Rites of Spring: The Dandelion Battle

Many of us who use weed control services have already had our lawns sprayed  this season and are enjoying our bright green, lush lawns without the yellow dandelions that pop up this time of the year. However, not all of our neighbors feel that commercial weed control services are for them. Traditional weed killers use chemicals that effectively kill dandelions and other invasive weeds and these chemicals can be dangerous to people, pets and wildlife. If you have young children who play outside or if you have pets or wildlife in your yard, you have probably considered an alternative method.

How can you kill dandelions without using chemicals? Here are a few chemical-free ways to eradicate dandelions from your yard

1.      Weed

This method is labor intensive, but it is also the most environmentally friendly. If you want to get rid of dandelions this way, remember to dig up the whole plant. If you take off the leaves but leave the root in the ground, then in a few days it will re-grow. Also, don’t just leave the dandelions out on the ground as they can re-root themselves, as long as it’s not too hot and dry, and the seeds from the flowers can plant themselves in almost any weather.

If you choose to dig out your dandelions, you can either just dispose of the plants or you can use them. Dandelions are actually edible and can make a good addition to salads and other foods

2.      Vinegar

You can use vinegar as a weed spray alternative. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray on weeds. When choosing a vinegar, the stronger the acid content, the better. For the best results, spray all visible plants regularly. Spray on a sunny day, if possible, and apply an even coat to all the leaves, flowers and stalk. If plants don’t die on the first attempt, just keep spraying. Studies have shown that vinegar can kill at least 95% of weeds if used effectively.  A word of warning with this method: vinegar can kill almost any plant it is sprayed on, so it might kill some of the grass around the dandelions too. However, grass quickly perks up again. If you don’t want to risk it, it is still a very good method for ridding dandelions growing in driveways and patios

3.      Mow

This may seem overly simple, but keep your grass cut at a short length. If you mow your lawn regularly, it prevents bigger weeds from establishing themselves, and cuts down the dandelions before they have a chance to seed and create new plants

4.      Kill them naturally

There are also plenty of “Organic” weed killers hitting the market these days. Make sure you get one from a company whose products are certified for organic gardening.  Corn gluten meal is another organic way to handle the dandelions.  Corn gluten is a pre-emergence herbicide, so it works by inhibiting the development of small feeder roots. It does well against germinating seeds only; it won’t affect established plants. It can be applied in and around lawns, bedding plants, trees, shrubs and vegetables. Corn gluten, like any pre-emergence herbicide, works best when applied to bare ground before any weeds sprout.

Experts at the extension service claim the best way to control dandelions and other weeds in your yard is to grow a thick, vigorous lawn. Dense grass crowds out weeds and blocks the sunlight their seeds need to germinate. When you consider the tenacity of dandelions, it’s a wonder any of us wins the battle with these pesky invaders. Just one dandelion plant makes up to 15,000 seeds, each of which can survive six years in the soil, creating 15,000 more seeds when it sprouts and matures.

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