Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: October 2009

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°; the minimum is 40°. The average monthly rainfall total is 1.44 inches, average; snowfall 2.1 inches.

OCTOBER 2 Rats! Our long, moist spring seems to have produced a bumper crop of Norway rats around the valley. Rats and humans are disturbingly similar. Both: migrated from east to west in the life journey of their species; are omnivorous and adaptable to all climes; live in well-ordered social groups; reproduce regardless of season or food supply; engage in homosexual behavior; practice cannibalism; frequently engage in warfare among their own kind. Snap traps are said to be the best method of eradication. Or get a rat terrier.

OCTOBER 3 FULL FALLING LEAVES MOON. The two major populations of monarch butterflies in North America are separated by the Rocky Mountains. The western group over winters in coastal California; the eastern in the Transvolcanic Mountains in the Mexican state of Michoacan, at altitudes of up to 11,000 feet.

OCTOBER 4 Gather seeds from this year’s best annuals and dry them for next year.

OCTOBER 5 Overseed lawn with winter ryegrass to crowd out weeds in the spring. Plus, it’ll look nice and green when the rest of the grass is still brown.

OCTOBER 6 Cats can hear ultrasound. Fear of cats is called ailurphobia.

OCTOBER 7 Pot up annual geraniums and bring them inside. You can do the same with chives and pepper plants.

OCTOBER 8 Why would anyone use pesticides? 95% of garden insects are either beneficial or harmless.

OCTOBER 9 Time to plant garlic, lilies, rhubarb, roses, shallots, Spring bulbs, trees and shrubs. Remember; don’t fertilize new plantings this time of year; the new shoots and leaves will freeze.

OCTOBER 10 Check it out: Mercury, Saturn and Venus form a chorus line tonight.

OCTOBER 11 LAST QUARTER MOON. Average First Frost Date. When a freeze is predicted, cover tender vegetables with sheets, newspapers, floating row covers or buckets. Uncover them once the temperature rises above 32° F. Spraying plants with water also protects them. When water freezes, it gives off heat, called “heat of fusion.”

OCTOBER 12 Time to move outdoor furniture inside, or cover it with a tarp.

OCTOBER 13 Why rake? Unless you enjoy raking, of course. If you don’t, simply shred fallen leaves with the mower or a chipper/shredder and leave them in place as fertilizer. Venus and Saturn are hanging together tonight, with Mercury just below.

OCTOBER 14 After the first hard freeze, mulch root crops with a heavy layer of straw.

OCTOBER 15 Brown trout are spawning. Elk, white-tailed deer and pronghorn are in rut. Moose are making big love. Porcupines are doing it very carefully.

OCTOBER 16 Look for a gorgeous grouping of Saturn, Venus, Mercury and the Moon tonight.

OCTOBER 17 NEW MOON. Got a leaky hose? Make it a drip irrigation hose by adding more holes.

OCTOBER 18 Indian Summer, also know as St. Luke’s Little Summer, a spell of warm weather, often occurs now.

OCTOBER 19 Time to winterize the pond. Discard annuals; trim back the perennials; transfer delicate fish inside; dredge as much gunk as possible; drain half the water; refill; and replace the pump with a floating deicer.

OCTOBER 20 Pull up spent annuals and cut back perennials. Keep digging up bindweed and other perennial weeds. If you have a serious bindweed problem, try choking it out with cover crops.

OCTOBER 21 Plant a green manure crop to protect the soil, or cover it with a two-inch layer of compost or manure.

OCTOBER 22 Conifers, like deciduous trees, shed in the fall. Because the oldest needles are shed, the inner areas of the tree closer to the trunk become less dense than the outer areas. Pine trees usually shed three-year-old needles, whereas spruce and fir shed needles that are four to five years old.

OCTOBER 23 Keep an eye out for woolly bears, the caterpillar stage of the Isabella tiger moth. Researchers recently discovered that woolly bears munch on alkaline-laden plants to rid themselves of parasitic fly larva, challenging the notion that only mammals self-medicate.

OCTOBER 24 Time to trim raspberry canes to just above ground level, and to cut back vines.

OCTOBER 25 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Rattlesnakes are forming slithery communal hibernation knots in burrows and under cliffs. Worms are migrating downward, and frogs and turtles are heading into deeper water.

OCTOBER 26 After milking them for honeydew all summer, some ants over winter their pet aphids in their nests. In the Mid-East, people milk aphids for honeydew, too, and make candy out of it.

OCTOBER 27 Fifty to 60 million years before humans began cultivating plants for food, several species of ants made the transition from hunter-gatherers to agriculturists.

OCTOBER 28 The Food and Drug Admin-istration sets a maximum legal limit on how many insects or insect parts can be contained in packaged foods. 3.5 ounces of broccoli, for example, can contain no more than 60 aphids. Bon appetit!

OCTOBER 29 The early Romans believed that drinking raven’s blood would darken graying hair. The Common Raven evolved in the Old World and crossed the Bering land bridge into North America. Ravens can solve problems, manipulate other animals, and make their own toys.

OCTOBER 30 Four hundred million years ago, spiders used their silk to weave terrestrial hiding places. They began weaving aerial webs when insects developed wings.

OCTOBER 31 WINTER CROSS QUARTER DAY. The Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. today, and sets at 5:24 p.m. Grab the binoculars and check out Mars floating next to the brilliant Beehive star cluster. The Beehive Cluster was among the first objects that Galileo studied with his telescope.

The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter.

—Dan Fogelberg


Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.



This article was originally published on September 30, 2009.