Every lawn, no matter how meticulously maintained, is susceptible to a dandelion infestation. One of the most common broadleaf weeds, dandelions (taraxacum) love sunlight, tolerate a variety of soil conditions, and thrive in many environments. But what makes these pesky plants so unpopular among property owners is that they turn into weed-spreading machines and are difficult to completely eliminate. With some effort, a little know-how, and a lot of patience, you can have a dandelion-free lawn.
Identifying the Dandelion
Whether you call it milk witch, puff ball, cankerwort, lion’s tooth, or blow ball, a dandelion can be distinguished from look-alike weeds by the following characteristics:
- Hollow, leafless stems that contain a milky white substance
- Dark green, smooth, deeply-notched leaves grow in a rosette close to the ground
- Each stem carries only one compact yellow flower that turns into a fuzzy ball of winged seeds
Why Are Dandelions Bad?
Dandelions are a hardy, invasive weed that does battle both above ground and below. Under the ground, the taproots grow deep, sometimes up to two or three feet. This makes it difficult to remove the entire plant, and what’s left behind quickly grows back into an unwanted weed.
Above ground, the flower head matures into a white puffy ball made up of as many as 200 seeds. A light breeze spreads the seeds throughout your yard and onto neighboring lawns. To make matters worse, children love to blow on the puff balls, helping send seeds on their way.
Once established, dandelions crowd out grass and other plants, stealing water and nutrients, and eventually taking over your yard.
How to Have a Dandelion-Free Lawn
There are many methods to control dandelions, but because of the weed’s quick-spreading nature, it’s best to employ several methods at once.
Although time-consuming, hand pulling is the most popular method, and the least effective. If you are going to take on this daunting task, do so in spring, before the flower sets seed. The long taproots make it a challenge. If you don’t get it all, the weed quickly re-establishes itself from the remaining root. Purchase a special digging tool at any garden center or use something similar to a long screw driver. Either one requires great care in reaching the entire root.
Early fall is the time to use a post-emergent herbicide. A selective herbicide targets larger infestations, since it kills the dandelions but not the grass. For spot treating only a few dandelions, a non-selective herbicide should be applied directly on the weed’s leaves. This type of herbicide kills any nearby plants it touches so be careful when applying. The leaves transfer the chemicals down to the roots to kill the entire plant.
The acidity of vinegar causes it to act like a natural herbicide. Apply it directly to the leaves in order to keep it from harming grass or other plants.
Corn gluten meal (CGM) works as a pre-emergent herbicide when applied to the lawn four-to-six weeks before germination. A yellow powdery substance that is a byproduct of milling corn, it prevents the roots from growing. CGM is available at most garden centers. Get enough because you’ll need to reapply several times throughout the growing season.
Pouring boiling water over the dandelion plants is another tedious technique. This process has to be repeated often in order to be successful.
If you can’t beat them, eat them! High in iron and vitamins A and C, dandelions are edible, roots, flowers, leaves, and all. They’ve been used for centuries for a variety of medicinal purposes as well. So go ahead and eat your weed problems away!
A healthy, thick lawn is your best defense against the dandelion. By keeping your grass on a regular maintenance schedule you’ll be one step ahead of any weed infestation. Water and fertilize grass regularly, re-seed bare spots, mow high, and keep soil healthy. If you don’t have time to do this, hire a profession.
Winning the war on weeds takes persistence and any infestation is better left to the experts. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone] and we’ll help you achieve a dandelion-free lawn and ward off weeds once and for all.