Searching the yard for white puffballs to blow is a favorite summer pastime for kids, but most adults are more interested in learning how to get rid of dandelions marring a perfect lawn.
It’s understandable. Dandelions are weeds.
Or are they?
Dandelions, which are technically herbs, were first brought to this continent by the colonists, and the yellow flowers and their greens were loved for their numerous health benefits. You can use dandelions to make tea, wine, salads, and other edible side dishes. They are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
“One cup of dandelion greens contains almost twice as much iron as spinach and over 500 percent of your daily intake of vitamin K, which may play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the Michigan State University Extension service’s Michelle Jarvie. “[The] root extract has been shown, in some studies, to fight certain types of cancer.”
Just the same, few people want the spots of yellow and white seed crowns dotting their fields of green.
What are Dandelions?
From the French phrase “dent de lion” or “lion’s tooth,” the dandelion is native to Europe and Asia. This flowering herb is identified by its single yellow flower or white, fluffy seed head that sprouts from a cluster of jagged green leaves.
Quite hardy, dandelions can take root just about anywhere, preferring in places with full sun and temperate climates. And while dandelions pose no risk to the environment — quite the opposite, actually — they can be a menace to your curb appeal.
How to Get Rid of Dandelions in Your Yard
Ridding your yard of dandelions can be extremely difficult. Here’s why: Their taproots reach 10 inches into the soil, and their seeds are carried by the wind to their next location.
Another challenge: Dandelions are perennials, meaning they come back on their own every year.
To remove dandelions you just have to get to the root of the problem — literally. If even a small portion of a dandelion root is left behind, the plant will return.
There are several ways to permanently purge your yard of dandelions, including using a broadleaf herbicide, laying a weed-resistant grass type, or digging up the roots with a dandelion puller.
The best time of year to begin your dandelion removal is fall, as that’s when the plants carry nutrients to their roots for winter storage.
How to Kill Dandelions Naturally
To remove dandelions naturally, you likely will need to get your hands dirty (weeding), do a lot of bending (mulching), or spend a bit of money (reseeding or resodding).
Weeding may not be the quickest way to rid your lawn of these Irish daisies, but if you only have a few roots to pull, this is the best option. First, wet the soil around the plant to make dandelion pulling easier. As dandelion roots are deep and stubborn, using a tool dedicated to this task will help. Pull from the base of the leaves to ensure you get the entire plant, roots and all. Repeat as necessary.
Starving dandelions of the sunlight they need to thrive, is another way to kill the plant. Snip the flower and stem, and then, cover the leaves with about 3 inches of mulch. This will block the plant’s energy source and keep it from growing.
3. Reseeding or resodding
Laying down new grass seed (or sod), while drastic but effective, can wipe out existing dandelions and prevent new plants from emerging. Depending on your region, choose a grass type, such as Zoysia, Bermudagrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, or buffalograss. The thick, dense lawns these selections produce crowd out weeds naturally. Maintaining regular lawn care can also help with dandelion control.
4. Using household substances
Unfortunately, there are no truly reliable household remedies for getting rid of dandelions. Despite what you may have heard, neither salt, boiling water, dishwashing soap, apple cider vinegar, nor white vinegar are good options.
Why these aren’t good options: Salt and boiling water can wash all over your yard, potentially killing other plants in their wake. Dishwashing soap may dry out leaves but won’t reach the roots. And, for vinegar to work, it needs to be horticultural vinegar, which is dangerous to handle.
Applying Chemical Treatments to Kill Dandelions
Broadleaf herbicides do a great job of terminating dandelion populations. Spray the plants with the weed killer of your choice during the fall months, and the toxins will travel, along with the nutrients, down to the roots.
There’s a chance you may have to mist on a second application before the weed is completely killed. If it’s already spring, no worries. Early spring is the second-best time to get rid of dandelion plants.
Use the same pre-emergent solution you’d use to get rid of crabgrass, such as Roundup, to kill these lawn weeds before their seeds germinate.
When to Call a Professional
If you’ve tried all these options to no avail or you’re thinking to yourself, “These tips are nice, but I’ve got waaaaay more dandelions than one person can handle,” it’s time to call in the lawn care professionals.
Or… Maybe you will decide those dandelions aren’t that unsightly for all of the health benefits they offer. Dandelion tea, anyone?
After all, dandelions can be a draw for your lawn.
According to Ken Willis, head of horticulture at the University of Alberta in Canada, dandelions are excellent at attracting pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, and birds.
Main image credit: Markus Winkler / Unsplash