Dandelions release airborne seeds that can travel for miles. (©James Thew, Adobe Stock Photos)Who doesn’t love making a wish and blowing on fluffy white balls of dandelion fluff?
Apparently, not everyone, because dandelion control is a challenge that many lawn enthusiasts take quite seriously!
If you’re not a fan of dandelions, here’s what you need to know about controlling them in your yard or garden.
Dandelions are perennial weeds that spread very easily both from seed and the roots. That means that any existing plants will grow and spread each year, with new plants sprouting left, right, and down the block!
Dandelions bloom in the spring and fall, with yellow flowers turning into white seed heads that release their airborne seeds in the slightest breeze. With airborne seeds capable of traveling for miles, it’s impossible to eliminate dandelions altogether, especially if your neighbors’ lawns are infested. However, the good news is that you can easily target and remove individual dandelion plants in your yard before they spread further.
When trying to rid your lawn of dandelions, the most important thing to remember is the taproot. Dandelion plants send a strong root straight down, up to 6”- 8” deep. To get rid of the dandelion, you have to remove this entire root, or it will simply sprout again from the remaining root.
Use a dandelion weeding knife or weed grubber to remove the entire root.
How To Control Dandelions
Dig early: The best way to control dandelions is to catch them in the spring, before they spread. As soon as you see a dandelion, grub out the entire plant, including the taproot (at least 6” deep). Broken pieces of dandelion root will sprout new plants! Go out when the soil is soft from rain or watering, and use a dandelion knife or weed grubber to get the entire root system.
Mow and Bag: When dandelions are blooming, mow your lawn often to prevent the blooms from going to seed. If you do have dandelion seed heads, use a bag attachment to collect clippings and reduce seed spreading, or hand-cut the seed heads straight into a plastic bag.
Keep Lawn Thick: The healthier your lawn, the harder it will be for dandelion seeds to germinate and grow. Keep your mower blade set at the maximum mowing height for your lawn type, to allow the grass to smother out any dandelion seedlings.
Test Soil: Dandelions grow best in slightly alkaline soil (pH over 7), whereas lawn grasses like neutral-to-slightly-acidic soil (pH 6.5). Conduct a soil test to find out the pH of the soil in your yard, and add amendments as needed.
Herbicides: Standard broadleaf herbicides will usually control dandelions, particularly if applied during the fall when the plants are storing up nutrients in their roots. General herbicides and weed control methods such as post-emergent herbicides like Roundup, burning with a propane torch, and dousing with boiling water also work, but they’ll kill the grass, too. Spraying dandelions with vinegar may kill only the foliage, leaving the roots to sprout again. Pre-emergent herbicides (that stop the germination of seeds) haven’t shown much clinical effectiveness with dandelions, but some gardeners report success with corn gluten meal.