What Are Dandelions
Simply put, dandelions are an herbaceous perennial plant with yellow flowers.
Despite their bad rap, dandelions have many uses. For starters, they are a great source of food for bees and other pollinators, especially early in the season before most other flowers have bloomed.
Dandelions also have medicinal uses, and believe it or not plenty of people eat them. Everything from the flower to the root is edible.
While dandelions have many benefits, they can be a nightmare lawn weed for those of us who take pride in a green, manicured lawn.
Dandelions Life Cycle
During the winter, dandelions go dormant.
In early spring, they are one of the first plants to wake up. In May and June the flower blooms are most intense. During the day flowers are wide open and bright yellow. During the night flowers close and are not as noticeable.
As flower blooms start to fade, the plant focuses on seed production. Eventually, instead of yellow blooms you’ll notice fluffy white seeds that will be swept away with the wind.
These seeds germinate and new plants emerge.
During the hot summer months dandelions are less active and can even go dormant for a short period.
Once soil temps cool off heading into fall they wake back up. It’s normal to see another cycle of flowering followed by more seed production during the fall months. This fall cycle is not as intense as the spring.
Why Are They Tough to Kill
Their overall hardiness and ability to spread an abundance of seed can make dandelions tough to control.
Unlike a lot of broad leaf weeds, dandelions don’t die at the end of the growing season. Instead, dandelions are perennial meaning they go dormant during the winter months but will reappear in the spring.
Dandelions are also tough to kill because of their long tap root. A single tap root anchors deep into the soil making manual removal difficult. It’s almost impossible to remove the full root of a mature plant with your bare hands, and if you don’t remove the whole root then the plant will likely survive.
How to Kill Dandelions
1. Dandelion Puller
Using a dandelion puller is a great, organic way to remove dandelions. These puller tools get deep into the ground where the tap root is and they yank out the whole plant including the root. Puller tools are a great option if you have a low to moderate weed problem. Their main benefits are they are safe, eco friendly, and best of all you get instant results.
2. Spot Treat with Lawn Safe Herbicide
Spot treating means spraying each individual plant directly with a liquid herbicide.
Using a product like Ortho Weed B Gone is a great choice if you have a small to moderate problem. This product is also useful in controlling other broad leaf weeds such as crabgrass. It’s also the product I recommend in my simple lawn care program which uses only 3 products.
Tenacity is another lawn safe herbicide that will kill dandelions as well as other broad leaf weeds. This is a more professional product and requires mixing with water in a tank sprayer. This is a better choice if you have a larger problem because you will get much more coverage for your money.
When spot treating don’t expect instant results. It can take 1-2 weeks for the weeds to die. It may also require a second application.
The main benefit of spot treating is it’s less labor intensive then manual removal.
3. Blanket Spraying
If your lawn has a more serious dandelion problem then it will take forever to spray each individual weed. That is when blanket spraying is a better option. Blanket spraying is when you apply liquid herbicide over your entire lawn, or entire sections of your lawn. This is usually done with a tank sprayer.
The same tenacity product recommended for spot treating can be used for a blanket application as well. Simply follow the blanket application instructions on the label. Once again, this will target other weeds as well without harming your lawn.
4. Hose End Weed Killer
If you require a blanket application of herbicide but don’t want to invest in a tank sprayer then using a hose end weed killer is a great solution. Ortho Weed B gone makes their herbicide in a hose end sprayer as well.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of hose end applications. They can be hard to calibrate and I like the consistency of a tank sprayer better. I also don’t enjoy dragging hoses around my 23,000 s/f lawn. But plenty of people swear by hose end sprayers and for smaller lawns they make a lot of sense.
Do Granular Post Emergent Herbicides Work
I’m not a big fan of granular post emergent herbicides for controlling dandelions. Once a dandelion plant is already establish you’re going to have much better results using the weed puller, spot treating, or blanket spraying.
Granular post emergent herbicide products like Weed N Feed require very specific conditions to get the herbicide to stick to the plant. Even then, these products have mixed results.
How to Prevent Dandelions
Preventing dandelions really comes down to 3 things:
1. Pre Emergent Herbicides
Unlike granular post emergent herbicides, granular pre-emergent herbicides are noticeably effective. My go to granular pre-emergent herbicide is Dimension. Sometimes I use Prodiamine as well.
These products need to be applied at the right time to be effective. Check out this post where I talk about pre-emergents and timing: Lawn Care Program
Just remember, dandelions are perennials. That means pre emergents will prevent new dandelion seeds from emerging, but it will not prevent the dandelions that have overwintered in your lawn from coming back.
2. Killing Existing Plants
Since mature dandelions produce seeds that eventually become more dandelions, killing existing plants is key in controlling the problem.
Mowing frequently and bagging your clippings is going to help control the spread of dandelions. Mowing cuts off the flower portion of the plant, making it impossible to produce seeds. Collecting the clippings prevent the seeds from being mulched back into your lawn.
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