October 3, 2011 | 12:45pm
The two-acre lot between Fifth, Sixth, McKinley, and Garfield streets in downtown Phoenix has been watered, tilled, and readied for an upcoming season of sunflowers, and while organizers are still raising money for a project they've dubbed "The Valley of the Sunflowers," they've run into a small issue -- with the birds.
Pigeons that normally flock around sidewalk eateries and along telephone lines in downtown Phoenix have been frequenting the two-acre lot to snack on the seedlings of the project started over the summer by Roosevelt Row with the help of Phoenix Union Bioscience High School and the City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department, and Intel.
Kenny Barrett, Project Manager at Roosevelt Row CDC, says the pigeons are eating the seedlings because they have a large concentration of sugar at a smaller size. When the plants sprout their second set of leaves, the sugars convert to starches, which thankfully, the greedy bastards don't like as much.
Barrett says the current pigeon problem isn't critical, but measures from temporary cat dens to hanging rubber snakes were considered on the project's Facebook page and during committee meetings.
Ultimately, the group decided to set a date to gather and hang long strands of silvery tinsel around the field. The bedazzled approach is a semi-common way to deter hungry birds and sky rats (which don't like shiny things) from destroying a crop.
According to Barrett, the high school students and a group of volunteers will be filling in holes in the lot today and will be planting cow peas as green manure for the sunflowers.
The project is part of the Adaptive Reuse of Temporary Space (A.R.T.S.) Program, which was granted a permit to plant two seasons of sunflowers in the lot and harvest that lot with volunteers from the community and local bioscience high school.
Ultimately, the students will use the sunflowers for future solar and biofuel projects.