Dandelions rearing their bright golden heads on your lawn is a sure sign that the joy of spring has begun. Though the delight of children soon starts to vanish as you watch the fluffy white dandelion seeds blow away in the wind, promising to bloom aplenty through the rest of summer.
Most people will forgive a dandelion or ten in the first few weeks of spring, only to find that their goodwill turns to chagrin as the invasive flower starts to spread through their once neatly manicured lawn.
If you’ve reached the point where you are willing to give dandelions the old heave-ho from your yard, then you might want to consider the following information and tips.
What Are Dandelions?
Dandelions are a special type of wild broadleaf perennial herb found all across North America as well as in more than 60 other countries. They produce golden-yellow flowers in early spring before their heads dry up and parachute-like seeds develop.
Are Dandelions Considered A Weed?
For most people, dandelions are a weed, when found growing on a well-kept lawn. This is also due to the fact that they can compete with grass and spread sometimes unchecked over the course of the long growing season. However, Dandelions are not all bad. They have robust root systems, which can be up to three feet long. This can actually loosen compacted soil. That aerates and allows water and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the ground.
When Are Dandelions The Biggest Threat To A Lawn
Dandelions are some of the first flowers to emerge in the spring when the soil temperature warms above 50-degree. This gives them the leg up on a lot of other potential “Weeds” and can even let them rapidly colonize compromised areas of your lawn where the grass hasn’t fully awoken yet.
Part of the problem is that dandelions are perfectly content to become perennials. They might die back in late summer to early fall, but the deep, robust taproot simply goes dormant in the winter. This lets them grow back bigger, stronger, and thicker the next year.
Should I Pull Dandelions?
There is some debate about the value of pulling dandelions and the timing of when they can or should be pulled. Since they are one of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, they serve as a primary food source for bees and other beneficial pollinators. This and the fact that children delight in them gives a lot of dandelions the chance to get a strong foothold.
Most advocates will tell you to wait until more natural flowers in your area bloom before pulling the dandelions. This ensures that the bees and other at-risk pollinators always have a viable food source in early spring.
How To Pull Dandelions by Hand
Timing is critical when it comes to pulling dandelions by hand. Ideally, you want to pull them by hand or with a weed puller tool, while they are still flowers before they develop seed heads. If the weather has been dry, you might want to water your lawn an hour or two before pulling so the soil is damp and the dandelions will be easier to pull out cleanly.
Using Natural Herbicides For Killing Dandelions
You can make a non-chemical natural herbicide for killing dandelions by mixing vinegar with equal parts of water and pouring it into the hole to kill any remaining portion of the taproot. These solutions will kill surrounding grass or nearby plants, so you need to be precise.
Afterward, fill the hole with soil and top with grass seeds or wait to see if runners from the surrounding grass plants naturally fill in the bald spot.
You can also apply iron to your lawn as a more natural, less toxic way to control dandelions. These natural herbicides work via iron oxidation, which causes plant necrosis that ultimately kills the weed. This means they won’t negatively affect the grass, and may actually have a positive effect on your lawn by turning the grass a darker, appealing shade of green.
Using Chemical Herbicides For Killing Dandelions
Dandelions are an age-old lawncare problem, and a lot of lawn care manufacturers offer different herbicides that are specially formulated to kill them.
Most of the time chemical control is your best bet for dealing with a pervasive dandelion problem. Many of these products are effective against dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. A lot of the time results can often be seen in just hours.
Just bear in mind that most of these chemical herbicides contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans, small children, pets, and local wildlife. So, it might help to time the chemical herbicide application right before you leave on a long weekend trip. This will give the plants time to absorb them without risk of contact exposure between your pets and loved ones.
Be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that it will not cause any damage to your lawn and is compatible with your lawn’s grass type. Most chemical weed killers are effective when the plants are young and the soil is moist enough for the toxins to penetrate.
Tips For Preventing Recurring Dandelion Problems
Once you have your lawn’s dandelion problem reasonably under control you can turn toward implementing a prevention strategy based on sound lawn maintenance principles.
This starts with understanding that a single dandelion will come back if the entire root system isn’t 100% removed or killed. You have to remember that you’re dealing with a perennial. So, you can expect the same plants to pop up year after year until you use the correct lawn maintenance strategy. This includes things like.
Fertilize Your Lawn As Needed
Fertilizing your lawn in the spring as well as every six to eight weeks during the peak of the growing season. Giving your lawn the right amount of nitrogen required by the grass type you have is important.
Cut Your Grass Slightly Higher Than Usual
Mowing high helps to develop a thicker and denser stand of grass that has a better chance of outcompeting summer dandelion development. The grass essentially has a better chance of crowding out any broadleaf weeds trying to invade the lawn.