Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spraying v. Mowing: Both Spread Weeds

Speech to the Josephine County Commissioners, 8/24/11

There was an article in the August 8th  Daily Courier, “Volunteers trim grass, weeds near Williams.”  People in Williams don’t want the County to use herbicide to keep their roadsides clean, and have an agreement with the County to control vegetation along 40 miles of roads in their area.  Public Works now says that the job is too big for them, and mowing reduces the life of pavement, as it leaves a mat of stems and grass roots that holds water and undermines the road.  So Public Works plans to ask this Board to reduce the amount of roadway that is maintained by volunteers by half, from 40 to 20 miles of roadway.
In this gardener’s opinion, nothing has contributed to the spread of weeds like spraying and mowing, along with its poor cousin, weed-whacking.  These tools have made people think that they can control weeds in this manner without bending over and pulling them out of the ground.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 
Grants Pass’ Wastewater Treatment Plant property is a case in point against mowing without watering to control weeds and grass: it is a mess of weeds, including star thistle and puncture vine, with little good grass.  A mature wild lettuce or thistle does not die when cut off at ankle height; it jumps right back with new flowers within a week.  Puncture vine is unaffected by mowing, crawling beneath the blades and spreading its seeds over pavements. 
Roundup® and other plain glyphosate products may be the safest herbicides known to man, but that doesn’t make the stuff great for weed control.  It’s a crude organic fertilizer that feeds the soil and favors windblown weeds and crabgrass over perennial grasses and trees.  Crabgrass loves it; it kills the plants, but the seeds pop right up, bigger and greener every time.  Under spray management, we are filling our roadsides with ugly weeds.
I was told a few years ago that Hawaii uses steam machines to kill roadside vegetation.  This does not fertilize the next crop of weeds, and it kills them all immediately, including the crowns and seeds.  We wouldn’t have to buy expensive chemicals, only cheap water and the fuel to heat it. 
I ask this Board to investigate these machines and their use, and buy one to maintain clean gravel on our roadsides instead of relying on either spraying or mowing.  Spraying is creating corridors for weeds to grow and spread throughout our county.  Mowing does the same.  Let’s try something that kills the vegetation, and doesn’t fertilize the next generation of weeds.

Published at Yahoo Voices

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