When we were young, we all loved blowing on dandelions and making wishes. Well, I hope all your wishes came true, however the best wish you could have been wishing for by blowing on them is to have more dandelions. As fun as they are, dandelions are tenacious weed plants (unless you want them, then they are no longer considered weeds). Assuming you don’t want dandelions, how does one control their growth and spread?
Let’s take a little look at the wonderful world of dandelions…
Dandelion is a perennial plant that grows best in moist areas in full sun. Once established however, it can survive some shade and dry conditions. Dandelion grows year-round in California except in the coldest intermountain areas, where it is dormant during the winter.
Dandelions can form a dense mat of leaves (6 to 14 inches in diameter), that can crowd out desirable species and reduce the vigor of those plants that survive. In turf, it forms clumps that cause poor footing for athletic fields and golf courses. Dandelion’s texture and color vary from that of turfgrass, and the yellow flowers reduce the aesthetic quality of the lawns and other turf areas. Dandelion flowers may attract bees, which can be problematic where children or people with bee allergies are present.
Removing dandelions by hand-pulling or hoeing is usually futile, unless done repeatedly over a long period of time, because of the deep tap root system of established plants. Control by this method is most successful in home lawns and small gardens. Turfgrass and ornamental areas should be well maintained for maximum vigor, making them as competitive as possible to slow dandelion infestations. Dandelion seeds can be moved by equipment or become windborne and travel several miles, making prevention of new infestations very difficult. Dense stands of turfgrass and ornamentals shade the soil surface, reducing the establishment of new dandelion seedlings.
Solitary new dandelion plants along fence rows, roadsides, flower beds, and in turfgrass should be grubbed out (removed by digging out the entire plant, taproot and all) before they produce seed. Dandelion knives and similar specialized tools are available for removing individual weeds and their roots while minimizing soil disturbance. Monitor the area for several months to make sure that removal of the taproot was complete.
Lawns and Turfgrass
No single control procedure has been successful in controlling dandelion in turfgrass. Early grubbing of new seedlings should be practiced diligently and regularly for several years to successfully reduce the dandelion population.
Many broadleaf weeds may be controlled with mowing by cutting off the growing points and upright parts of the plant, which may lead to drying out and eventual death, but this is NOT true of dandelion. Because it grows from a basal rosette that is lower than a mower blade can reach, mowing will have no effect on control.
There are some powerful herbicide options, but we’ll leave that for another time. The less herbicide used in the world, the better.
Good luck out there, everyone, and when lady luck does not shine upon you, give us a call.