Weeds become a growing concern

Wet weather a boon to desirable plants, but also to the noxious ones

Weeds are spilling over into the street at Ninth Street and Belford Avenue, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic. Recent rains have helped lawns and vegetable gardens, but also caused noxious weeds to grow out of control, like this Kochia Scoparia plant that has infested the city.

If you’re not in the weeds lately, your neighbor probably is.

While heavy rains in the past few weeks have produced vibrant vegetable gardens, flowers and lawns across the Grand Valley, they also have encouraged their more sinister cousin—weeds—to flourish.

Likely the most prolific and easily spotted of all weeds, the Kochia Scoparia, a bushy, lightning-fast plant that grows up to 7 feet tall, has been consuming vacant lots and medians in recent weeks.

Weeds were so tall recently in the area of 24 1/2 Road that motorists had to edge out into traffic before turning. If you look, weeds can be seen over the tops of some 6-foot fences and lining alleyways. 

“I think all that rain we got really kind of pushed them,” said Susan Rose, with Mesa County’s Colorado State University Extension Office. “They went from 2 feet to 5 feet overnight.”

Whether you are required to mind weeds on your property depends on where you live and what kinds of weeds are growing on your land.

In Grand Junction and Fruita, a code enforcement officer will make contact with an offending landowner after a complaint has been lodged. Someone will respond to weed complaints in Mesa County only if the weeds are considered noxious. The most common noxious weeds in the Grand Valley include puncturevine—commonly known as goat heads—Russian knapweed and foxtail, however the county’s list of noxious weeds is much longer.

But you probably shouldn’t wait to get a notice before cutting weeds. Kochia, for example, is one weed that some people find highly allergic, Rose said.

“If kochia were on the (noxious weed) list the weed managers use, it would be just an obnoxious weed,” she joked.

Trudy Brown, administrative assistant for code compliance services with Mesa County, said her division gets lots of complaints this time of year for weeds. While the county has no enforcement for weeds specifically, officers will ask residents to cut weeds if they are out on call about junk vehicles or trash on private property.

In Grand Junction, landowners are responsible for removing all weeds within their property, which includes medians and ditches. Owners of vacant land of more than one acre are required to cut weeds that are within 20 feet of any adjacent lot.

Landowners have seven days to comply if a notice is given. If the weeds are cut, the case will be closed. Those who don’t comply can receive a $150 fine. More fines can ensue if the weeds still are not removed, including costs of having the weeds cut.

Fruita residents have 15 days after receiving a letter by mail to cut or remove weeds from their property, said Susan Carter, assistant planner and code enforcement officer for Fruita.

This week Carter is following up on 180 weed complaints. Some of those complaints are from weeds growing in yards of foreclosed homes.

The presence of weeds on neighbors’ properties was one aspect of city living that residents found most annoying, according to the city’s latest citizen survey.

Carter gets that.

“One kochia can put out 14,000 seeds. People are worried about the seeds spreading to their property,” she said. “It does have an effect on property values. We had one real estate agent trying to sell a property and she noticed the weeds in the neighbors’ yards. A nice landscape adds at least $10,000 to the price of a home.”

Carter said the city of Fruita has only had to take one person to court over out-of-control weeds.

“We don’t want money,” she said of having to ticket offenders. “We want compliance.”


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The problem with so-called “weed control” begins with trying to define the word “weed”. C.R.S. 35-3.5-101 et seq. establishes Colorado as a so-called “Right to Farm” State, which would seem to logically infer that every person has the constitutional right to grow whatever type of plant/s he wants to on his own property, so long as the public health and safety are not threatened.
As an aside, for those interested, I highly recommend the book titled “Weeds of the West” (ISBN: 0-941570-13-4) which is full of wonderful color photographs of hundreds of different weeds found in Mesa County.
I really despise the type of people (many of them double-dipping unsustainable government retirees) with immaculately “tidy” rock “yards” who actually expect everybody else to share their narrow and uninformed control-freakish personal emotional vision of what a community should look like. In a free society, A has no constitutional right to have B’s property look the way A wants it to.
Exactly who gets to decide which plants should be grown or prohibited? Are we all going to engage in stupid-human manipulation contests (aka “politics”) to see who gets to use government power to force his personal horticultural tastes on everybody else? Really? That disordered level of arrogance, short-sightedness and gracelessness is unacceptable — and unconstitutional.
As for Kochia, chickens, guineas and Gambel’s quail, among others, love the tender young shoots. Originally from Asia, it has been cultivated in some parts of the world as an ornamental. Just as one man’s trash is another mans treasure, so can one man’s “weed” be another man’s ornamental. I have to admire the plant for it’s amazing tenacity and will to live every time I see little plantlings determinedly trying to make a living in the cracks on a paved road.
To any real estate whiners who think that “weeds” diminish the monetary “values” on the properties they are trying to sell, I say: get a life. You don’t have a constitutional right to force me to grow whatever your favorite plants are. You obviously don’t understand the honest-money issue anyway.
As a person who leans libertarian and is fascinated by the subjects of aquaponics and permaculture, I would abolish the weed-control agencies as constituting unproductive “make-work” jobs and a waste of taxpayer money. Any weeds which dangerously impaired vision at an intersection could be easily and quickly recognized and cut down by city and county road crews.

A couple of additional points.
I am philosophically opposed to “citizen surveys” by Big Brother One-Ring government. I am also opposed to spending taxpayer money on “gubmint” advertising (e.g. billboards, print media, etc) for its “services.” Elections are the constitutionally valid method of “surveying” the opinions of a free non-Nanny-State citizenry.
The types of people who “are worried about the seeds spreading to their property” are most likely the same type of control-freakish nanny staters who don’t understand that CO2 is PLANT FOOD, that the planet is currently a bit low on CO2 — plants would benefit from a 300% increase, and greenhouse operators buy it for their plants — compared to past eras, that the Earth is actually cooling a bit currently, and that Earth’s weather (“climate” is merely a wannabe-clever marketing slogan) does nothing other than “change”. They also don’t understand that the reason we don’t see pools of concentrated sulfuric acid lying around is because chemical elements and compounds tend to naturally seek their most stable forms. That means the Earth and her attendant forces of Nature — which are immense and omnipotent compared to us puny human passengers — constitute a self-healing and self-cleansing system. The Earth will be here (and doing just fine) long after we humans are gone.
So there is no need for all the fear mongering designed to increase taxes for the financial benefit of an elite few in ways sneaky enough that most culturally dumbed down people can’t see through it.
As for Susan Carter’s statement, “We don’t want money. We want compliance.” To me at least, that sounds a little too much like a certain WW2 German dictator with a weird little mustache saying, “ve haff our vays of making you obey!” I have a better suggestion: how about ignoring self-absorbed and intellectually uncurious “weed” whiners and requiring government and its employees to comply with the U.S. and Colorado constitutions instead?
Surely humankind has much more pressing problems (e.g. wars, famine, disease, currency collapses, injustice, ad infinitum) to solve than trying to decide which of the countless Creator-made plant species any given manipulative “political” majority, at any given point in history, may want to call “noxious weeds”. Maybe one of those “noxious weeds” contains the cure to cancer. Maybe another one contains the secret to longevity. Grow up. And “lighten up” a little while you’re at it.

Bravo John Wilkenson. Bottom line… “what is a weed but a plant out of place”.

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