Regulars and Shorts, Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: October 2011

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

OCTOBER 1 The Sun rises today at 7:24 a.m. and sets at 7:11 p.m. In October, the average maximum temperature is 66°; minimum 40°. It rains an average of 1.44 inches and snows 2.1 inches.

OCTOBER 2 Tree squirrels, unlike ground squirrels, don’t hibernate, though they do spend lots of time in their nests (called “dreys”) when it gets cold.

OCTOBER 3 FIRST QUARTER MOON. This time of year, tree squirrels are busy caching acorns, bark, berries, flower heads and nuts for later—often closely followed by a magpie or crow that uncovers and eats the good stuff as soon as the squirrel scampers to its next stash. In the spring, squirrels add bird eggs and…eww!…baby birds to their diet.

OCTOBER 4 Sort leftover garden seeds. Onion, sweet corn, parsnip and beets lose their viability after one year, so you might as well toss them. Most other vegetable seeds remain viable for three years; beans and melons for five.

OCTOBER 5 If you’re planning to store your root crops for the winter, don’t harvest before the leaves start to fall, or on a damp or cloudy day.

OCTOBER 6 Time to dig up and store cannas, dahlias, gladioli and other tender bulbs, corms and tubers. Gently rinse off dirt, cure in a warm dry place for three weeks and store layered in sand, shredded newspaper or sawdust in a ventilated container.

OCTOBER 7 Want to wow your friends with a Zeppelin bend, klemheist or lark’s head? Maybe just learn to tie a necktie? shows you how.

OCTOBER 8 Plant some spring greens now: Tina Cerling of Western Garden Centers says, “At my house, we plant lettuce and spinach [seed] in cold frames in late fall and get a really early harvest in the spring.” Start with actual plants (also broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and kale) for a cold frame and eat green right through a Utah winter.

OCTOBER 9 A little brown bat has taken to snoozing upside down on the front steps of my downtown workplace during the day. Little brown bats sleep nearly 20 hours out of every 24, yet somehow find time to travel between their day and night roosting sites and consume 600 to 1,000 moths, mosquitoes, gnats, midges and wasps nightly. Preternaturally agile, they can snatch insects with their teeth or net them with their wings, tossing them from wing to tail to mouth in mid-flight.

OCTOBER 10 Leave garden beds bare for a few weeks before putting down winter mulch or planting cover crops. That’ll give the birds time to dig through the soil and eat the weed seeds and bugs.

OCTOBER 11 FULL DYING GRASS MOON. Average first frost date. When a freeze is predicted, cover tender vegetables with sheets, newspapers, floating row covers or buckets, or set up a cloche. The first frost usually hits this week, on a cloudless night.

OCTOBER 12 If you’re reseeding your lawn, consider this: Dog urine spots don’t show on fescue and perennial ryegrass. They do on Bermuda grass and Kentucky bluegrass, especially if you use chemical fertilizers.

OCTOBER 13 Look for Jupiter, rising at sunset in Aries, near the waning Moon.

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

OCTOBER 15 Don’t mulch perennials yet; wait until the ground is frozen.

OCTOBER 16 This is a great month to plant trees, shrubs, bushes, roses and perennial flowers. And bulbs! Don’t fertilize new plantings, but do use root starter.

OCTOBER 17 Birds target red fruit; if you don’t want to share your cherries, plant a yellow cherry tree.

OCTOBER 18 Indian Summer, a spell of warm weather, often occurs this week.

OCTOBER 19 LAST QUARTER MOON Mice dislike the scents of mint and dryer sheets. They love the scent and taste of chocolate.

OCTOBER 20 Tonight’s Orionid meteor shower, which appears to radiate from the constellation Orion, is the second of the year’s showers (the first being May’s Eta Aquarids) caused by Earth passing through the tail of Halley’s Comet.

OCTOBER 21 LAST QUARTER MOON Brine shrimp are laying eggs in the Great Salt Lake. Worms are migrating downward. In the foothills, rattlesnakes are forming hibernation knots in burrows and under ledges.

OCTOBER 22 Frogs and toads blink when they swallow because it forces their eyeballs against the roof of their mouth, helping to push the food down.

OCTOBER 23 As you’re putting away summer clothes, tuck in some dried lavender; it both works and smells better than mothballs.

OCTOBER 24 Mule deer are forming into herds that will stay together until the spring equinox.

OCTOBER 25 Time to trim blackberry and raspberry canes back to just above soil level. Pull up frost-blacked annuals or till them under.

OCTOBER 26 NEW MOON. Time to winterize the pond: Discard floating annuals; trim back perennials; dredge as much debris as possible; drain half of the water and refill. In a month or so, trade the pump for a floating de-icer.

OCTOBER 27 Grab a telescope, or a friend with a telescope, and get outside tonight. Jupiter is at its closest approach to Earth until 2022.

OCTOBER 28 NEW MOON Tall, elegant aconite, also called monkshood for its cylindrical helmet, has roots that are a class-one poison. In times past, it was called wolfsbane, as hunters coated arrowheads with its juice.

OCTOBER 29 The Antelope Island Bison Roundup is happening today. ($9/carload.) Bison can run up to 40 miles per hour. They weigh 25-40 poundsat birth. A grown female averages 800 pounds; a bull, 1,500. Antelope Island is home to 600 of them.

OCTOBER 30 Katsaridaphobia is fear of cockroaches.

OCTOBER 31 WINTER CROSS-QUARTER DAY. The Sun rises at 6:56 a.m. today, and sets at 5:24 p.m. Long before Halloween, this was Samhain (which roughly translates to “summer’s end”), the final harvest festival of the year.

“Breeze blows leaves of musty-colored yellow
So I sweep them in my sack,
Yes, yes, yes, it’s my autumn almanac.”
—Ray Davies

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.