Dandelions Weed Control Benefits
When it comes to weeds, possibly nothing is as well-known or pesky as the dandelion. Also known as swine snout, cankerwort, clockflower, wild endive and puff ball, these stubborn plants have been sprouting up year after year for over a thousand years. They have been written about in songs and poetry and hailed as a miracle medicinal plant in many cultures. Not only are these plants versatile in their uses, but you might have also noticed that they are hardy and very difficult to get rid of.
Dandelions are perennials, meaning they will come back year after year. While we often think of the fluffy cotton-like tops of dandelions as the culprits for spreading the weeds, their roots are actually much more problematic. In addition to reproducing by seed, dandelions reproduce via long, fleshy taproots. These roots can reach at least ten inches into the ground (and over time can reach up to 15 feet underground!) and are very brittle. When removing them, any part of the root that breaks off will regenerate and continue to grow new plants.
Healthy Soil and Weeds
Dandelions and other weeds are often a sign of worse problems in your lawn. Weeds indicate imbalances in your soil, so if you notice you’re getting a lot of them you might want to get your soil’s pH and mineral content analyzed. This being said, dandelions are among the hardiest of weeds and will grow almost anywhere so don’t believe articles that tell you dandelions always mean an acidic or alkaline lawn. They thrive especially well in soil low in calcium and organic matter, so composting in addition to proper aeration can be a good way to keep them at bay. Healthy soil also makes it easier to pluck any weeds that do happen to pop up.
Natural and Synthetic Weed Control
So what do you do if the dandelions are already there? Removing dandelions, like most things in lawn care, can be done organically or with synthetics and chemicals. Organic options can be slightly labor intensive but are more affordable and definitely safer for your lawn.
Here are some of the ways to combat dandelion growth organically:
- Mowing often can control the spread of dandelions by preventing the yellow blossoms from maturing into their fluffy seed stage.
- Digging the roots out gets rid of the problem, but be careful to remove them all. Simply plucking the plants off the top is not enough and any leftover roots can sprout new plants.
- Poaching dandelion plants by pouring boiling water over them can kill the plants.
- Smothering your dandelions with makeshift sun blocks of cardboard or black plastic may take a while but will eventually kill them. After all, plants need sunlight to grow!
- A natural herbicide mix of 20% vinegar will safely kill dandelions, thistles, and other weeds. (Note: This concentration is not the same as household vinegar.) An iron-based eco-friendly herbicide like Fiesta will also do the trick.
- A weed burner torch effectively kills dandelions, but some consider it to be a last resort.
- One of the most effective options which is also great for your lawn is adding corn gluten meal (CGM) to the soil. CGM is a by-product of corn milling that is often used in farm animal and dog foods. In addition to adding nitrogen to your lawn, it is a pre-emergent dandelion control. Pre-emergents keep weed roots from being able to grow. Without roots, plants dry up and die. CGM is best added 4 to 6 weeks before weeds germinate, but it can be added a few times during the growing season.
In addition to organic measures to prevent dandelions, you can also use synthetic herbicides. It is important to remember that these chemicals can be harmful in runoff or damage flowering trees or your lawn if used in excess.
Fall Weed Control
The best time to apply herbicides is in the fall, when plants are preparing for winter. The herbicide will be stored in the plant’s roots and storage organs, killing the entire plant. If the treatment cannot be applied in fall, late spring or shortly after the blossoms appear is the second best option but this is not as effective.
No matter when you are applying, be sure to read all labels and instructions very carefully. Do not spray herbicides if rain is expected in the next 12 hours and if at all possible apply as a spot treatment instead of covering the entire lawn.
Dandelions are not only edible but delicious and more nutritious than spinach. A dandelion plant is very rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A. They are also rich in vitamins B, D, and C. The list goes on from there: fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. In fact, dandelions have been eaten for years as a source of nutrients and a way to treat health ailments.
Some of the holistic uses for dandelion plants include:
- Balancing healthy bacteria in the digestive system, stimulating appetite, and promoting digestion. Dandelions are a mild laxative.
- Acting as a diuretic that helps cleanse the kidneys as well as discourage microbial growth in the urinary system.
- Improving liver function by balancing electrolytes, removing toxins, and encouraging hydration.
- Preventing cancer, slowing aging and damage to cells. All parts of the dandelion plant are rich in antioxidants.
- Regulating blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Lowering blood pressure. Not only are fiber and potassium good for regulating blood pressure but dandelions are a diuretic—urination lowers blood pressure.
- Lowering cholesterol.
- Increasing bile production, which helps prevent gallbladder blockage.
- Reducing inflammation. Dandelions contain essential fatty acids and phytonutrients which can reduce pain and swelling.
- Boosting immune system functions and helping fight off microbes and fungi.
The internet contains tons of recipes to incorporate dandelions into your diet. All parts of the plant have a slightly bitter taste, but harvesting in the spring or fall can minimize this and cooking the plant can lessen it further. Raw dandelion leaves are particularly good in salad. Great care should be taken to make sure harvested dandelions have never been exposed to pesticides or fertilizers. For this reason, it might be best to avoid taking them from your lawn right to your kitchen. Freeze dried or fresh dandelion can be bought in many health food markets and dandelions have also been made into tinctures, teas, and herb capsules.
Dandelions may also have a valid place in your lawn. Because their roots are so far-reaching, they protect your lawn from erosion. Not only that, these deep taproots can pull up calcium and other nutrients that may have leeched too far into the ground for your lawn and garden plants to use.
Love them or hate them, dandelions are a stubborn plant that will continue to be around as it has been for a thousand years. If you have them in your yard and want to remove that, consider your options and find which is best for you and your lawn.
For more information about Dandelions please visit safelawns.org
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