Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac May 2009

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

by Diane Olson

MAY 1 FIRST QUARTER MOON. 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, at first in the shade, for increasing periods of time; cover, or bring inside at night. It takes two to three weeks to safely harden off tender annuals.

MAY 3 Average Last Frost Date. Don’t rush to plant your tomatoes. Tomato plants set in cold soil can’t take up phosphorus (you can tell this is happening if the foliage turns purple). Wait a week or so to be safe. Look for Saturn next to the waxing Moon tonight.

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

MAY 5 Before planting any perennial, remove all potting material from the roots, tease them apart, and spread them outward. Trim if excessively long or misshapen.

MAY 6 Bugs just wanna have fun. Some insect penises have special bumps, spines and inflatable structures; caddisflies even have a bonus pair of claspers called titillators. The proper technical term for an insect penis is aedeagus.

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

MAY 8 FULL FLOWER MOON. Crows not only use tools, but create their own by bending and twisting pieces of wire to fish food from places they couldn’t otherwise reach.

MAY 9 Plant buckwheat in spent or unused garden beds. A solid buckwheat stand suppresses annual weeds and deters many perennial ones. Do two successive plantings of buckwheat this summer, then follow with oats or wheat in the fall. Next spring you’ll have loose, friable soil.

MAY 10 Carrots and beans grow well together: Plant two rows of beans, 24 inches apart, then plant a single row of carrots in between. The beans will mature first; when they’re spent, pull them up to give the carrots room to grow.

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

MAY 12 Use wood chips, not bark mulch in your landscaping. Bark contains natural waxes that prevent absorption and release of water, and can be contaminated with salt.

MAY 13 Skip the transplant fertilizer. Most contain too much phosphate, and vitamin B1 doesn’t really reduce shock or stimulate root growth. Plus, most plants synthesize their own.

MAY 14 Cool class: Edible Landscaping. 6-8 p.m. Day-Riverside Library meeting room. RSVP@treeutah.org.

MAY 15 Harvest leaf lettuce when the outer leaves are four to six inches long, and heading varieties when heads are fairly firm.

May 16 Time to start planting canta­loupe, corn, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, cosmos, gladiolas, marigolds, mums, Shasta daisies, sunflowers, zinnias and other heat-loving flowers. Tomato plants need at least eight hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil. Plant them deep, up to the first set of leaves, to create a broader, more stable root system. Orange tomatoes contain more cancer-fighting lycopene than red ones.

MAY 17 LAST QUARTER MOON. Companionable plants: Beets and peppers. Sow a ring of beets eight to 12 inches from the base of pepper plants.

MAY 18 The best insectory plants (ones that provide protein and carbohydrates for beneficials) are: anise hyssop, cilantro, coreopsis, cosmos, fennel, golden marguerite, lavender, sweet alyssum and yarrow. Plant them in and around your vegetable garden.

MAY 19 Pepper plants are perennial in warmer zones, and can be kept for several years in Utah if you plant them in pots and move inside before the first frost.

MAY 20 You can find ergonomic versions of most garden tools; check online. And knee pads really do reduce back and knee pain, if you’ve got a lot of gardening.

MAY 21 Cool film series: Permaculture with Bill Millison. Four-part series discussing how to create food forests. 6 p.m. Day-Riverside Library. RSVP treeutah@ treeutah.org. Look for Saturn, in Pisces, forming a triangle with orange Mars and the waning crescent Moon tonight.

MAY 22 Container plants don’t need coarse drainage materials in the bottom of the pot, though they do need drainage holes for use aeration. Use the same planting material throughout the entire container.

MAY 23 The best temperature for painting the inside of a house is 77 °; at that temperature, most latex paint dries in just two hours.

MAY 24 NEW MOON. Under-sow vegetables with sweet clover, red clover, dwarf white clover or vetch, to retain moisture and enrich the soil.

MAY 25 College students and macaques (a type of short-tailed monkey) are equally capable of roughly summing up sets of objects without counting them.

MAY 26 Pick snow peas when the peas are just beginning to swell in the pods; snap peas when the pod is plump, but the skin is still shiny, not dull.

MAY 27 If you’re working hard and sweating a lot, eat potassium-rich foods like avocados, bananas and baked potatoes to prevent cramps.

MAY 28 You can use diluted hydrogen peroxide as a fruit and vegetable wash.

MAY 29 In the Middle Ages, farmers whose flax crops were being eaten by aphids prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance. The small red and black insects that appeared to eat the aphids were dubbed “our lady’s bug,” and eventually came to be known as ladybugs.

MAY 30 FIRST QUARTER MOON. News­paper makes a good weed barrier and mulch. Spread whole sections, up to one inch thick, then top with mulch. By the end of the season, the newspaper will have decomposed enough to turn into the soil.

MAY 31 The Sun rises at 5:59 a.m. today and sets at 8:52 p.m. As a general rule, fuzzy caterpillars turn into moths and hairless ones become butterflies.

Soil is the substance of transformation.
-Carol Williams

Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.

This article was originally published on April 30, 2009.