America the Messy Yard Police State
Rain! A jobs program for messy yard cops?A jobs program for messy yard cops? The article didn't mention it but the rain and weeds are a jobs program for the messy yard cops. People call the messy yard cops to snitch on their neighbors who have illegal weeds growing on their property. And of course the messy yard laws are selectively enforced. The messy yard cops don't visit EVERY home in the valley looking for illegal weeds. They only visit homes that people complain about.
Weeds in full bloom thanks to rainy winter
by Kara G. Morrison - Mar. 13, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
As a gardener, Lisa Grant can't complain about the ample rain. But the moisture has brought unwanted visitors to her well-manicured yard: a deluge of weeds.
"They're driving me crazy," the Phoenix master gardener said of the burclover, nutsedge and London rocket plants popping up everywhere. "Our turf is full of weeds, my planting beds are full of weeds because everything is wet."
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Weeds are thriving in the wetter-than-normal winter, often overtaking desirable greenery and pulling moisture from native plants, gardens and lawns.
At best, they're a nuisance. At worst, the invaders create a potential fire hazard, whether growing wild in the desert or choking vacant lots as well as the yards of empty homes.
The rains mean more time spent pulling weeds, as well as the diligence needed to spot them quickly.
"It will flower before you know it's there," Grant said of London rocket, a weed with small, yellow flowers that can grow several feet high very fast. "It's the worst I have ever seen."
For Ed Northam, the problem is more serious.
The weed biologist for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County must identify emerging weeds and help mitigate fire hazards they can cause.
"If we get more moisture, they'll be really bad," said Northam, who watched weeds take over a vacant lot next to his south Phoenix office.
"If we get typical March rains, we will have some very tall weeds in vacant lots and roadsides."
So far, the National Weather Service has recorded more than 4.25 inches of rain this year in Phoenix, a significant jump from the less than 2 inches of accumulation Phoenix has on average by the second week of March.
Valerie Meyers, meteorologist for the Weather Service in Phoenix, said March is typically the wettest month in the Valley, and she expects more rainfall this month.
Northam said that should there be another significant downpour as the weather warms toward spring, it could mean waist-deep weeds in many spots around the Valley.
Although the desert looks lush now, by May, the carpet of weeds will turn into ugly brown tinder - just one lightning strike or car accident away from fueling a wildfire.
One weed Northam and other plant experts are watching carefully is buffelgrass, a perennial that produces an inordinate amount of seeds and creates a large biomass that burns easily. In the past five years, Northam has seen a nearby lot turn into a buffelgrass nursery.
Buffelgrass is on the state's noxious-weed list because it's stealing nutrients from native plants and returns each year with vigor.
Northam said if the rains subside, the fire danger posed by weeds should decrease. As a precaution, he encourages owners of weed-strewn lots to mow or till the vegetation to reduce fire hazards.
"Something as simple as mowing them down and keeping them low will cut down on fire hazards," he said.
As weeds take hold in suburbia, it's not too late for home gardeners to win the battle with the pesky plants. A weekend spent mowing, hoeing or pulling them out by their roots goes a long way toward combating the problem.
"If you don't want to use chemicals, the best thing you can do is aggressively pull them as they develop," said Chad Davis, a plant curator at the Desert Botanical Garden, who has been battling weeds in his own lawn this spring.
"I try to keep ahead of it so it's not a huge mess, but it's ahead of me right now," Davis said. "Now's the time to get out there as soon as possible. You want to get them out before they flower and set seed."
Pre-emergent herbicides are effective in controlling weed growth. Spraying with herbicides typically requires a sunny, non-windy day, which is another reason weekend gardeners are getting a bit frustrated.
"Having it rain on the weekends is not convenient for applying weed killers," said Bruce Solomon, sales associate at Baker Nursery in Phoenix.
"They need some hotter weather to be more effective."
Solomon said he has been busy selling herbicides formulated for use in cooler weather until temperatures rise.
Still, Solomon noted that so far, this is not one of the worst weed seasons he has seen in the desert. Spring weeds can be worse when they get a jump-start from fall rains, he said.
"Our biggest headaches are when we start getting good rains in the fall, and the rains come every two to three weeks," Solomon said.