There just ain’t nothin’ says “spring” like dandelions poking their gleefully yellow little heads up out of the dirt and spoiling your beautifully monochromatic lawn with their disgusting brilliance. Ain’t nothin’ says “backache” like dandelion weeds either. The dandelion weed, known to all them cool kids in the lab as Taraxacum officinale, can be ridiculously hard to get rid of. Not only are they masters at propagating themselves, they’ve also got that darn taproot. That big long tuber-like projection that shoots straight down (sometimes up to 10 inches) into the dirt and makes ’em hard as hell to pull up. And if they snap off partway down and you leave even a little of that taproot in the ground, you’re gonna have a fresh new dandelion on your hands before you know it.
Remember when you were a kid, sittin’ spread eagle in the lawn, plucking dandelions and blissfully blowing the seeds all over? You didn’t know it, but your old man was watching you from inside at the kitchen table. He was sitting there drinking his coffee, cursing, and secretly hoping you’d inhale just a little too hard, suck in a just a few of them there seeds, send yourself into a coughing fit and learn your lesson the hard way. Nowadays, he’s just glad you’ve got kids of your own who are more than happy to return the favor. Luckily, you’ve got the Internet, and it comes a wealth of information on how to get rid of dandelions without breaking your back. I’m not saying getting rid of dandelions won’t give you any back pain at all, but if you follow the advice on dandelion control in this article, you’ll have a much better time killing dandelions than Dad ever did.
Dandelions are extremely high in vitamin A, potassium, and beta carotene. They are also good sources of vitamins C and D, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. Dandelion leaves are often gathered and used fresh in salads, or boiled like spinach (to cut the bitterness) and used in soups and casseroles. The dandelion leaf is not the only edible part of the plant. The root can be harvested and used in stir fries or roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. While we’re at it, the heads (flowers) can even be used in wines. Some of the health benefits of dandelions are said to include improved digestion and improved kidney and liver function. Dandelion is also known to be a natural diuretic.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Dandelion Infestations
Corn gluten meal. CGM is probably the best thing you can use to avoid getting dandelions in the first place and to keep them from coming back. CGM is a pre-emergent herbicide. This means that it keeps seedlings from taking root and taking up residence in your lawn. Besides that, it’s 100% natural and perfectly safe for yards, kids and pets. CGM is available both online and from most garden shops. For proper dandelion weed control, spread CGM over your lawn 4-6 weeks before the growing season. Since the stuff only remains effective for 5-6 weeks, you will need to reapply it several times. CGM will not kill pre-existing weeds. To learn how to kill dandelions that were already hanging out in your yard, read on.
Mowing to kill dandelions. I know it sounds pretty straightforward, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when mowing for dandelion control. First, mow often to cut the heads off of dandelions before they go to seed. Second, set the lawn mower deck so that the grass does not get cut shorter than 2-2 ½ inches. Keeping the grass longer allows it to block light that dandelions need to grow. Third, leave the grass clippings on the ground. They act as mulch and help to prevent seeds from taking root. Finally, provide your lawn with infrequent deep waterings. It’s better for the grass, and frequent waterings are one of the things dandelions love.
Kill dandelions manually. The #1 best way to kill dandelions is to pluck them out at the root. There are many tools available that are designed to help you dig deep and pull them out at the root. Stop in at a hardware store or garden center and ask about the Dandelion Digger, the Weed Zinger Stand Up weeding tool at Amazon, Grandpa’s Weeder, or the Dandelion Terminator (this attaches to your electric drill and is shown to the left). Whatever you decide to use for a dandelion weeder, you should water your lawn before the big dandelion kill. This will soften the ground and make it easier to pull up root and all. Every time you pull a dandelion, squirt a little dandelion herbicide down the hole to make sure any root remnants get dead.
Dandelion herbicides. If you want to know how to kill dandelions with a little less manual labor, or just want something to supplement your efforts, pick yourself up a good dandelion weed killer. Some of them are designed to be squirted directly onto the little beasts, and some of them are meant to be sprinkled or sprayed over your whole lawn. Look for brands such as Round Up, Scott’s Weed and Feed (which you can get from Amazon here), Weed-Out, Kilex, 2,4-D, or Weed-B-Gone. Whatever you use, in order to give the stuff time to work, don’t water your lawn for at least three days after application.
Be persistent. Above all, don’t allow yourself to be daunted by the task or to give up trying to kill dandelions too soon. If your dandelion problem is bad, give yourself a few days to pluck ’em all out. Your back will thank you. If you’re not going to pluck them and are intending to use one or more dandelion killers, follow the directions, give them time to work, and be prepared to do any required reapplications in a timely manner. It takes a while to get rid of dandelions, and persistence to keep them from coming back. The most effective way for you to get rid of dandelions will be for you to follow all of the steps in this section and to not get discouraged…you can do it!
Use a Natural Dandelion Killer
Vinegar is perhaps the most effective and definitely the safest dandelion spray available. Either spray the dandelion directly, or, better yet, pull the dandelion out by the root and spray down the hole to make sure any roots that were left behind are killed. While plain old white vinegar will work, it works better to boil it down to increase the concentration of acetic acid. Otherwise, look for BurnOut Weed & Grass Killer. It’s completely organic and is made from concentrated vinegar, clove oil, and lemon juice.
Salt is said to be a pretty effective dandelion killer. Take about a tablespoon of salt, pile it on the dandelion right where it pops out of the ground, and leave it there. After a couple days you should have dead dandelions everywhere. Just be careful not to get the salt on surrounding plants.
Get some chickens. These cool birds are not just for eggs anymore. While they do supply us with food, they’re also good for a number of other things, like eating dandelions. Since we’re talking about biological dandelion control, you should also consider keeping your dogs inside whenever you see rabbits in your yard. They enjoy a nice dandelion even more than chickens do.
More Good Dandelion Killing Tips
- Don’t want to use scary chemicals in your lawn? Good. Kill dandelions by pouring boiling water on them.
- Get yourself a weed burner torch such as those made by Red Dragon. Either that or hit them with a little hand-held propane torch.
- Cover dandelions with cardboard, black plastic, or landscaping fabric. This will kill them by blocking them from the sun and stopping photosynthesis.
- If you have bare spots in your lawn, seed them as quickly as possible. These are prime locations for dandelions to rear their ugly heads.
- Reseed your entire lawn. The denser your lawn is, the harder it is for dandelions to compete. Dense grass blocks sunlight, keeps dandelion seeds from contacting the soil, and uses nutrients in the soil that might otherwise get used by dandelions.
- If you don’t want to go through all the hassle of pulling dandelions or spreading herbicides, simply pluck the heads off of dandelions as soon as you see them. This will keep them from seeding and spreading. I prefer the golf club method.
- Give the kids something to do. Give them a nickel or a dime (depending on how many dandelions you’ve got) for each dandelion they pull and bring to you.