Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Gardening Shouldn’t Need a Special Week
Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 5/16/12
Honorable Councilors and Mayor,
Today, you proclaimed National Garden Week. Since we have a week proclaimed for gardens, it appears that gardening is endangered. We don’t have special weeks proclaiming things that most people do as a matter of course; we proclaim things that they should do and mostly don’t.
Gardening is growing the plants you want and not growing the ones you don’t. At bottom, it is pulling and killing weeds. Weeds are plants growing where they are not wanted. Some plants have weedier habits than others, spreading more easily and looking messier than other plants; some have annoying burrs and tack seeds; many become a fire hazard when seeded and dry; these are generally known as weeds. One can garden by pulling weeds alone; planting, mulching, watering, and feeding are optional, depending on what you want to grow. A Zen garden is raked sand with no plants at all.
There was a time when people gardened as a matter of course; we apparently didn’t need a nuisance code regarding weeds until 1960. Our code was written by gardeners for non-gardeners, providing guidance in keeping their properties from becoming a nuisance to neighbors, by forbidding mature and seeding weeds and noxious growth. A mature weed is one that is flowering; pulling it when it begins to flower keeps it from seeding, which is when it truly becomes a nuisance, and soon after that, a fire hazard.
We must have also had a City Gardener and staff at one time, before we privatized such work, using landscape management contractors. But these are not gardeners; they mostly don’t pull weeds. They mow, hedge, blow and go, supposedly keeping the weeds under control by cutting. But many weeds are impossible to control by cutting alone; they just keep flowering and seeding either between mowing or under the mower blades. With no gardener on staff to make sure that weeds are pulled, our public properties have become weedy, seedy, and full of noxious growth like blackberries.
If we had a City Gardener and enforced our nuisance code regarding weeds on both public and private properties, we wouldn’t need to proclaim a special week for gardens; our city would be a garden. I ask our Mayor, Council, and interested staff to schedule a special Council workshop and take a walk with me around our Water Reclamation plant and Reinhart Volunteer Park to talk about the problems with our public and private property maintenance, within the next few weeks.