How to eliminate dandelions--without chemicals!


Seven ways to get rid of dandelions

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


Tom Hanks' "Power of Four" solution

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natural weed killer

Dandelions are weeds, unless you're a child. I'm reminded of the story in "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul" by David Matz, where a father, in his effort to create the perfect lawn, is on his hands and knees, screwdriver and garbage sack in hand, attacking the "little yellow devils."

Trouble was, it was Saturday and he'd promised his 4-year-old daughter Kayla they'd go fishing. Here's how the father-daughter conversation went:

"Pickin' flowers, Daddy?" Kayla asked.

Love letter"Yes, dear," he said, digging furiously at a tough root.

"I'll help," she offered. "I'll give some to Mommy."

"Go ahead, sweetie," he answered. "There's plenty."

An hour passed, and yellow splotches still remained.

"You said we's going fishin' today," Kayla complained.

"Yes, I know, dear," he said. "Just a little more flower picking, okay?"

"I'll get the fish poles," Kayla announced.

He labored on, prying up one stubborn root after another.

"I found some worms under a rock, Daddy," Kayla piped up. "I put them in a cup. Are you ready?"

"Almost, honey."

More minutes dragged by.

"You picked 'nough flowers, Daddy," Kayla insisted impatiently.

"Okay, honey, just a few more," he promised. But he couldn't stop. The compulsion to finish the job was overwhelming.

A few minutes later, a tap came on his shoulder.

"Make a wish, Daddy!" Kayla chirped.

As he turned, Kayla took a big breath, puffed, and sent a thousand baby dandelion seeds into the air.

He picked her up and kissed her, and they headed for the fish pond.

(For more stories from Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul, click here).

information on dandelions

A dose of dandelion history

In spite of our general attitudes toward dandelions, they've survived the test of time. Also known as swine's snout, yellow gowan, Irish daisy and peasant's cloak, the dandelion has enjoyed allies since the 10th century. The juice of the plant's root is still used by herbalists to treat diabetes. It is also prescribed as a mild laxative and is considered one of the best herbs for building up the blood. And during WWII, dandelions were cultivated for the latex extracted from the roots. The latex was used to make rubber.

Dandelions as the incredible edible

On the dinner table side of the fence, dandelion greens are more nutritious than spinach. They are high in vitamins A and C, and contain impressive levels of iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. Looking at the list of minerals, it's understandable why gardeners everywhere take delight in killing two birds with one stone: compost dandelions to return valuable nutrients to the soil while accomplishing a guilt-free method of weed control. Dandelions are also one of the key ingredients in one of the Biodynamic preparations.

In case you just moved here from Mars, dandelions are a very hardy perennial. They survive for many years, developing thick crowns up to 6 to 10 inches across. The good news is that you can get rid of them without resorting to chemicals.

How to stop dandelions in their tracks

1) Mow, Mo' Often:
When dandelions are blooming, mow frequently to prevent the yellow blossoms from maturing into seeds.

how to kill dandelions

2) Root 'Em Out:
Dandelion plants can't be eliminated by yanking off the tops, but they are easily dug out by hand. A dandelion digger is a specialized tool that removes a wide variety of individual weeds and their roots, with little soil disturbance. The tool looks like a large screwdriver with the "business end" resembling a fish tale. It works by maneuvering it in the soil, parallel to the tap root. With a small pivot, it's easy to lift the entire plant, root and all (that's the theory at least), from its stronghold.

If you raise chickens, rabbits or other types of critters, dandelions are a favorite green. Remember, they're chock-a-block filled with nutrients, so they're a nutrional boost to their diet. And you can't beat the price.

dandelions facts

3) Poach Them:
As a low tech weed control, pour boiling water over dandelion plants. The neighbors might think you're crazy, but in 2 or 3 days the plants will look like a herd of elephants walked over them. Incidentally, this method is also effective against orange hawkweed. However, if you've got a large area, the best way to control them is to smother them. This is also known as sheet mulching.

weed control dandelion killer

3) Mulch Methods:
Since light increases germination and plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, smothering plants will eventually kill them. Make your own weed block by covering plants with cardboard or black plastic and weight it down. If you are concerned about the aesthetics of cardboard or plastic, you can spray paint it to match the surrounding area (ha ha) or cover it with grass clippings, compost or bark mulch for a nicer look.

vinegar weed killer recipe

4) Pickle Them:
A 5-percent concentration of vinegar, similar to that found in household vinegar, is an effective weed killer against annual and perennial weeds such as dandelions, foxtail, velvetleaf, smooth pigweed and thistle. It works in the garden or greenhouse.

When applied to the weed foliage, the acid in the vinegar acts as a contact herbicide that kills the plants but does not persist in the soil or cause water or other pollution. For older perennial weeds, you may need to apply vinegar more than once. Try heating the vinegar for added punch.

corn gluten

5) Apply Corn Gluten Meal
Here is the ultimate organic weed and feed. Developed by Iowa State University, corn gluten meal (CGM) is a yellow powder created as a by-product of milling corn, is primarily used in farm animal feeds and dog food. It is also used as a "pre-emergent" weed control for lawns. A pre-emergent, such as corn gluten meal, prevents roots from forming during seed germination. If a root can't grow, the seedling is unable to obtain water or nourishment from the soil. Thus, it will dry up and die.

To control dandelions, it is best applied to the lawn about 4 to 6 weeks before weeds germinate. If you missed the deadline, don't worry. Not all weeds sprout at the same time, so you may want to apply corn gluten meal a few times during the growing season. Best of all, the nitrogen in the meal will keep your lawn green and healthy. By the way, corn gluten meal is not the same cornmeal you make muffins with. Cornmeal for baking is made by grinding dried corn kernels.

Where can you buy the stuff? Go to your favorite garden center or nursery, or through the mail order supply company Gardens Alive! or call 513-354-1482 (near Cincinnati, Ohio). They pioneered the use of corn gluten with two products: Wow, which is pure corn gluten, and Wow Plus, which has added natural fertilizers.

organic lawn care dandelions

6) BBQ Them: Some consider it a last resort, but a weed burner torch is effective against dandelions and other perennial weeds.

7) Be Sickening Sweet: Mae West used to say, "Too much of a good thing is wonderful." In other words, improve your soil. Ann Lovejoy, author of "Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design School," told me how she got rid of horsetail by improving her soil with compost and mulch. Weeds, which often prefer poor, acidic soils don't like the good stuff. The same works for dandelions and other pesky weeds. Not only will they be less apt to take root in the first place, but when the soil is fluffy, they're easier to pull!

Thanks for visiting and please stop by again. I'll put the coffee on!

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