Controlling Dandelions

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is one of the pestiest pests, but you have to admire its tenacity. Originally imported to the Americas as a pot plant, it now inhabits every temperate region in the world. As unfortunate as its ability to out-compete native dandelion species is, what really bothers most people is its ability to out-compete their lawn grass.

Ridding yourself of the yellow scourge may be impossible, but controlling it is possible. Plants survive the winter and come back in the spring to produce hundreds of seeds that are carried on the wind. These seedlings do not emerge until the middle or end of June in our climate. This means that attempting to control dandelions in the spring is doomed to failure, since many new plants will probably begin growing as soon as you finish. The best time to remove dandelions is in the fall, so your lawn can enjoy a fresh, dandelion-free start in the spring, preventing them from spreading within your own yard.

Dandelions can be removed chemically or by hand. If you use an herbicide such as Weed & Feed, be sure to follow label instructions precisely. Applying in the fall will make it less necessary to use herbicides in following years. Removing dandelions by hand is the cheapest, most environmentally-friendly method, and may be a good idea if young children play on your lawn. However, it is a lot of work if the yard is big or the infestation is severe, so try to bribe someone else to do it for you. Water the lawn before beginning, since plants come out of wet soil more easily. Loosen the roots with a weeding fork or a screwdriver before pulling, as pieces of root left in the soil may regrow. Fiskars makes a fancy dandelion weeder that will save your back. 

To prevent future infestations, keep your lawn healthy and not too short so that seeds don't germinate as easily. By ridding an area of dandelions in the fall, future problems should be more easily managed.

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