Urban Almanac

[Copy of] Urban Almanac: July 2011

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

JULY 1 NEW MOON The Sun rises at 5:59 a.m. today and sets at 9:03 p.m. July’s average maximum temperature is 91°; the minimum is 63°. Average rainfall is .72 inches.

JULY 2 Create a butterfly habitat: www.nababutterfly.com.

JULY 3 The dog days of summer begin. If you’re up at sunrise, look for Sirius, the Dog Star, so bright that it remains visible even as the Sun rises.

JULY 4 Counterintuitively, Earth reaches aphelion, its farthest position from the Sun, today.

JULY 5 Fortunately, given our long, cold spring, there’s still time to plant beans, beets, carrots, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, cucumbers, kale and radishes.

JULY 6 The coolest app yet: LeafSnap. The world’s first plant identification mobile app, LeafSnap uses biometrics, face-recognition technology and a database compiled by the Smithsonian to ID trees based on their leaves. Currently limited to the 191 species found in NYC’s Central Park and Washington’s Rock Creek Park, LeafSnap will eventually expand to all native U.S. species and 50-100 introduced ones. Available on iPhone, iPad and (sometime this summer) Android.

JULY 7 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Some sunscreens contain tiny bits of reflective elements that cause ultraviolet ray to bounce off the skin. Others are made up of molecules held together by such burly bonds that the UV rays use up all their energy trying to break them.

Look to the southwest at nightfall for Saturn, just above the waxing Moon.

JULY 8 Keep an eye on corn plants: when the silks first appear, sprinkle a few drops of mineral oil on them, to prevent corn earworm.

Though if they do get corn earworm, you’ll end up with one only per ear, since corn earworms are cannibalistic, with the alpha always eating its siblings.

JULY 9 Just so you know: silver-leafed herbs, such as lamb’s ear or artemisia, often turn green when planted in shade.

JULY 10 Critters using your garden as a bathroom (or a smorgasbord)? Plant a border of rue, a lovely, lacey, potent-smelling perennial herb. Be careful handling it—the sap can blister and you’ll rue the day—and don’t plant if you have young kids or pets that might chew it. And don’t plant rue near basil or sage.

JULY 11 Peppers tend to drop their flowers as temperatures rise over 90° so make sure they’re shaded during the hottest part of the day.

JULY 12 Mix it up. Aphids love marigolds and nasturtiums, but hate basil, catnip, chives, dill, fennel, garlic and mint.

JULY 13 Rats and other rodents don’t like the smell of castor oil. And it’s safe to use around kids and pets.

JULY 14 FULL MOON. For happy tomatoes, feed them a mixture of three cups compost, ½ cup Epsom salts, one tablespoon baking soda and ½ cup nonfat dry milk every three weeks.

Plants with spindly stems and oversized leaves aren’t getting enough light.

JULY 15 Keep hostas slug- and snail-free: Surround with pine needles, wood ashes, diatomaceous earth or bird grit. Or set out melon rinds or cabbage leaves in the evening to entice them, then pick them up and toss them in the morning.

JULY 16. Weird science: Robots in a Swiss laboratory have evolved to help each other: www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/05/robot-altruism/

JULY 17 Honey is an excellent remedy for chapped lips.

JULY 18 Out, damn spot! Sprinkle gypsum over and around urine spots on the lawn. Sprinkling a little brewer’s yeast on your dog’s food will make her urine less damaging to the lawn.

JULY 19 Spray fungus-spotted plants early in the morning with three tablespoons apple cider vinegar mixed in a gallon of water. Zinnias are particularly fungus-prone.

JULY 20 Wet yellow jacket stings with water, then cover with salt.

JULY 21 A region is defined as arid when annual precipitation is less than potential evaporation. See page 14 this issue.

JULY 22 LAST QUARTER MOON. Going hiking? Ticks don’t like the scent of rosemary.

JULY 23 In areas such as Southern Utah where a good blood meal is hard to come by, a tick can live up 18 years without food. In regions where the living is easy such as the Cottonwood Canyons, they can make it three to five years at the the max.

JULY 24 Look for Jupiter near the waning Moon after 1 a.m. Next month, the Juno spacecraft begins its five-year journey to Jupiter.

JULY 25 The word virga is derived from the Latin for twig or branch. In meteorology, virga is a streak or shaft of precipitation that evaporates before it hits the ground. Though virga is just a tease, it can be a catalyst for real precipitation, by seeding storm cells and helping to create thunderheads.

JULY 26. Virga occurs on planets other than Earth, too. On Venus, it’s sulfuric acid that evaporates before it hits the ground; on Mars, ice.

JULY 27 If you’re thinking about getting a bug zapper—don’t. They kill mostly good bugs and don’t attract mosquitoes at all. Instead, plant lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon thyme, and Citrosa and Citronella geraniums. Crush a few leaves and rub them into your skin.

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

JULY 29 Vesta, the only asteroid visible with the naked eye, can be seen in the lower central part of Capricornus tonight. Vesta is the second largest object in the asteroid belt and the most geologically diverse, with features much like our Moon. It’s about 4.5 billion years old, about the same age as our Sun, and is visible from Earth every 3.63 years. Vesta was discovered in 1807, though good images didn’t exist until 1995, when it was photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

JULY 30 NEW MOON. Flowers need phosphorus and potassium to look their best. Gently dig some bonemeal and banana fruit or peel in around their bases.

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

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” —Sam Keen

This article was originally published on July 27, 2011.