The Life of a DandelionAs a perennial, dandelions will come back year after year. They are often one of the first blooming flowers of the year. Once established they grow long, deep taproots that can extend a foot or more down into the soil. It’s from this taproot the dandelion regenerates itself, even after being mowed repeatedly. Besides rapid regrowth, dandelions are prolific self-seeders. I’m sure at one point in our lives we’ve all been guilty of spreading dandelion seed by blowing on the fuzzy heads and watching the seeds float away in the wind.
Can Be BeneficialFirst, in defense of the humble dandelion I’d like to point out some of the good things it offers. As mentioned above, dandelions are one of the first blooming flowers of the year. For pollinators, especially honey bees, dandelions offer the first steady nectar and pollen source of the year. This is crucial as honey bee colonies need to quickly build up their food supplies coming out of winter. Dandelions are also edible. In fact, dandelions are full of vitamins and minerals, and every part of the plant can be consumed. Some people add dandelion leaves to salads. The roots can be used for a coffee substitute, and the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine. While living in the United Kingdom, one of my favorite drinks was dandelion burdock – a beverage originally made from dandelions.
Hand PullingAre dandelions bad for your lawn? Not really, but they can be visually distracting. For homeowners looking to get rid of their dandelions, I always recommend an organic approach first. Also, be realistic in your expectations. Don’t waste your summer by setting your dandelion tolerance to zero. The most effective, cheapest and healthiest (think exercise) way to get rid of dandelions is by hand pulling. The best time for hand pulling is when the dandelion is young and the taproot short. You’ll need to pull out the whole taproot to ensure it doesn’t grow back. Use a dandelion weeder tool with a forked blade to help work the taproot out. It also helps if the soil is moist.
Finish it Off With VinegarOnce you’ve pulled out as much of the dandelion as possible, poor a small amount of vinegar into the hole. The vinegar acts as a natural herbicide. For best results, the vinegar should be high strength (around 20 percent). This will kill any remaining taproot that might have broken off. Be aware that vinegar with concentrations greater than 5 percent should be handled with care, and solutions greater than 11 percent can cause skin burns and should be applied with protective clothing. Of course conventional broadleaf herbicides can also be used, just be sure to follow the directions carefully.