Ways to kill Dandelions without damaging the lawn.

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Dandelions are a nuisance growing in, and if we are not careful, taking over our lawns.

In this article, I'm going to show you two ways to get rid of them....

How to get rid of dandelions,the organic way or weed-killer method

  1. The Organic way digging the weed out by hand , followed up using commonsense methods of preventative garden maintenance. 
  2. The weedkiller method that completely kills the whole plant and root in one go. 
Dandelion seed head blowing in the wind
Dandelion seed head blowing in the wind

I was going to promise a way to eradicate them, but here are two reasons I can't. 

  1. Even one plant growing in a neighbours garden can release thousands of dandelion seeds into the air to be spread all over your lawn by the breeze, to germinate and grow.
  2. If even the tiniest bit of taproot is left in the ground when you dig the dandelion out, it will grow back.        Eradication of dandelions is almost impossible, but....  

The weed-killer method for killing dandelions growing in a lawn

 How to use a weed-killer to kill dandelions without damaging the lawn.
 
The quickest method to kill dandelions is to use a weed-killer, but like all quick solutions there are drawbacks. Weed-killers are not selective and will kill beneficial plants like clover. Clover improves the soil, helps aerate it and pumps nitrogen into the lawn. Clover used to be considered an essential part of a healthy lawn until products like Weed ‘n' Feed came out and then clover was eliminated. Chemically fed lawns no longer benefit from the natural nitrogen and other nutrients clover provided, forcing, guess what? Dependency on the Feed and Weed type chemical manufacturers and suppliers.
 
As I explained earlier in this article a few dandelion weeds can be controlled by pulling or digging out the complete plant, root and all. All-over lawn weed control is usually not necessary, as a heavy infestation of dandelions is usually a sign of something being wrong with the soil and would be better handled by improving the soil to make the grass healthy and more resistant to infestations of dandelions. 
 
But, if you are already addressing the poor soil problem by improving the health of the lawn grass and also want to improve the appearance of the lawn by killing the dandelions quickly, without the hassle of digging them out.
This is the weed-killer method I use and recommend. It is important to use a Glyphosphate based product that kills actively growing dandelions including the root.
 
How to apply Glyphosate weed-killer without killing the lawn grass.
  • Glyphosate is a non-selective weed-killer and will kill the lawn grass, plants in the border and beneficial plants like clover, so should not be sprayed or poured from a watering can.  
  • The safest, cheapest and most effective method is to paint diluted glyphosate directly onto the dandelion. 
  • Read the label and on a dry day during the growing season, dilute to get the correct mix, pour into a suitable container, dip a small paintbrush into the liquid and paint onto the dandelion leaves, buds and stem. The weed will shrivel up and die completely, root and all, within a week or two. 
  • Be careful not to spill on the grass it will kill it, but if you do the mix will become harmless as soon as it hits soil and the dead patch can be reseeded. 

When I'm clearing dandelions and other broad leafed weeds from lawns, even small areas, I avoid using the expensive glyphosate based weed-killers like roundup and instead dilute the concentrated (360g/l glyphosate  available here.

Always check Strength actually is 360g/l when buying concentrated Glyphosate weed-killer from other sources.

 

 

 


The Organic way to get rid of dandelions in your lawn.

On poor acidic soil you could leave them to grow and "slowly" help improve the soil.  

Dandelions love acidic, low nutrient soil. They will continue to grow in this type of soil, slowly helping improve it until it is no longer acidic and is full of nutrients and then, job done they will be crowded out by healthy lawn grass.  This Organic method of clearing dandelions from your lawn, could depending on the size of the area, take a long time, but can be sped up by addressing the pH and shortage of nutrients by adding material from your organic compost heap.  

An important step if you use this organic method is to behead all dandelion flowers before they go to seed to minimise the volume of seeds. This will speed-up the process, but it is still going to be a slow way of getting rid of dandelions and does take a lot of work initially, but once under control, the removal of the odd dandelion isn't a major time issue and there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from knowing you have done it mother nature's way

Even after you have cleared your lawn, you will get seeds from neighbours lawns who don't bother to keep them under control and the important thing is to keep on top of it.

Another method of removing Dandelions from lawns without damaging the grass or using herbicides, is to dig out the whole plant and root.

Dandelions root deep into the ground making it almost impossible to pull the weed and root out by hand without leaving part of the root in the soil. It's very important to remove the green and root, as even the tiniest bit will grow back into a full size dandelion plant.

 

These tools make digging out dandelion roots easy the first one is a great invention for removing dandelions, from lawns. 

  • Ergonomic handle.
  • Hardened stainless steel blade, for extra durability.
  • Lightweight pedal makes it even easy to eject weeds.
  • Fibercomp handle and shaft for extra durability and lightweight.

The second one is a specially shaped trowel to get in deep to remove the root.


Before we begin to get rid of dandelions,lets look at what's good about them?

  • We can eat dandelions. The leaves are gathered for food in some parts of the world to be eaten raw or boiled, mostly in salads. The flower petals are used to make dandelion wine, the  roasted roots are ground and used to make caffeine-free dandelion coffee.  Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the soft drink dandelion and burdock, although, these days it rarely contains dandelion.  A few specialist makers still use the real plant. 
  • Dandelion leaves contain lots vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins AC and K, and are good sources of calciumpotassiumiron and manganese.
  • Medicinal uses. Historically, dandelion has been known for its medicinal properties used in herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems, digestive disorders, as a mild laxative, for increasing appetite, and for improving digestion. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent  and as a folk remedy to treat warts
  • Food for bees, Dandelions provide an important source of nectar and pollen for Bees especially in early spring.
  • Good for gardensSome gardeners consider Dandelions a beneficial weed and even a good companion plant,  as they have a deep, strong tap root that breaks up hard soil, benefiting weaker-rooted plants nearby, the deep growing roots also draw up nutrients from deeper than shallower-rooted nearby plants can access, and also release minerals and nitrogen through their roots.
  • The dandelion is sometimes classified as a Pioneer plantPioneer plants are the hardy species that are the first to colonise previously disrupted or damaged land, like building sites, left with thin, poor quality soils with few nutrients ( probably the site your house was built on). 
  • Dandelions are hardy plants with long roots that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In addition to releasing minerals and nitrogen into the poor soil, when they die back in winter they create leaf mold, composting to make new soil.

Keeping your lawn free of dandelions

Whichever method you use to clear dandelions from a lawn, good maintenance will be essential to keep it dandelion free.

Since dandelions thrive on thin weak turf, a good preventative measure will include the following;

  • Mow high and often. Mowing high means keeping your grass on the longer side of its optimal height. This keeps the soil cooler and provides shade that restricts the growth of annual weeds. Weed seeds on the soil surface need the heat of the sun to flourish. Scalping your lawn is an open invitation for weeds.
  • If weeds have already invaded your lawn, frequent mowing will keep them in check. A weed can't form seed heads when its topmost growth keeps getting lopped off.
  • Add compost  at the correct times.  Feed your lawn, not your weeds. Lawn grass should be fed in early spring and again in autumn. Feeding in the heat of the summer will only promote more weeds.  
  • If you really need to water the lawn, water deeply and infrequently. The weed seeds are just waiting for the right conditions to emerge, they grow best when kept damp with light frequent watering. 

 

As well as growing in lawns, Dandelions can be a nuisance all over your garden here are a few organic and common sense methods to help control them.

 

Mulching, Covering your garden soil with a layer of organic matter can smother and inhibit weeds, as well as prevent new seeds from germinating. Materials that make a good mulch include wood chips, compost, grass clippings, and straw. Avoid hay as it contain a lot of seeds.

 

Close planting to crowd out dandelions

Crowding plants for weed control is a good old fashioned way used by cottage gardeners to control weeds in flower and vegetable gardens. They knew that if a weed had no place to grow, even if a weed seed found a landing place it would not get past the germination stage because it would not get the sunlight needed to thrive.  

 

 

Limit Digging

  • As well as being hard work and in most cases unnecessary even harming the structure of the soil, digging garden soil can bring weed seeds to the surface and present an open invitation to airborne weed seeds like dandelions to land and grow. 
  • If you are planting seeds, only dig down as far as you need to plant them.
  • Instead of digging your garden soil give the The no-dig method of gardening a try, it's not only easier in the long term, but also improves soil structure and fertility, and increases the population of beneficial organisms in the soil.

 

Feed and water carefully

The food and water you give to your plants will also feed and water your weeds and help them grow in the same way. Only give your plants what they need and where they need it by providing water and food only to the roots of your plants, not the empty spaces around them. 

 

 

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