Dirt Gardener – Dandelions

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Q. Dandelions have invaded my lawn and are taking it over. I’ve tried pulling them up by the roots but they only come back. The spray on Dandelion Killer just wilted them a little bit. What do I do next?

A.
Dandelions are generally thought of as a weed but they’re lots of positive things to say about them. They’ve been around since the tenth century and are known as the Swine’s Snout, Yellow Gowan, Irish Daisy or Peasant’s Cloak. The juice of the plant’s root is still used to treat diabetes, to build up the blood and used as a mild laxative.

During WWII, Dandelions were cultivated for the latex extracted from the roots that was then used to make rubber. The foliage is more nutritious than spinach. It’s high in vitamins A and C, and contains impressive levels of other elements. This being said, they’re still undesirable in lawns and fit the classic definition of a weed, any plant growing where it’s unwanted or undesired. The same would be true of a rose growing in a wheat field. The Dandelion is among the most recognizable of plants. It tolerates many types of soil, from loose sand to compacted clay. The yellow flower forms a puffball, which contains the seeds and is dispersed by wind or kids of all ages as they enjoy watching the feathery material float away.

You can successfully rid a grass lawn of Dandelions with a little patience. They’re controlled without herbicides by mowing the turf often to prevent the puffy seed heads from forming and dousing the plants with boiling water. However, manually digging them out is by far the most widely used method. You do not solve the problem by yanking them up or cutting off the top growth. To be successful you must remove the long taproot entirely, otherwise, they return. Many garden centers have a Weeder that is ideal for removing Dandelions. The tool looks like a long screwdriver with a ‘V’ shape end that resembles a whale’s tale. Depending on the extent of the problem, hand weeding can be a tedious task. In these cases, a selective herbicide for broadleaf weeds is a more efficient answer. The primary solutions are ‘Weed and Feed’ turf products and liquid herbicides. With ‘Weed and Feed’ products please read the instructions. All too often, applicator error is primarily the reason for poor results. They’re best applied with a drop type spreader, and not a hand held one. In addition, it’s also critical when and when not to water. There are many brands of liquid herbicides available that kill Dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. You’ll find premixed solutions or concentrates that have to be mixed up before applying. Bayer Season Long Weed Control for Lawns is one of the newest herbicide for turf. It’s unique in that it kills the existing Dandelions and then it prevents the dormant seed from germinating for six months. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center is an excellent resource to review your options and make a recommendation.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at dirtgarden@aol.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523.

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