Monday, July 29, 2013

Cobweb Spiders Camp

A tool every resident should have is a web duster, a broom on a pole with a puff head, to take out cobwebs inside and outside the house.  The “Webster” head can be found at Diamond, with a variety of poles, extendable and otherwise.  Mine has three sections and extends to 16 feet to get the eaves on the second story.

The cobweb spider is the homeless vagrant of the spider world.  Rather than build and repair a strong, long-term dwelling in a good location as does the classic orb weaver, it builds and camps in a small, quick, weak web anywhere it can find a surface to sling it, preferably out of the rain, but anywhere in dry weather, like now. 

As soon as its web gets dirty, visible, and therefore useless, it moves on and builds another nearby.  The dirty webs actually steer its prey into the invisible new web.  And they can make even a pretty shrub or house look neglected in short order.

I saw this effect on one of my most beautiful properties, when a mister showed up the cobwebs that had appeared on the ground cover overnight.  Approaching the door, I saw a piece of litter, a gas receipt, crumpled and thrown on the ground cover by someone who had actually been at her door.  Unconsciously, the person saw the cobwebs and threw his trash into the ugliness of the webs, despite the beauty of the rest of the property.  A few webs are all it takes to turn on the unconscious urge to litter.

Cobwebs are all over town, particularly infesting hedges and certain shrubs that they favor, like juniper and rosemary, but also every neglected inward corner of a building, particularly under the eaves.  

I’ve been petitioning door-to-door lately, and the cobwebs around the front doors make one shudder.  Your gardener or landscape maintenance man cannot visit often enough to clean these up; it is up to residents.  

The way to actually discourage these spiders is to sweep their webs before you see them, while they are still useful to the spider.  If you only sweep the visible webs, you aren’t even bothering the spiders.    

Sweep every corner where they might build, particularly where you see a spider but no web.  When you sweep them off a building, it pays to stick around for a minute or two while they start climbing right back up where they were, and sweep them down again.  This will often make them go somewhere else.

Another way to clean up cobwebs is with a hard jet of water; this is probably more effective than a web duster in shrubs, which are invaded only in dry weather, and where it is impossible to sweep all the webs.
7/24/2013.  To be published on Yahoo Voices. 
Join Garden Grants Pass in gardening classes at Greenwood and Schroeder Dog Parks.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener        541-955-9040

Plants Love Misters

Kids love misters on a hot day; you can see it in the wet heads coming out of the Growers Market.  So do you, if you think about it; in the dry heat, a fine mist makes it easier to breath.
The same goes for your plants, particularly those that are hard to grow in our very dry, hot summers, like blueberries.  A mister nearby can make a blueberry explode with growth.  Every other plant in the vicinity also breathes easier; nearly every plant loves higher humidity than we have.  On the other hand, spider mites love dryness, and a mister prevents and gets rid of the mites.  A mister also shows up cobweb spider webs, making them temporarily useless to the spider and showing them so you can clean them up when they would otherwise be nearly invisible.

A mister also cools its immediate area, outdoor air conditioning that can make your indoor cooler work better, and cool the hot west side of your house.  They take very little water, and it is not wasted by evaporation, since evaporative cooling is the point.

Right now, Grover plumbing supply has free-standing misters for only $10 apiece, and they also have individual misters on coiled, flexible tubes that can be attached to a drip irrigation line to build a mister system that can cool your entire yard.

Truly, water used for watering and cooling is not wasted: besides watering plants, it humidifies and cools the area.  If enough people water lawns, it creates thundershowers, which we had a lot of when we nearly all watered our lawns in the 80’s.  Now that most lawns in this town are allowed to go dry every year, we have few thunderstorms, but a lot of weeds and ugly yards.  Watered, mowed, and weeded grass is the best defense most people have against weeds.

A study has shown that irrigating farms in Southern California creates summer rain in Colorado and Arizona and puts more water in the Colorado River, which is used again for irrigating farms and yards.  Every bit of so-called “wasted” evaporated water falls somewhere as rain; water cannot be wasted by watering plants.

Our city got into the “save water” eco-mindset a decade or so ago, raising rates on water use above basic household use to discourage watering plants.  People started letting lawns go dry.  Since purifying river water is mostly overhead, the city had to raise rates again to cover costs, and people used still less, starting our water department on a downward spiral of higher rates causing less use causing still higher rates. 

The last time they raised our rates, they raised the basic charge, not the per-gallon rate above such use.  If enough of us would water our lawns, they could avoid raising rates to cover the new earth-quake resistant plant that we have to build.  If we have to build a new plant, we may as well water our yards to do it, rather than just pay more per gallon.

Petition to the Grants Pass City Council and Manager

Stop profiting from hazard abatements; enforce nuisance codes.

WHEREAS a long-stated goal of the city of Grants Pass is “to be a city that looks safe and is safe;”
WHEREAS the basic function of government is to maintain order;
WHEREAS weeds and litter are disorderly and encourage disorderly criminal conduct;
WHEREAS uncontrolled weeds are an extreme and spreading fire hazard, and we have had grass and brush fires in the city;
WHEREAS enforcement of our weed and litter nuisance code would eliminate such hazard;
WHEREAS warning people to clean up small nuisances makes the city no money, as people readily comply;
WHEREAS the city charges 10% over cost for hazard abatement;
WHEREAS this profit is a disincentive to enforce nuisance codes;
WHEREAS every hazardous property that must be abated is a failure to enforce nuisance codes and keep basic order;
WHEREAS our Charter mandates enforcement of all city codes;
THEREFORE, we, the undersigned voters of Grants Pass, respectfully request that the Grants Pass City Council direct our City Manager to eliminate the 10% administrative fee for hazardous property abatement and have all public safety officers enforce weed and litter nuisance codes on sight.

This petition is available for signing and copies at the Growers Market political ghetto entrance between 10:30 AM and 1:00 PM Saturdays, and is being circulated door-to-door.  

Garden Grants Pass!

Since I started gardening professionally in Grants Pass, I have wanted to garden Grants Pass, the whole city, though I know I can’t.  It’s just that it needs it so badly.  So I’m starting a club called Garden Grants Pass, to do just that.

I didn’t feel that way when I lived here for two years in the 80’s.  The town was a lot smaller and much cleaner and neater in those days.  But 30 years has doubled the population of this city and probably tripled its area, looking at all the vacant lots.   40 years of not enforcing nuisance codes regarding weeds and litter combined with 30 years of expansion has turned this city into a weedy, seedy, littered mess.

Ironically, our city code mandates that every square foot of Grants Pass be gardened.  It forbids allowing weeds to mature and go to seed.  This is gardening, which is keeping order in outdoor spaces, and invariably involves weeding at some point.  Weeding is the essence of gardening; everything else is optional.  A Zen garden has no plants at all.

Not only does our code mandate gardening, but our City Charter mandates that the City Manager enforce all city codes.  This has obviously not been done, partly because the city makes no money enforcing nuisance codes.  People readily comply when told by an officer to clean up a few weeds and a bit of litter, so no citations are issued.  They are much less likely to clean up a property so weedy and trashed that it is a safety hazard, which the city can abate for 10% over cost, plus a heavy fine.

Property nuisance codes also haven’t been enforced because developers, bankers, and speculators controlled our city until the property bubble burst.  They don’t want to have to spend what it takes to maintain their vacant properties to city standards. 

The property/housing bubble was partly fueled by that lack of enforcement, because one could hold on to a property until one gets the price one thinks it’s worth, without paying much more than property taxes.  If people had to maintain property to code, the price would have to take that maintenance into account, and they would sell for the market price to get out from under it.  Lack of enforcement has defeated the intent of the Urban Growth Boundary, which was to force infill of vacant lots inside the city before expanding the city’s limits.

Garden Grants Pass will be holding free gardening classes (see other side) to train people to garden their own yards and others.  And we will be petitioning to end the 10% admin fee on abatements and have all officers enforce nuisance codes on sight, so our entire city may be gardened as our code demands.
7/18/2013.  To be published on Yahoo Voices.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener        541-955-9040