How to Kill Weeds and Dandelions in Your Lawn
Before you learn how to kill dandelions, you should know that they’re not entirely unwanted. Certain weeds like dandelions are a beneficial food source for domestic and wild species of bees, primarily because they bloom so early in the spring. However, these blooms don’t belong on your lawn. They’re not as noxious as other weeds, but they do have a tendency of taking over space and resources other plants need.
Weeds and dandelions germinate quickly, and they spread faster than other plants. Every year, the lush, velvety lawns of homeowners across the U.S. develop these yellow flower heads. Despite the culinary or pollination benefits of some weeds and dandelion, homeowners know that they must stop these prolific seed producers before they choke out other crops.
Five of the Most Common Lawn WeedsLawn weeds are an annual issue for homeowners because they germinate quickly and keep coming back.
Through wind, birds, pollinators, and even lawnmowers, it only takes a couple of seeds to start a mass outbreak of weeds. The question is not if you’ll have weeds. The question is which species of weeds your lawn will support?
1) DandelionsWhen the soil reaches 50*F, these persistent perennials pop out. They have a white, puffball seed head, which gets distributed quickly through the wind. Dandelions produce bright yellow blossoms but have a deep and lengthy taproot system that make them nearly invincible.
2) Broadleaf PlantainLike the dandelion, broadleaf plantains are naturally adaptive and robust. They feature a broad set of leaves at the base and small, reed-like stems that pop out. Poorly-aerated soil and overwatered soil provide ideal growing conditions for this weed.
3) CrabgrassIf your lawn has bare or patchy areas, unsightly clumps of crabgrass will move in and bunch together. Crabgrass is distinguishable from real grass types because of its tendency to grow in clusters. Their thick, broad leaves that shoot out look very similar to blades of turfgrass. Some forms are rough to the touch because of tiny hairs on the leaves.
4) White CloverUntil the 1950s, grass seed mixes used white clover to help fix nitrogen in nutrient-poor soils. Our collective preference for a uniformly green lawn, however, sometimes makes white clover an unwelcome sight.
These weeds have elliptical leaves and feature white to pink-tinged flower clusters growing from the stems. States with a cooler summertime climate and increased moisture experience an influx of these winter perennials.
5) Bull ThistleBull thistle is a biennial weed that rapidly forms large infestations along your lawn’s edging. From mid- to late-summer, bull thistle forms prickly hairs on the leaves and stems. As these weeds develop, their hairs turn into spines that are sharper and more painful to the touch.
Bull thistle reproduces by seed which, like dandelions, spread through a variety of sources. Even though it crops up during the late summer season, you need to use elimination methods in either the fall or early spring.
How Do Weeds Germinate?If you’re going to kill weeds and dandelions effectively, you need to know when they’re the most vulnerable. While you can still kill dandelions when they start sprouting, the ideal time to get them is when they are still germinating.
Some weeds are incredibly resistant to herbicide, and they won’t react to pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicide applications. Like other plants, weeds and dandelions can adapt to their environment over time and survive adverse conditions. You’ll need to be very strategic with your elimination methods and use them at the right time.
Dandelion development is a cyclical and straightforward process. This simplicity helps the weed proliferate without much fuss. Dandelion plants crop up multiple times in a season, as they move from seed to plant, and then blossom into a flower and produce a seed head. These seed heads rely on natural forces like wind and water to distribute them to other areas, where the cycle begins anew. Pro-Tip: Timing is an important aspect of effective weed elimination but, when it comes to dandelions, the visible portion of the weed hides the true source of dandelion proliferation. If you intend to get rid of dandelions permanently, you’ll need to go right to the source — an 18-inch taproot embedded deep in the soil, which gives the dandelion its perennial power.
Many individuals think that the yellow, daisy-like flower of a dandelion is its final form. Instead, it’s the fluffy, spherical seed head that is the dandelion’s ultimate stage before take-off to a new location. Plan to use weed elimination methods during the yellow flower stage of a dandelion. You have a better chance of both killing it effectively and eliminating the seed head stage from spreading around other parts of your yard.
When To Begin the Removal ProcessNo matter how hearty weeds and dandelions prove to be, they each have their ideal growing conditions. Crabgrass, for example, likes patchy, brown lawns. Bull thistles like vacant lots and the edges where soil meets asphalt or concrete. Dandelions need wind and pollinators to spread. Broadleaf plantains like overwatered soil.
Part of your weed prevention plan, then, should be to ensure you have the ideal grass seed growing conditions. Don’t overwater your lawn or allow dry, bare, and brown patches to take over without seeding.
The best time to begin the removal process for any weed is right after heavy rainfall. You’re more likely to be able to eliminate both the plant and the taproot when the soil is moist, and it’s easy to dig in a hand shovel.
If you spent the summer killing off the upper parts of a dandelion, use the early fall to use a post-emergent herbicide or another method to eliminate the taproot. During the winter, dandelion taproots live underground and wait for the spring to rise again. The taproots use the early fall to transfer nutrients from the dying leaves of a dandelion back down to the root for energy preservation. This is the right time to address taproots in your soil.
How To Get Rid Of Weeds and DandelionsPlanning and cultivating the perfect lawn takes precision and patience. The same is true of killing weeds and dandelions. If you use the early spring and summer to kill off the visible parts of the plant, you can use the fall to dig deep and get to the roots.
Besides using herbicides, you can also opt for natural elimination methods with household items you may already have around your house. These include:
- Garden spades or pitchforks
- Gardening gloves
- Grass seed
- Dandelion pullers
- Salt and vinegar
- Large vessels or pots
- A pump sprayer
- Protective shoes
1) Use Horticultural VinegarThis is an organic method for killing dandelions, and all you need is vinegar and water. Horticultural vinegar includes 20% acetic acid, and you can use this in place of a pre- or post-emergent herbicide. It’s also stronger than culinary vinegar, which only has about 5% acetic acid.
Regardless of which type you’re using, make sure your application method doesn’t spread to other plants or affects your healthy lawn. Mix equal parts vinegar and boiling water in a pump sprayer. Use this to apply your homemade “herbicide” as it will direct the spray of solution, and you won’t risk damaging nearby grass.
2) Consider Hand-DiggingThere’s a method of hand-digging that is smarter and easier than just tugging at the top of the dandelion plant. Immediately following a rainfall, put your gardening gloves on and get ready to pull. Use a small stool for sitting and working in sections.
- First, use a garden spade or shovel to create an incision in the soil. Wiggle the tool around the plant, almost as though you’re trying to wedge out a cake from a baking pan.
- Grip the leaves and work the spade further into the soil to create more leverage. Pry it up and then use a corkscrew turning motion to gently but steadily tug the weed out.
- The taproot, secure in the soil, will slowly yield and you can use the dandelion leaves to pull the whole weed out in this manner.
3) Use a Salt SolutionYou can use a salt solution to kill off the truly turgid and stubborn dandelions and weeds. However, keep in mind that this effective method comes with an opportunity cost: You won’t be able to grow anything in that same location until the next season begins. Make sure to use this method only in areas such as:
- The cracks on your driveway
- Under a deck
- The edges between any landscaping stone and the lawn
To create your salt solution, mix one cup of salt with one cup of water. The salt will leech into the soil and kill off the dandelion as well as the taproot. This is an effective method if you don’t want to waste time hand-digging to get to the taproot.
4) Fill Holes With Pre-Emergent Herbicide and SoilIf you choose to hand-pull the dandelion, taproot and all, from the ground, you should have a plan for those fresh holes. Use some pre-emergent herbicide and fill these holes with soil. Corn gluten is a natural pre-emergent herbicide that works well.
Depending on your timing during the season, you may also be able to fill former weed holes with soil and grass seed. For example, if you live in a cooler climate state, and you’re pulling weeds in the fall, plant cool season grass seeds in these holes for a lush lawn next year.
5) Pour Boiling Water Over the PlantsYou may think that giving a weed water will just help it grow faster. However, boiling water sears through its stems and leaves, causing the plant to wilt, turn yellow, and then die. It’s a quick and effective way to eliminate their appearances, and boiling water can even affect sections of the underlying root. Without leaves, the dandelion can’t photosynthesize, and it will die off on its own.
ConclusionKilling dandelions and weeds doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or taxing task. You need some strategy and pre-planning to eliminate these lawn offenders effectively. However, if you spend this season cleaning up your lawn, you can enjoy natural grass without weeds for years to come.
At Nature’s Seed, we believe in helping you grow your own way. We’ve seen that preventative control is just as effective as elimination. You can also use premium quality grass seed to ensure that there are no patchy spots on your lawn. If weeds aren’t given conditions or a place to grow, then they won’t be a problem for you. Before using chemical solutions, consider a more natural, long-term solution to weed prevention. Contact Nature’s Seed to learn more.