To children, dandelions are a magical flower. They are bright yellow and pretty. As a homeowner with a yard, however, you probably detest them. They are broad-leafed perennials that can grow in almost any condition, though they prefer full sunlight. They may appear to die in colder weather, but in fact, their taproot remains in place to flower again when warmer weather returns. They are, in fact, an invasive weed. Once you have one dandelion, you are sure to have ten, then twenty more. They eat the valuable nutrients that are supposed to be feeding your lawn. Even if you meticulously care for your lawn, you will likely end up with dandelions. Removal can be a pain; unless you take the entire root out with each dandelion, they will very likely grow right back. So how can you keep these weeds out of your precious lawn?
Removing dandelions that are already in your lawn can be a pain in the neck. Remember, the entire root needs to be removed to prevent them from growing back. To make removing the entire root easier, water your lawn first. It is easier to remove the root intact if the soil is moist. Instead of just grabbing at the stem, use a garden spade to make a slice in the soil surrounding the root, and then grab the stem and gently wiggle it until it loosens. Pull the entire root up at an angle, using the surrounding soil to help. Before giving it your full power, make sure that the root is loose. If you are having a hard time getting the root to give in, make additional slices into the surrounding soil.
Dandelions are a menace and deserve to be treated as such. If you would prefer not to hand-remove each individual dandelion, you may need to consider using an herbicide. If you prefer not to introduce toxic chemicals into your lawn, you can use vinegar as an organic herbicide. The acid content in vinegar, when applied directly to the leaves, will easily kill the dandelion from tip to root. Be careful not to get any on the grass, however, as vinegar will also kill any plant matter it touches. When using vinegar, be sure to use one with a high acetic acid content. If you can only find low-acid vinegar, you can boil it down to concentrate the acid.
There are also commercial weed removers on the market. Some of them are called “non-selective.” This means they will kill any plant material they make contact with. There are also products on the market like Weed-B-Gone, which specifically target weeds and will not kill your grass or other plants.
If you want to keep dandelions out of your yard, it is important to time the placement of herbicides with the season. Dandelion leaves die off in colder weather, but the roots remain. For this reason, herbicide should be applied during the early fall. It is during this time that the leaves transfer nutrients down into the roots for storage for the cold winter. By applying the herbicide during this time, you are delivering a two-part punch to the weed. The leaves will likely wither and become unable to deliver enough nutrients to the roots, but they will also deliver the herbicide to the root, which will help to prevent dandelions from springing up later in the season.
Stop the Problem at the Root
A healthy lawn is less likely to develop a dandelion problem. The healthier your lawn is, the better it will be able to protect itself from harmful weed build up. Help your lawn, and your lawn will help you. Take the following steps to create a lawn that can protect itself from weed buildup:
- Don’t bag your lawn clippings – Allowing the clippings to remain on the lawn, instead of bagging and discarding them, helps prevent weeds from growing. It acts as mulch by keeping any errant weed seeds from entering the soil and growing.
- Keep it long – When you mow your lawn, make sure to keep it no shorter than three inches. Longer grass is better able to prevent weeds from getting the vital sunshine and nutrients that they need to grow.
- Cover up – Any bare spots in your lawn should be filled in as quickly as possible. Weeds love growing in the bare patches of ill-maintained lawns.
When it’s all said and done, you will have a beautiful, green lawn to enjoy all summer long.