What makes dandelion removal from lawns so difficult? Well, dandelions enjoy the best of both worlds. Above-ground, their seeds ride the wind currents, poised to drop into the slightest opening in your lawn to propagate the species. Meanwhile, below-ground, they strike down a taproot up to 10″ long. Pulling the taproot as a means of removal is problematic. Thick but brittle, the taproot easily fractures– and any fraction of the taproot that remains in the ground will regenerate.
Preventive Dandelion Control
Promoting lawn health is the best method of dandelion control. Don’t think of your lawn grass as a passive partner, which has to be rescued from weeds after the fact. If managed properly, your lawn can compete effectively against weeds, obviating the need for laborious dandelion removal.
Follow these lawn-care tips:
- Leave grass clippings on your lawn. They will act as a mulch to prevent weed seeds from germinating. The benefits of grass clippings to your lawn, under the right conditions, are numerous.
- Mow “high”, leaving the lawn grass at a height of 2 1/2″-3″. This will allow the lawn grass to “protect its own turf” better, depriving weeds of the light they need.
- Don’t let bare spots remain uncovered for long, else you’re just inviting the invasion of opportunistic weeds. In the fall, fill in those bare spots by overseeding.
- A thick lawn is the best method for preventing dandelions and other broadleaf weeds in your lawn. Follow a regular feeding program to achieve a lawn that is thick enough to keep weeds like dandelions from establishing in the first place.
Herbicides are an alternative that works well. As mentioned earlier, all it takes is leaving a fraction of the root behind, and your efforts at pulling dandelions will have gone for naught! Furthermore, as the following list (hardly exhaustive) of herbicides for killing dandelions illustrates, not all “herbicides” are chemical mixtures bought at the store.
Examples of Herbicides for Dandelions
- Organic: Vinegar
- Weed-B-Gon (brand name), with the active ingredient, 2,4-D
- Roundup (brand name), with the active ingredient, glyphosate
When to Apply Herbicides on Dandelions
Early fall and spring are the bests time to kill dandelions with herbicides. Dandelions are broadleaf, herbaceous perennials. Herbicides applied during this time are absorbed by the leaves and passed on to the roots, following the same path down as the nutrients.
For at least 2-3 days prior to applying herbicides, don’t mow the lawn. The bigger the surface area of the dandelion leaves, the more effective your application can be. Likewise, following the application of herbicide, wait at least 2-3 days before mowing, to allow time for the herbicide to be transferred to the roots.
How to Kill Dandelions: Pulling Them
If you’re hard-headed enough to want to try to pull these weeds, despite the difficulty just mentioned, here’s how to proceed:
- To facilitate weeding, water the lawn first (weeds are more easily extricated from wet soil).
- Make an incision into the soil, down along the side of the taproot, using a knife, screwdriver or similar tool (tools designed specifically for dandelion removal can be found in home improvement stores).
- Wiggle the tool to loosen the taproot
- Using the ground as a fulcrum, try to pry up the weed. Get a good grip on the leaves (as many of them as you can close your hand over) and use them as your “handle” on which to tug.
- Give the weed a gentle tug to see if the taproot is yielding.
- If the taproot is yielding, remove the dandelion weed from the soil. Otherwise, make further incisions around the taproot, wiggle and continue to tug gently at the leaves.
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[This blog post was originally featured here.]