irregular watering. Work gypsum into the soil to add calcium, water consistently and mulch well.

JULY 21 Pollen, like water droplets, can make beautiful coronas around the sun. Unlike water droplets, pollen grains are non-spherical, and many have air sacs to assist in wind dispersal. These causes the grains to orient in peculiar ways as they drift in the air, sometimes creating elongated coronas with bright patches on their rings.

JULY 22 Time to fertilize butterfly bushes, and prune evergreen hedges and espaliered fruit trees.

JULY 23 The pugnacious rufous hummingbirds currently visiting feeders and flowers around the valley are completing an elliptical migration that takes them up the Pacific Coast in spring and down the spine of the Rockies in late summer. Along the way, they stake out and defend foraging territory.

JULY 24 Non-organically grown bananas, broccoli, plums, watermelon and green onions contain the most harmful chemicals. Avocados, cauliflower, onions, sweet corn and sweet potatoes contain the fewest.

JULY 25 LAST QUARTER MOON. Side dress vegetables with manure or spray with fish emulsion fertilizer. Most fish emulsion is extracted from the menhaden, a member of the herring family and the fish that Squanto recommended to the Pilgrims as fertilizer. Menhaden live in the warm, shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay and along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts; they are primarily fished by a company called Omega Protein, which was cofounded by George H. Bush.

JULY 26 Hang a banana from the stem of  tomato plants to encourage ripening. It’ll also distract slugs and snails and mystify your friends and neighbors.

JULY 27 Float citrus peels in birdbaths and other water features to discourage mosquitoes from laying their eggs in there.

JULY 28 You can start planting fall crops of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach and peas now.

JULY 29 Earthworms are so cool. They produce up to half of their body weight in nutrient-rich castings every day; aerate the soil and improve drainage with their tunnels; and exude slimy, nitrogen-rich secretions that help bind soil particles and increase moisture retention.

JULY 30 Turn compost piles every couple of weeks, and keep them moist. There’s a good composting how-to at www.compostguide.com.

JULY 31 The Sun rises at 6:24 a.m. today, and sets at 8:45 p.m.

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.

—Wallace Stevens

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

This article was originally published on July 8, 2008.