For kids and kids at heart, a vast field of dandelions can be such a pleasant, magical sight especially when those yellow blossoms turn into white puffballs of head seeds that glide in the air whenever the wind blows.
However, this is not the case for everyone.
For some grass growers, landscapers, and gardeners, dandelions could be a nuisance. They can easily invade a garden or lawn and steal water and nutrients away from the surrounding plants.
The dandelion’s taproot extends deep into the ground for around 6 to 18 inches or more in length, making it difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of them completely.
The key is to remove the entire taproot, which can be done by employing certain methods that I’ll recommend later in this guide.
But before you consider killing the entire plant, you might as well know a little bit more about dandelions and if they have some benefits to offer so you can weigh your options on how to treat them as soon as they appear in your yard.
What is a Dandelion?
Dandelion (scientific name: Taraxacum officinale), also known as Chicory, derived its name from the French phrase, “dent de lion“, which means “tooth of a lion”. It was called such because of the jagged edges of the leaves that look similar to a lion’s teeth.
Dandelion is a native to Europe and Asia. The plant is brought to North America as a perennial flower, which later came to be classified as a subset of weeds called broadleaf perennials.
Unlike annual weeds, dandelions can exist for a long period, endure any kind of weather or climate, grow in whatever type of soil, and constantly recur. That’s the reason why they are considered “masters of survival”.
Benefits of Dandelion
Here are some of the known benefits of dandelions:
- The entire plant is edible. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked so they can be grown as a vegetable. The deep taproot can be used to make a beverage similar to caffeine-free coffee. The flowers can be used to make jam, jelly, and wine.
- They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Dandelions are rich in fiber and contain the antioxidants vitamin C and luteolin. They also contain vitamins A, B, and D. They are also a good source of minerals including iron, potassium, calcium, and zinc.
What makes Dandelions a Nuisance?
Much has been said about dandelions as a useful plant. However, there’s still disagreement among some experts about its classification as a weed. Some believe that dandelions are invasive weeds while others consider them non-invasive.
Although the dandelion plant is not listed under the classification of noxious weeds by the USDA Federal, many farmers or turf growers still consider them troublesome for their crops or lawns.
Because dandelions reproduce so quickly, you might find them annoying as they sprout in every corner of your yard. Uprooting them can be a challenge because they stubbornly grow back to life. Likewise, you might unnecessarily damage your lawn or another plant in the process.
Whichever way you look at it, you need to carefully consider the method you’ll use to get rid of dandelions without causing damage to your surrounding area.
When is the best time to kill dandelions?
Ideally, the best time to kill dandelions is when they start to bloom, particularly in spring and autumn. However, some experts believe that it’s more effective to kill this perennial plant in the fall than in spring.
The reason for this is that in fall, perennial broadleaf weeds like dandelions transport nutrients (i.e carbohydrates) from their leaves to their roots in preparation for winter, making it the best time to use herbicide. Chemicals applied during this time will be absorbed by the leaves and passed on to the roots along with the carbohydrates, which makes dandelions easy to destroy.
Tools and materials that you will need
Before getting started, make sure you have the following tools and materials:
- Watering can, garden hose, or sprinkler to water the soil after the treatment
- Garden spade, pitchfork, or weeding knife to dig up the weed.
- Dandelion puller (optional)
- Safety Masks
- Gardening gloves, preferably chemical resistant
- Protective clothing
- Pump sprayer for liquid herbicide
- Herbicide (you can use any of best dandelion killer: organic weed killer, broadleaf herbicide, preemergent herbicide, or non-selective herbicide, depending on the situation)
- Weed and Feed solution to thicken your lawn
- Broadcast spreader/ seeder (optional)
Methods/ Steps for Dandelion Control
STEP 1: Inspect the area for dandelion sprouts
Dandelions typically germinate in areas where the turf is weak. So in case, you notice tiny weeds emerging from the bare spot or the dried portion of the grass, you need to remove them as early as possible before they grow big and form a bud. This way you can control the spread of dandelions even before they start to bloom.
STEP 2: Pull out the dandelions
When the weed is at the early stages of growth, hand digging can be a suitable method. Make sure the soil is moist before pulling the dandelions from the ground.
Use a watering can, sprinkler or hose to loosen the soil. Then gently pull the plant with your bare hands.
When the weed has become a little bigger and the taproot is still stuck to the ground, you can use a dandelion puller, weeding knife, or any tool you have to remove the plant to the roots. Simply work your knife or puller around the base of the dandelion and gently remove the entire taproot of the dandelion.
STEP 3: Apply herbicide
While hand digging can work to remove the dandelions from the surface, it is unlikely that you’ll kill every dandelion because its taproot grows deep. If there remains any portion of the taproot, a new plant would simply sprout anew.
In this case, you must kill whatever is left using an herbicide.
But what is the right herbicide to use? Here are some options for you:
- Eco-friendly herbicides such as vinegar, boiling water, or salt are said to naturally kill the weeds without hurting your grass. Although there are still some questions regarding the efficacy of these items, there’s no harm in giving them a try.
- Broadleaf herbicides are most commonly used to kill dandelion taproots because they only kill broadleaf weeds and don’t have any effect on your turfgrass. Some of the most effective broadleaf herbicides contain a mixture of 2 or 3 substances including 2.4-D, MCPP, MCPA, dicamba, triclopyr, and others, according to Iowa State University. Broadleaf herbicides can be applied as liquids or granules.
- Non-selective herbicides can be your last resort if you didn’t get the results you want from the other kinds of herbicide. This herbicide must be used with caution because it will kill any plant it comes in contact with, including your grass. This is ideal for spot dandelion removals, such as killing dandelions in flower beds and walkways.
Pro Tips: Any herbicide for dandelion control is best applied before the dandelion has developed flowers. Once the flowers have emerged, the weed would become resistant to any kind of herbicide, whether broadleaf or non-selective. Another tip is to treat dandelions during the autumn season to prevent them from growing in the next spring.
STEP 4: Treat your lawn with pre-emergent herbicide
Having pulled the dandelion taproot from the ground doesn’t guarantee that it won’t grow back again. The open spot with the loose soil in your lawn is even more prone to aggressive weeds. In this case, you’ll have to fill the hole from which you just pulled the dandelion with your chosen pre-emergent herbicide product, a chemical used to prevent the dandelion seeds from germinating or any other weeds from taking root.
Pre-emergent herbicides are best applied in winter before the dandelion seeds have had a chance to germinate. Don’t wait until the dandelion’s fluffy seed heads appear; otherwise, it would be a lot difficult to control these weeds from multiplying.
Important note: keep all family members and pets off the grass until the chemicals are dry.
STEP 5: Maintain good lawn care
After tackling the weeds, it’s now time to strengthen your lawn. One of the best ways to get rid of dandelions permanently is to keep your lawn lush green and healthy. This means you have to thicken your turf grass to crowd out the weeds so they have no room to grow.
You may nurture your grass with a weed and feed solution that contains 15-5-10 fertilizer and herbicide and trimech. This will help eliminate the weeds and give your lawn a boost at the same time.
Pro tip: When spreading fertilizer using a broadcast spreader, it is best if you move at a steady and quick pace, like a brisk walk. This will help you evenly distribute the fertilizer.
You can also improve your lawn’s health by following these standard practices:
- Water thoroughly but less often (not daily) to encourage the roots to grow deeper and stronger to withstand any weather condition.
- Enrich your soil with the type of fertilizer that is suitable for the type of grass you are growing. When to fertilize depends on your grass type – fall for cool season grasses, and spring for warm season grasses
- Add a layer of natural compost to your lawn
- Aerate your lawn if you notice the soil has become compacted and dry
- Mow your grass with the right kind of mower. Don’t mow your grass the same way at any time. Perform lawn striping to help reduce soil compaction and encourage healthy growth of the grass blades.
Having a healthy, weed-free lawn or garden is something that anyone could wish for. However, pesky weeds like dandelions are around to infest your lawn if you don’t take good care of it.
Certainly, removing the weeds a can be quite tedious, but manageable if you take the necessary steps to eliminate them before they even have the chance to multiply. That said, the key is to be diligent and to follow proven methods and practices to get rid of them, like the ones I mentioned in this tutorial.
So, hopefully you learned a thing or two from this guide. Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions. Any additional information relevant to this topic is highly appreciated.