Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: May 2008—Day by day in the home, garden & sky

By Diane Olson

MAY 1 May Day/Beltane. The Sun rises at 6:25 a.m. today and sets at 8:24 p.m. May’s average maximum temperature is 72°; the minimum is 55°. Average snowfall is 1.1 inches; rainfall 1.8 inches.
by Diane Olson Almanac1_0508.jpgMAY 1 May Day/Beltane. The Sun rises at 6:25 a.m. today and sets at 8:24 p.m. May’s average maximum temperature is 72°; the minimum is 55°. Average snowfall is 1.1 inches; rainfall 1.8 inches.

MAY 2 Time to start hardening off warm-weather seedlings: Set them outside during the day for increasing periods of time, putting them back under cover, or in the house, at night. It takes two to three weeks to safely harden off tender annuals.

MAY 3 Average last frost date. Soil sickness is the gradual build-up of soil-borne diseases and pests, caused by growing the same types of plants in the same place over successive years. Be sure to rotate your crops—and keep notes, year-to-year, on what you plant where.

MAY 4 You can plant asparagus, basil, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, chard, cucumber, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes, shallots and spinach through mid-month.

MAY 5 NEW MOON. If you’re up late tonight, look for the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, remnants of Halley’s Comet.

MAY 6   According to the gardening tradition of phenology (derived from the Greek phaino, for “to appear”) you can start planting corn, beans and squash when lilacs bloom; cabbage when apple trees blossom; and tomatoes when the first ladybugs appear.

MAY 7 Time to finish planting trees, shrubs and evergreens.

Almanac2_0508.jpgMAY 8 All animals build nests exactly the right size to contain the maximum number of young that that particular species can adequately nourish.

MAY 9 Amendments needed to create and maintain fertile soil:

• Organic matter: compost or manure, applied every year.

• Rock phosphate: a finely ground natural rock powder, applied every four years.

• Limestone: ground rock containing calcium and magnesium; applied often enough to keep the pH in the 6.2 to 6.8 range.

• Greensand/glauconite: an ancient seabed deposit containing potassium and various micronutrients, applied every fourth year.

MAY 10 Here’s a cool class to take: Rainwater Harvesting: Storing Rainwater in the Soil. 1 p.m., Day-Riverside Library. Info: email britt@treeutah.org.

MAY 11 FIRST QUARTER MOON. “Blackberry winter,” a period of cold that coincides with the time blackberries are in bloom, often occurs this week.

MAY 12 Tonight, look for Saturn, hanging above the Moon.

MAY 13 Time to mulch trees, shrubs and cool weather vegetables—but not warm-weather ones, yet.

Almanac3_0508.jpgMAY 14 In recent studies, female rats spurned males whose great-grandmothers were exposed to herbicides. This suggests that herbicides, pesticides and other hormone-disrupting chemicals not only harm those exposed to them, but later generations, too.

MAY 15 Time to start planting eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes and watermelon, as well as cosmos, gladiolas, marigolds, mums, Shasta daisies, sunflowers, zinnias and other heat-loving flowers. Late frosts are most common in the week before the Full Moon, though, so be prepared to protect tender seedlings.

May 16 Many vegetables grow well in containers, and some even come in miniature varieties. Put together a patio garden of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, beans, beets, onions, spinach, basil, cilantro, chives, marigolds, snapdragons, violas and zinnias. Plant mini tomatoes in a hanging basket, or in a strawberry pot, interplanted with thyme or basil. Raise pots with pavers or boards to encourage drainage and prevent radiant heat damage.

MAY 17 The spring songbird migration is peaking. Great horned owlets are fledging. Miller moths are migrating to the high mountains. Baby bats, beavers, bighorns, coyotes, hares, marmots, moose, mountain goats, muskrats, pika, porcupines, rabbits, raccoons, red foxes, ringtails, skunks and Uinta ground squirrels are being born.

MAY 18 Butterflies have taste buds on their legs.

MAY 19 FULL MILK MOON. Looking to phase out your lawn, or just liven it up? Interplant it with ajuga, Roman chamomile (which smells like Jolly Rancher Sour Apple candies), rupturewort, speedwell, sedum, sweet violets, thyme or white clover. All can withstand mowing and foot traffic.

MAY 20 Time to spray trees, shrubs, ground covers, and annual and perennial flowers with some nice stinky fish emulsion fertilizer.

Almanac4_0508.jpgMAY 21 Talk about starting young: Mother aphids carry embryos that are carrying their own embryos.

MAY 22 Get out the binoculars: Mars, midpoint above the western horizon at nightfall, crosses into Cancer tonight and floats in front of the Beehive star cluster.

MAY 23 Lachanophobia is the morbid fear of vegetables.

MAY 24 Plant a border of herbs around the vegetable garden to repel bad bugs: Borage deters tomato worms; chives and coriander repel aphids; hyssop keeps away cabbage moths; mint deters cabbage moths, ants and aphids; rosemary is anathema to bean beetles, cabbage moths and carrot flies; sage repulses carrot flies and cabbage moths; thyme stops aphids and cabbage worms; and chamomile, called “the plant’s physician,” protects against myriad pests and diseases.

MAY 25 Snow peas are ready to be picked when the peas are just beginning to swell in the pods. Snap peas taste best when the pod is plump, but the skin is still shiny, not dull. Harvest leaf lettuce when the outer leaves are four to six inches long; heading varieties when heads are moderately firm.

MAY 26 The roots of French marigolds exude a chemical that kills harmful nematodes. Marigolds also attract beneficial hoverflies.

MAY 27 LAST QUARTER MOON. Dandelion parachutes can travel hundreds of miles.

MAY 28 Under-sow vegetables with green manure crops, such as soybeans, sweet clover, red clover, vetch and dwarf white clover, to retain moisture and improve soil structure.

MAY 29 Plant poppies around rose beds. Poppies attract lacewings, which eat aphids.

MAY 30 After dusk, watch for sphinx moths feeding from deep-lobed flowers. Sphinx moths are the adult phase of the tomato hormworm and the tobacco hornworm.

May 31 The Sun rises at 5:59 a.m. today and sets at 8:52 p.m.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. 

—Alice Walker

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

This article was originally published on May 4, 2008.