Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: October 2008

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
by Diane Olson

OCTOBER 1 The Sun rises today at 7:24 a.m. and sets at 7:11 p.m. October’s average maximum temperature is 66°; minimum is 40°. The average monthly rainfall total is 1.44 inches; average snowfall 2.1 inches. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts above-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation.

OCTOBER 2 Clover contracts its leaves at the approach of a storm.

OCTOBER 3 Dead plant material can harbor all sorts of bad bugs and diseases, so it’s a good idea to dig up and compost vegetables and annuals as soon as they finish flowering.

OCTOBER 4 Look for Venus, high in the west, about 40 minutes after nightfall, and Jupiter, to the south.

OCTOBER 5 Time to plant evergreens, garlic, lilies, rhubarb, roses, shallots, spring bulbs, trees and shrubs. Don’t fertilize new plantings; use root starter to encourage growth beneath the soil.

OCTOBER 6 October is often windy, so secure the canes of climbing roses and other vining plants to their supports. Use nylon; it stretches as the plant grows and won’t cut into the stems.

OCTOBER 7 FIRST QUARTER MOON It’s mating season for the valley’s tarantulas. Tarantulas spend most of their lives underground, though males decamp in the fall of their seventh year to mate. Once a receptive female is located (by scent), he lures her out of her den, then faces the classic male spider dilemma: how to mate without becoming lunch. Even if he’s lucky, he’s still toast; he won’t return to his burrow, and so ends up freezing. The female, conversely, retreats back underground and lays her eggs, and may live another 13 years.

OCTOBER 8 Leave garden soil bare for a few weeks before spreading winter mulch or planting cover crops. This’ll give the birds time to dig through the soil and eat pests and their eggs. In a couple of weeks, lay down a layer of chopped leaves or other mulch, or plant winter rye, to reduce erosion and nutrient leaching.

OCTOBER 9 Time to trim blackberry and raspberry canes back to just above soil level.

OCTOBER 10. If you have poor quality soil, your space is limited, or you have limited mobility, try raised planting beds. (Warning: they do dry out more quickly than tradition garden beds.)  Here’s how to build them: www.organicgardening.com/feature/0,7518,s1-5-19-1402,00.html. Here’s a "no-dig" version: www.bestgardening.com/bgc/howto/organicnodig01.htm.

OCTOBER 11 Average First Frost Date. The first frost usually hits this week, on a cloudless night. When a freeze is predicted, cover tender vegetables with lightweight blankets, sheets, newspapers, floating row covers or buckets.

OCTOBER 12 Western rattle_snakes are slithering together to form communal hibernation knots in burrows and under cliffs. There are rattle_snake burrows all along the foothills of the Salt Lake valley. 

OCTOBER 13 Overseed lawns with Dutch white clover to choke out weeds, feed the grass and soften soil. Bacteria around roots of clover actually pull water vapor out of the air. Bees and butterflies like it, too, and it’s pretty.

OCTOBER 14 FULL FALLING LEAVES MOON. The Moon is regularly shaken by small moonquakes, thought to be caused by the gravitational pull of Earth. Sometimes tiny fractures appear at the surface, and gas escapes.

OCTOBER 15 Root crops can be left in the ground through fall. After the first hard freeze, mulch with a heavy layer of straw, and harvest as needed.

OCTOBER 16 Fall cankerworms are emerging from their cocoons, as adult moths, to mate. The dull grey, wingless females climb tree trunks to await the winged, striped males, then lay clusters of barrel-shaped eggs, which will hatch in midspring. Fall cankerworm larvae, called inchworms, are a favorite meal of orioles and other migratory songbirds.

OCTOBER 17 Why rake? Shred fallen leaves on the lawn with the mower or a chipper/shredder and leave them there to act as fertilizer.

OCTOBER 18 A spell of warm weather, known as Indian Summer, often occurs around this time.

OCTOBER 19 Worms are migrating downward, and frogs and turtles are heading into deeper water. Brine shrimp are laying their eggs in the Great Salt Lake.

OCTOBER 20 The Orionid meteor shower is at its peak now.

OCTOBER 21 LAST QUARTER MOON Transplant perennials, shrubs, strawberries and trees, and divide perennials that are overcrowded or growing in a ring with the center missing.

OCTOBER 22 Try planting next summer’s crops now. Weed, till, then plant tomato, squash, pumpkin and melon seeds three inches deep.

OCTOBER 23 After harvesting, brush root crops clean of soil and clip the tops. Store in a Styrofoam chest or double cardboard box in a cool basement. Don’t store fruits with vegetables; fruit gives off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables.

OCTOBER 24 Bust out those pruners and trimmers and have a go at ornamental trees and deciduous hedges now that the growing season is over.

OCTOBER 25 Store squash in a cool room with temperatures between 50º and 65º.

OCTOBER 26 Time to winterize the pond: Discard annuals; trim back perennials; remove as much sludge and debris as possible; drain 50% and refill; move delicate fish inside. Take out the pump and install a floating deicer.

OCTOBER 27 Look for brilliant Mercury to the left of the tender crescent Moon.

OCTOBER 28 NEW MOON Try growing sweet alyssum, dwarf marigold, ageratum and nasturtium in a cool (60º), sunny window.

OCTOBER 29 Time to clean, oil and store lawn mowers and tillers.

OCTOBER 30 Mottephobia is a fear of moths. It was long believed that moths were the souls of the dead flinging themselves against the windows of the living.

OCTOBER 31 The Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. today, and sets at 5:24 p.m. Halloween aka Samhain. Samhain means "summer’s end."

Doesn’t everything die at last, and
too soon?_Tell me, what is it you
plan to do_with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver

Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2008.