Got Dandelions?

April 19, 2010 at 9:29 am Leave a comment

dandelion2Every spring we get ready to renew our ongoing battle with that weed, that that yellow flowered pest, that nemesis of our lawns, the Dandelion. The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seems to grow almost anywhere. It prefers moist sites like our lawns, pastures and meadows.


Every year at the first sighting of that little yellow flower, we rush off to buy tools, chemicals and the latest gadgets to get rid of that water-consuming, nutrient-sucking weed. We dig, we pop, we spray and yet, come next spring there they are again. So off we go again to what has become our annual ritual. There has to be a better way. Well there is.


The first thing we need to come to grips with is what Montana State University said in one of their articles: “Weeds are very good at what they do.” Dandelions, like other weeds are opportunists. They take advantage of conditions that favor their growth. These conditions, when it comes to our lawns, include bare patches and stressed-out turf caused by poor watering, incorrect mowing habits, and improper fertilizing regiments. The best defense against dandelions and other weeds in our lawns is to grow a thick and healthy turf.


Dandelions (From the Old French, “Tooth of the Lion”) are perennial weeds, not annuals. What this means is if we don’t get the root, we will be revisited by our little friend next spring. If we choose to dig them out, it is best done when they are in early growth and the root has not gotten long. It is important to get all of the root if possible, or at least 4” to 6” inches. If we get enough of the root system, even if there is a little left, the plant may not have enough energy to reestablish itself.


If we choose to go the herbicide route, it is important to understand the biology of weeds.  Dandelions’ survival skills are such that they use all of their stored energy from last season to push out this season’s new growth. In other words, the plant’s energy is going upward to produce leaves, flowers, and seeds and not much is going down into the root system. This may explain why we think we kill the dandelion when we use chemicals in the spring, only to find out that they are back the next spring.  Frustrating? What then are we to do? The solution is to apply our herbicides in the fall. Why? It goes back to weed biology again. In the spring all the energy is going up and in the fall where is the energy going? That’s right, down. The plant is getting ready for the winter and in doing so, it begins to store carbohydrates and starches in the roots. This is the best time to use your herbicide. When applied in the fall, the herbicide moves more easily through the plant and especially into the roots. In Gunnison County, this time is from the very last of September to the first two weeks of October.  I have had good results using this technique. Give it a try.


 Jim Janks, Gunnison County Advanced Master Gardener


Entry filed under: Weeds.

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