Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: September 2009

By Diane Olson

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

SEPTEMBER 1 The Sun rises today at 6:55 a.m. and sets at 8 p.m. September’s average maximum temperature is 79°; the minimum is 51°. It rains an average of 1.05 inches and snows 0.1 inches.

SEPTEMBER 2 Put away the loppers, pruners and shears. Anything trimmed now is apt to put out new shoots that will freeze when it turns cold. Jupiter is near the waxing Moon tonight.

SEPTEMBER 3 Quit watering melons for one week prior to picking to allow the sugars to develop.

SEPTEMBER 4 FULL CORN MOON. Corn plants, one of the favorite foods of the cottonworm moth larva, release a chemical distress signal when eaten by the caterpillars. The chemicals attract adult female parasitic wasps, which lay their eggs in the posterior of the caterpillar. When the wasp eggs hatch, the larva burrow into the caterpillar and eat its insides. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control because, unlike ladybugs, they prey mostly on pest insects.

SEPTEMBER 5 Time to plant late season beets, cabbage, lettuce, radishes and spinach. And garlic. To roast garlic, place entire heads on individual squares of foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap up, and bake at 350° for 1 hour or until soft. Squeeze onto crackers or bread. It’s tasty, and you’ll be safe from vampires.

SEPTEMBER 6 Weeds are usually a sign that something is out of whack in an ecosystem, and actually help restore soil health. Most weeds appear where soil has been disturbed for cultivation; well-established perennial beds are rarely weedy.


• improve the soil by moderating the pH;

• absorb excess nutrients and water;

• extract minerals from lower strata and bring them to the surface in their leaves;

• reduce soil loss and erosion;

• loosen compacted soils;

• provide nutrients

SEPTEMBER 7 When water is scarce, plants synthesize a hormone that helps them conserve by closing stomatal pores on their leaves.

SEPTEMBER 8 Check out the Harvest Moon Market in Pioneer Park, Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., through October 13.

SEPTEMBER 9 What to do with that three-foot-long zucchini: Cook it in lemon juice until it’s tender, chop it, sweeten it with sugar and apple pie spices, and bake a faux apple pie.

SEPTEMBER 10 Keep deadheading fall-blooming annuals and perennials for longer bloom. The Aztecs were the first to cultivate zinnias.

SEPTEMBER 11 LAST QUARTER MOON. Annual plants are speeding to maturation so they can send their seeds out into the world before it freezes. Collect, dry, and save the seeds of your favorite sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias and marigolds.

SEPTEMBER 12 Until the 19th century, most Americans believed that tomatoes were poisonous. In 1820, to prove otherwise, a wealthy eccentric named Robert Gibbon Johnson stationed himself in front of the Salem, New Jersey courthouse, and ate a whole basket full.

SEPTEMBER 13 This is a great time to start new planting areas. Test the soil, add any needed amendments, work in lots of organic matter, and let it mellow over the winter. Look for the waning Moon floating just above Mars tonight.

SEPTEMBER 14 Hummingbirds are heading south. Baby spiders are ballooning into new territory. Ladybugs are heading for high ground. Crickets are singing louder.

SEPTEMBER 15 Keep watering

perennials, especially new plantings. Do it less frequently, but longer. Venus is near the Moon tonight.

SEPTEMBER 16 Cautious male praying mantids may take up to an hour to travel a single foot toward a hungry, horny female. Though if he slips up, he’ll still get to mate, since mantids don’t require a head to mate.

SEPTEMBER 17 Pepper plants can live two years or more if you pot them up and bring them inside to a south-facing window.

SEPTEMBER 18 NEW MOON. Phoretic insects use other species for transportation. Leeches hitch rides on ducks and geese, and lice on many species of birds.

SEPTEMBER 19 Plant hairy vetch in next year’s tomato beds for a world-class crop. Last year, it snowed three inches on this day.

SEPTEMBER 20 Chrysanthemums like magnesium; give them a sprinkle of Epsom salts.

SEPTEMBER 21 Cure harvested onions in a warm, dry place for two to four weeks. Storage when the neck is dry above the bulb. Onions have been grown since before recorded history. The workers building the pyramids ate them, and they were found in the tomb of King Tut. In ancient Rome, they were dubbed unio, meaning large pearl.

SEPTEMBER 22 AUTUMNAL EQUINOX. Today, the Sun is directly over the equator, and day and night are equal around the planet.

SEPTEMBER 23 Plant and transplant deep-rooted perennials now: They’ll have a couple of months to settle in and spread their roots before they go dormant and will be raring to grow next spring.

SEPTEMBER 24 Today, the Sun passes into the Southern Hemisphere.

SEPTEMBER 25 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Earthworms have five hearts and no eyes. Helminthophobia is the fear of being infested with worms.

SEPTEMBER 26 Time to re-seed bare spots in the lawn and fertilize it. Use white clover seed to create a self-fertilizing lawn.

SEPTEMBER 27 Cultivate delayed gratification: Plant cornflower, crocus, daffodils, dianthus, grape hyacinth, iris, larkspur, narcissus, pansies, poppies, primrose, scillas, snowdrops, and tulips now. Plant bulbs in drifts (big, informally contoured groups), not lines.

SEPTEMBER 28 Leaves change color as chlorophyll production ceases, and the underlying pigments are slowly revealed.

SEPTEMBER 29 The fall raptor migration is peaking. Look for the waxing Moon near Jupiter tonight.

SEPTEMBER 30 The Sun rises at 7:23 a.m. this morning and sets at 7:11 p.m.

“September: It was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.”

-Alexander Theroux

Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.



This article was originally published on August 29, 2009.