ONTO PRIVATE PROPERTY, DEFACING LANDSCAPES
Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale; False Dandelion, Hypochaeris
Hangout: Sunny, well-drained soil
Physical Features: Up to 2' tall; stems are
very short or underground (aboveground stalks aren't true stems); flower-topped,
hollow green stalks grow out of leafy crowns; leaves 2-12" long form
the crown at the base of the stalk; hundreds of small flowers form a buzzy
ball that looks like a single, yellow bloom
After the first
frost, the last of the plants die, transforming fuzzy yellow heads into
parachuting seed bombs. Winds or other disturbances give these daredevil
delinquents the kick they need to launch toward new terrain, joining others
that landed throughout the summer. New shoots also spread from the crown
and any broken roots left in the soil.
DANDELION ACCOMPLICES LURK ON EVERY STREET, DISGUISED AS CHILDREN MAKING
WISHES, BLOWING OFF THE PARACHUTING SEEDS.
Do in the Dandelions!
1. Patrol the area
- Starting in early spring,
stake out sunny areas for crowns and flowers.
- Frequently patrol your lawn,
carefully searching out trespassers.
- Write down where problem
areas occur, taking detailed notes on how big the invasion is and when
you noticed it.
2. Make a positive I.D.
- Dandelions are one of the
most familiar wildflowers, but check out the mug shot if you need help
recognizing the less familiar, leaf-like crowns.
3. Do a thorough background
- Like many other persistent
weeds, dandelions can grow back from pieces left in the soil so it's
essential to remove as much of the plant as possible when weeding. Then
come back later to finish them off.
4. Determine the danger
- Years ago, dandelion was
actually planted on purpose for its many uses. People would eat the
crowns, make wine from the flowers, and coffee from the roots. It was
also considered a folk remedy for many ailments.
- This fuzzy-headed invader
clearly makes itself at home in your lawn, but healthy lawns will keep
it under control without your help.
- If someone in your family
is allergic to bee stings, dandelions may pose more of a danger since
honeybees love the yellow flowers.
5. Make a plan
- Do-Nothing Method
-Leaving dandelions alone is a popular method. Many people don't mind
them and some actually enjoy the color they add.
-Healthy turf can grow faster than dandelions, crowding them out and
keeping these sneaks from stealing too much ground.
- Manipulative Measures
-It's S.W.A.T. time! Hand-pull dastardly dandelions, yanking them from
your lawn. Be careful to remove as much of the plant as possible. Mechanical
weapons, like tools designed especially for dandelion removal, can be
found in lawn and garden stores.
-For areas around gardens or ornamentals, deprive the invaders of sun
by putting down mulch. Use black plastic covering or natural mulch like
woodchips to shade and starve new seedlings to death.
-Boost your lawn's self defense by properly caring for it. See Lawn
Care: Keeping Your Lawn and Lake Whatcom Healthy.
-In gardens, don't always plant the same crop in the same row if some
of your crops are better at fighting back weeds than others. For example,
some types of onion do not compete with weeds very well, but corn and
potatoes do. After planting a row with onions, plant with corn or potatoes
the next season.
- Secret Agents
Competition from other plants takes a greater toll on dandelions than
anything else. They battle for space, nutrients, and water.
- Armed and Dangerous
-Chemical retaliation is usually necessary only if you have no tolerance
for dandelions at all. If you must get rid of them, cut dandelion crowns
off at the soil and apply an herbicide solution, usually not concentrated
herbicide, directly to the cut. Be sure to follow the directions on
the label. And remember, more is not better-it's illegal.
-Apply chemicals in the evening when honeybees are less likely to be
around. Do not apply near other flowering plants.
-Read and follow the directions for use, storage and disposal whenever
you use an herbicide.
6. Evaluate the results
- Record where you find dandelions
so you can stake out those areas each spring before they produce seeds.
Also document the size of dandelion raids each year. If dandelions are
increasing in number every year, that might be a sign your lawn's health
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