Our local environment is linked to the rest of the universe in ways even more astonishing and exciting than those conceived by ancient astrologers. — Percy Seymour
Lunar phase and lore
The Coneflower Moon, full on July 19, wanes throughout the rest of the month, entering its last quarter at 6 p.m. on July 26 and reaching perigee, its position closest to Earth, on the 27th. Rising in the evening and setting close to sunrise, the gibbous third-quarter moon shines throughout the night. As the barometer falls in advance of the July 28 cool front, go fishing; do it when the moon is overhead after midnight and the air is cool.
After full moon, midsummer lunar stress declines quickly, creating more favorable conditions for vacationers, public service employees, shoppers and livestock owners. The moon’s third quarter also provides excellent lunar conditions for putting in autumn turnips. Lunar position in Pisces on the 22-24 is even better.
The coolest days this week are typically the 22nd and 23rd when mild 70s are recorded about a fourth of all the years. And five years in 10, at least one afternoon in the 70s follows the late-July cool wave that often arrives around the 28th. Evening lows in the 50s, unusual only two weeks ago, often occur. And throughout the country, average high temperatures drop one degree on the 28th, their first drop since late January.
Sunshine remains the rule for this week of the month, with three out of four days bringing at least a partial break in the clouds. Rainfall typically tapers off as July comes to a close, the chance for precipitation declining from 35 percent on the 24th down to just 20 percent on the 30th and 31st.
The natural calendar
- July 22: A few Judas maples redden. Shiny spicebush, boxwood, greenbriar and poison ivy berries have formed.
- July 23: The sun enters its late summer sign of Leo today.
- July 24: As the trees darken with middle summer, the sun slowly increases the rate of its descent, falling a little more than one degree to a declination below 20 degrees by this date.
- July 25: After the 25th of July, a subtle change takes place in weather history statistics: The chances for a high in the 80s or 90s falls slightly from 90 percent down to 75 percent. That shift is the first measurable temperature signal that summer has begun to unravel.
- July 26: The last week of middle summer arrives with the last week of July, moving in to the song of cicadas, the katydids and the new generations of crickets.
- July 27: Seedpods are fully formed on the trumpet creepers. White vervain blossoms reach the end of their spikes. Blue-winged teal start to migrate.
- July 28: Look for the southern Delta Aquarid meteors after midnight July 28 in the southern sky. And watch for the Capricornid shooting stars near Capricorn in the southeastern sky after midnight on the 29th and 30th. The dark moon will assist you in your search for the falling stars.
Average blooming dates
- July 22: Ironweed, Monkey Flower, Arrowhead
- July 23: Stonecrop Sedum, Joe Pye Weed
- July 24: Turk’s Cap Lily, Jimson Weed
- July 25: Field Thistle, Common Ragweed
- July 26: Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint
- July 27: Biennial Gaura
- July 28: White Snakeroot
- In the Field and Garden
- July 22: Elderberries are turning purple, and the second cut of alfalfa is almost always half complete.
- July 23: The peach harvest begins throughout the Lower Midwest and East.
- July 24: Farmers are getting ready for August seeding of alfalfa, smooth brome grass, orchard grass, tall fescue red clover and timothy.
- July 25: The day’s length has shortened by almost three-quarters of an hour since summer solstice. Many does and ewes sense this change and may start to cycle.
- July 26: Plant coneflowers from nurseries for August blooms. Map out where to put chrysanthemums.
- July 27: Make corrective lime and fertilizer applications for August and September seeding after testing the soil.
- July 28: Hemlock loopers make war on the hemlocks. Oak skeletonizers raid the oak leaves.
Some pieces of the summer seem to be accelerating with the high temperatures of the past month. Blackberries are black a little early, and ragweed has come in ahead of schedule. In our garden pond, the three-petaled flowers of the arrowhead opened overnight, a week before they did last year. The yellow coneflowers, rudbeckia speciosa, are a week or so ahead of schedule.
The zinnias and the Shasta daisies I planted from seed are finally blossoming, bright oranges and reds joining the white phlox and the pinks of the petunias. The lilies are almost over now.
July tent caterpillars hang from the apple tree. The cabbage butterflies cluster at the purple loosestrife, up to a dozen at once, joined by the bees and a tagalong spotted skipper. The dragonflies weave back and forth, a giant black and white skimmer, three or flour big blue-tailed skimmers, a few needle thin bluets or short-tailed damselflies, too.
The hummingbirds visit the rose of Sharon. The first monarch butterfly came to the garden yesterday. The young daddy longlegs are growing up, have doubled in size over the past couple of weeks. Cricket hunters, long thin black wasps, started coming to the pond’s edge, scouting for their food that will sing this week.