San Diego, California - It’s only about 10 inches tall and paper-thin. But it could help clean local beaches, protect swimmers and surfers and show homeowners and gardeners better ways to get rid of those eternal pests - weeds.
It’s the “Weed Identifier” wheel, an easy-to-use, interactive tool created by the County of San Diego Farm and Home Advisor and the UC Cooperative Extension.
Scott Parker, head of the Farm and Home Advisor’s home horticulture/gardening program, said the wheel has one main goal: help people cut their use of pesticides — and the pollution that pesticides create.
Every day, pesticides used on lawns, gardens and landscapes are washed off by rain or - more often - sprinkler systems down sidewalks, curbs and gutters into storm drains that flow directly to waterways, including our beaches. That pesticide runoff is part of the reason the County’s Department of Environmental Health issues a three-day-long general advisory warning people to stay out of local waters and not to swim, surf or dive every time it rains.
Enter the Weed Identifier wheel.
It’s emblazoned with pictures of and information about 12 common weeds and the least toxic way to control them. It’s in English on one side and Spanish on the other.
And in the age of apps, the weed-wheel is “old-school” simple.
It doesn’t need batteries, attachments or even solar power. It’s actually two colorfully printed paper wheels attached at their center that can spin to match pictures of specific weeds with information about them.
They tell you the weed’s name; what time of year you can find it; whether it’s a perennial or annual; whether it’s a broadleaf, grass or sedge; what special features it might have and, of course, the best way to control it.
Because it’s paper thin, the wheel is easy to hang in toolsheds and garages, to store in toolboxes, and a lot easier to tote around the yard than that dog-eared 600-page gardening book.
Parker said the Farm and Home Advisor has been giving out the wheels to people who attend its seminars, and through UC Master Gardeners’ events.
Parker said the weed wheel was actually based on the popular “Pest Identifier” wheel that the Farm and Home Advisor and UC Cooperative Extension created a few years ago. The pest wheel also contained pictures of and information about 12 pestiferous insects and fungi that plague plants. It also included information about five beneficial bugs — such as ladybugs and lacewings — that could eat the bad guys.
Unfortunately, Parker said, there are no beneficial plants that will eat weeds. And that means one of the most effective and safe ways to get rid of weeds remains the old-fashioned way: pulling them up by hand or using a hoe to cut them out. Still, the weed wheel does recommend the use of preemergent and postemergent pesticides as control measures when appropriate. The key is to use them judiciously to reduce stormwater runoff pollution.
“The concept that is behind the project as a whole is that we’re looking at ways in which you can minimize or eliminate the products that are put out there into the environment,” Parker said.