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How to Kill Dandelions and Not Your Grass

May 1, 2013

Dandelions!  You dig them… they grow back.  You put down a crabgrass preventer earlier this spring, but you still got dandelions now. You try to dig them and they just pop up again.  You ask, “So… what’s the secret to killing dandelions and other weeds in my lawn without hurting my grass?

Dandelions and other weeds like thistles have long taproots that can go down a foot or more. If you try to dig them and don’t get all the root, it will simply send up a new weed to replace the one you thought you got rid of. So digging can be hit or miss.

Some folks think you need to put the weed & feed down before the weeds appear.  Not true.  Unlike the crabgrass preventer that goes down before you see the crabgrass, most weeds are perennials and can’t be prevented because they grow back from their root as well as from seed.  So for dandelions and many of the weeds in your lawn you kill them after you see them.  Here are your options.

For lawns with lots of dandelions and other weeds:  Spread Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed to a wet lawn. That’s because the weed control enters the dandelions through the leaves and is transported to all parts of the plant including the roots. Then within a few days, the dandelions will begin to curl up and wither. Gradually over a period of about 3 or 4 weeks, they’ll fade away, roots and all, so they can’t grow back.  If rain is expected within 24 hours, wait until another day. I find it best to apply early in the morning when the lawn is covered with dew.

For lawns with a few dandelions and other weeds:  If you only have a few weeds, you may not need the weed & feed on your entire lawn. You have two options to spot treat weeds with Ortho Weed-B-Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer  OR with Roundup For Lawns and then keep your grass healthy with a feeding of Scotts Turf Builder.  The Turf Builder Lawn Food is important as it helps your grass grow to fill in the spots where the dandelions once hung out.

Also keep this in mind: getting rid of the weeds is only half the battle. Your lawn will be a stronger competitor against new weeds if you feed your lawn regularly (about 4 times a year) and mow your grass a little bit taller.  Most lawns are healthier if the grass height is 2-1/2 to 3 inches tall after you mow.

If you have questions about the weeds in your lawn, you can call one of our lawn experts or email us. Just click here for our Help Center to see how.

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  1. Jack Calire permalink

    I am at “war” with my Dandelions!….after trying to weed them out (my wife has two cats, which she was concerned may be hurt by the chemicals), I decided to go with the Scotts #2 turf builder treatment. I want the maximum results; how long should I wait to cut the grass?

    • Hi Jack
      Once you have applied Turf Builder Weed & Feed (used to be called Plus 2) to moist foliage, wait at least 24 hours to go onto the lawn. You can water, mow or anything else after 24 hours. When I have used this product, I kept our cats inside while I was spreading and then attempted to keep them off the lawn for 24 hours while the particles were being absorbed by the weed leaves. After 24 hours I watered the lawn good and let them go onto the lawn when it had dried. You can mow anytime then. You might also consider an application next fall as that is a great time to kill the young dandelions that germinate during summer from the seeds that blow around this time of year.

  2. Jason B permalink

    Since I’m a newbie to lawn care and the fact that I want to take care of it myself, I’m having a hard time learning exactly what and when to feed. I see so many things, suggestions and products. I just used the turf builder 2 with weed control about 3.5 weeks ago, but I’m still seeing weeds around the lawn. The next feed (the Scott’s app recommends) is May 25th and I’m not sure if I should go ahead and run turf builder 2 again or the recommendation of green max lawn fertilizer or doing another round or turf builder now and the regular schedule on the 25th. I wish there was a university section of Scott’s to help. I want the best lawn around but I just need to make sure I do it right.

    • Hi Jason B
      You should have seen your lawn start to improve and at least some of your weeds start to die since you made your last application. I suggest you spray any stray weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer. The Turf Builder Plus 2 works on a large number of weeds, however the Ortho spray controls some additional ones that can be tough to control. You would then feed your lawn with Scotts GreenMAX about 6 weeks after your last feeding (about 2 to 3 weeks from now).

  3. Rex permalink

    I applied Weed and Feed (Plus 2/Halt) early 1st week in April. I live in Fairburn, GA 30213. My lawn is in bad shape in terms of less bermuda/dead bermuda. I’m starting to see the bermuda is coming alive and spreading. Can i apply another Weed and Feed (Plus 2/Halt) since its been 4/5 since i did the first application? I have not seed my lawn since i bought the house in 2011 and i know i need more grass for some dead areas and bald area. Can you recommend what i need to use on my bermuda?

    • Hi Rex
      Not sure which of our two different products you applied: Turf Builder Weed & Feed (for dandelions and other weeds) and/or Halts (crabgrass Preventer). Both of these products have a waiting period before you can seed. The Weed & Feed is one month, the Halts is four months. If you still have the bag, check to see how long you need to wait before seeding Bermuda. Even if your lawn is thin, the Bermuda that you have will spread when you feed it. I would feed it with either Turf Builder or GreenMAX in the next couple of weeks OR, if you can seed (based on what you read on the label of the product you applied) use Starter Lawn Food instead to feed your lawn and help get the new grass seed established.

      • Rex permalink

        Thanks for your respond. I actually used turf builder plus2 weed control. I still have two bags left (kills dandelions). I have not seed the lawn. I did feed the backyard yesterday with Scott MaxGreen. I did not feed the frontyard Should I feed the frontyard with the weed and feed (2 bags left) or should I use the Scott souhthern lawn MaxGreen fertilizer on the front as I did on the backyard?

      • Hi Rex If you are not planning to seed, you can use the bags you have (weed and feed) on the front. You will get the best weed control when you apply to moist foliage first thing in the morning when there is dew on the grass and no rain is expected for 24 hours.

  4. Joe F permalink

    Used the Scott’s halt in mid march. Live on Long Island and now some weeds are coming up not much but it seems poa annua is taking over some parts of the lawn. I am going to put down the weed in feed soon but I don’t think this will kill the poa annua. What do you recommend? Weed and feed then wait and use the ortho b gone plus crabgrass? Also will I be able to seed the spots where the poa annua was?

    • Hi Joe F The Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) you are seeing germinated last fall and will continue to live during cool weather. Most of the time this grass will die out during summer. If you want to prevent in the future, you can put down Halts around Sept 1. Your spring application of Halts would not have stopped it from growing as it had already germinated. The problem with putting down preemergent again in fall is you get locked out of putting down grass seed. You are right the Ortho Weed B Gon will not kill Poa Annua and you can not seed those spots now because of the preemergent you put down this spring. Here is a link to one of my earlier blog postings that gives some advice on how to seed after putting down a spring crabgrass preventer:

      • Joe F permalink

        Thanks! So in the fall can I seed in September then wait a few weeks and put down the Scott’s halts to ensure the poa seeds do not germinate?

      • Hi Joe F Unfortunately the timing would not work out. If you have small patches of Poa Annua rather than all through your lawn, you could spray them with Roundup now and go through the steps I described for folks who would like to seed in an area where they put down a crabgrass preventer. You would then have grass growing in those areas and you could put Halts down Sept 1 to prevent new Poa Annua from growing. Another option is to put sod in those spots after you kill the Poa Annua. A third option if you have lots of Poa Annua is to live with it now, put down Halts in Sept, then seed next spring using the special weed preventer that we have to prevent crabgrass when you are seeding. Here is a link to this product info: Sorry for all the info, I wish you had an easier problem to tackle.

  5. Joe F permalink

    Last option is the best option. Thank you,

    • Hi Joe F Good luck. There are some folks in the more northern climates who accept the fact that they will always have some Poa Annua in their lawn so they decide to nurse it along in the summer with lots of water and then seed better grass seed blends into their lawn to upgrade it.

  6. Clay M permalink

    I applied Scott’s Turf Builder Weed & Feed to a dewey lawn on Mon. 4/22, around 6:00 AM. Rains followed on Tues. 4/23, mid-morning. So, the product was on my lawn for a little more than 24 hours before the rains came.

    The “Feed” portion of the product seems to have worked fine, and I’m seeing improvement in the grass.

    However, the “Weed” portion has not worked at all. I have a lot of dandelions in my yard and they all appear completely unfazed … no noticeable curling or withering, they actually seem to be thriving!

    Based on what I’ve read in this post, it sounds like the Ortho Weed-B-Gone Max should be used for spot treatment of remaining weeds. What I think I need is something I can either spray or spread across the entire yard again.

    What course of action or product do you recommend for my situation?

    I should note that I’m not a huge “yard guy”, having a perfect lawn isn’t important to me. However, even I’m embarrassed by its current state.

    • Hi Clay M
      Sounds like the product was on the foliage long enough. It can take a couple of weeks for the weeds to die. If you have concerns over how the product worked, give our Help Center folks a call: 800-543 TURF. Ortho Weed B Gon MAX comes in a spot spray as well as a sprayer that you can put on the end of your hose and a concentrate that can be used with the Ortho Dial N Spray Sprayer.

  7. ronald fort permalink

    last summer was very dry and I lost a lot of grass . It was all replaced by dandelions. I keep aproximate;y ten acres how can i reasonably treat this

    • Hi Ronald
      One alternative for a lawn area that big is to pick a small manageable area to feed and care for in a way to make the grass thick and nice. This area would get regular feeding and care. The balance of the lawn that is not as important could get basic care of one feeding a year (probably in fall). The dandelions could be killed with Turf Builder Weed & Feed. The largest size bag (15,000 sq. ft.) covers about a 1/3 of an acre. Ortho Weed B Gon comes in a concentrate that can be purchased in three sizes. The gallon will treat 32,000 sq. ft. of lawn which is about 3/4 of an acre. You could use either of these products to kill dandelions and other weeds in spring or in fall. Good Luck!

  8. Rick permalink

    Hey, I used Ortho Nutsedge killer to kill the nut grass in my lawn. It worked!! But what do i do now? I have lawn full of dying yellow nut grass.

    • Hi Rick
      Feed your lawn now if you have not fed in the last 4 to 6 weeks. This will help your good grass fill in where your weeds thrived. Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts GreenMAX are good Lawn Food choices for this time of year.

  9. Rick permalink

    I used the Ortho Nutsedge killer about two weeks ago. Should i apply another treatment to stamp it out, because some nutgrass is not as yellow as the others? Im in Alabama btw

    • Hi Rick It can take about 2 to 3 weeks for weeds to die. You can spray again if needed 3 to 4 weeks after your first spray.

  10. Shaun permalink

    Hi Ashton…we live in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada….we have a ban on dandelion killers here…do you know if these products are available in Canada?

  11. Ice permalink

    I live in Chicago, IL. I have a few dandelion and creeping carlie clover in some parts of lawn. I always feed early spring, late spring, early fall and late fall (winterguard plus 2). Can I apply weed b gon weed killer for lawn hose end spray on lawn for these weeds now and tb winterguard plus 2 as last feeding in November? I did apply plus 2 in spring. NO idea why I have some weeds now.

    • Hi Ice
      Yes, you can spray your weeds now with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX now. You could use WinterGuard Weed & Feed as your last feeding in Early Nov, however you may find your weed problem has been cleared up and WinterGuard Lawn Food is all you will need. This has been a big weed year in areas that received high rainfall during spring and summer.

      • iceman permalink

        Thanks Ashton.if I do apply the winterguard plus 2, temperatures in November here in Chicago are usually in the 50’s, but the last two years have been in the 60’s. Is the Weed control effective?

      • Hi iceman
        You want your mid day temps to at least hit 50 degrees the day you apply. So, apply to a dew covered lawn on a day with a temp forecast of 50 degrees or above with no rain expected.

  12. Joe K permalink

    Argh! Dandelions! I live in the Lehigh Valley, 60 miles north of Philly. Two weeks ago I cut the grass for the 1st time this year. Waited a couple days and then sprayed Weed B Gone. It looked like the dandelions were wilting & dying; but they only stumbled. Now they’re coming back with a vengeance & going to seed. I ‘d like a solid plan to annihilate them in 3-4 weeks, because then I’ll have a dog here for the summer.

    • Hi Joe K
      It takes up to 4 weeks for the weeds to die after spraying. You see the twist/curl within a day or two, then they continue to grow while they slowly die. It is not uncommon to see seed heads being formed as a last gasp. You may need to retreat some of them about 2 to 3 weeks after your first treatment if they do not look like they are going out. This will be plenty of time before your dog arrives. You may want to feed this area some Turf Builder to help the existing grass thicken up and become stronger before your dog joins the family.

      • Joe K permalink

        Thanks Ashton. Appreciate the feedback. My actions were more dramatic; I bought a Benz-0-Matic Lawn & Garden Torch. I conducted my own little Guadalcanal operation & burned them out. I’ll put down some weed & feed tomorrow morning encouraging the lawn to back fill my pock marks.

      • Hi Joe K
        Weeds don’t stand a chance in your lawn! The kinds of grasses in your area should fill in small areas with regular feeding.

  13. Mike permalink

    Hello I have a question… Should I bag the dandelions or just cut them and leave them on the lawn? I am trying to get rid of them but they have been very difficult… I just put Scott’s Weed and Feed down a week ago.

    • Hi Mike
      You do not need to bag them. Suggest you mark your calendar for this fall to put down Turf Builder WinterGuard Weed & Feed as that is a great time of year to kill lots of kinds of lawn weeds including any baby dandelions that germinate from the seeds that blow around in spring.

  14. richard litvack permalink

    I did the weed and feed and although all the dandelions did wither and die, like 1-2 weeks later they all formed the puff ball. is that normal? how do I prevent that because those spread and will form 50 new dandelions. thanks

    • Hi Richard litvack
      It is normal to see dandelion puffballs form as the weeds are dying. The dying process takes about 3 to 4 weeks. Some of these seeds will not be viable, so not to worry. Some will germinate however. Suggest you mark your calendar for a fall applied weed and feed such as Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard Weed & Feed as this will kill any young dandelions that germinate this summer along with other weeds so you will not have a problem next spring. This fall feeding is especially helpful in creating grass root growth.

      • richard litvack permalink

        So when the dandelions are withering and dying from the weed and feed is that also killing the root? Is it safe to assume they won’t grow back later in the season?

  15. Hi Richard litvack
    If the dandelions got an adequate dose of weed control, they will be dead root and all. What I have typically seen is a 90% plus kill after an application of a good weed & feed (like Turf Builder Weed & Feed) that went down at the correct rate. If the lawn is loaded with lots of mature dandelions, sometimes it takes the second application in fall to do a complete kill plus kill baby dandelions that grow from seed in the soil during late summer. Keeping your lawn thick with regular feeding and a mowing height that is 2-1/2 to 3 inches after the cut goes a long way to keep dandelions from returning.

  16. Yoco permalink

    Why contaminate & destroy your soil with chemicals when you can cultivate dandelions or lions tooth (as they are also known) for their leaves for your salads. They are a superfood! All parts of the plant are edible & useful! Ensure they are not hawksbeard which is a very similar plant. But if it is indeed dandelion u are trying y o rid yourself of, you are almost committing a sin.

    • Hi Yoco
      As a dandelion lover you may like my recent posting giving reasons to love dandelions for the same reasons you cite in your comments:
      As you point out, if you are cultivating dandelions for their beneficial characteristics it is no longer a weed. The definition of a weed is a plant that is growing where you do not want it. You are right about Hawkweed. The flower and puffball looks so similar that folks sometimes confuse it with dandelion.

  17. ike permalink

    Dandelions grow in compacted, nitrogen poor soil where most of the nutrients are deep. Grass grows in loose nitrogen rich soil with most of the nutrients are no more than 4 inches from the surface. If you have to do more than mow occasionally to get a bright green lawn, the problem is the soil.

    The great news is that dandelions loosen the soil, and when they die back in winter or get cut by a bagless mower the nutrients they extracted from deep gets deposited on the surface. They don’t do much to fix nitrogen poor soil, but for that their is always clover.

  18. chase permalink

    i used Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food on April 20th. Unfortunately I didn’t use weed and feed and now I’m under attack by Dandelions. Do I have to wait the 30 days until I use a weed killer for my yard? I live in Ohio.
    Thanks for the help

    • Hi chase
      It is best to allow 6 to 8 weeks between Turf Builder feedings as the nutrients are timed to release over that timeframe. You could squeeze this down to a month, especially if your grass was not fed much in the past. You could spray your dandelions and other weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer if you want to get an earlier jump on your dandelions, as this spray is designed to kill them without harming your good grass.

  19. permalink

    I have put up a feverish battle with a lawn full of broad leaf weeds that were allowed to grow for 5 years. The best active ingredient to use is 4-D selective herbicide. the stuff you buy at the home owner stores only has 8% to 10 % active ingredient 4-D. I went to farm supply web sites and found a product that is 68% active ingredient 4-D with a surfactant mixed in with the product. I had to buy two and half gallons of concentrate. Two tablespoons to a gallon of water stir to mix, let sit for 30 minutes. then spray directly on the broadleaf weeds. They wrinkle up and die in 5 to 7 days. I mean disappear. gone. dust.
    I am now having to seed the bare areas where the weed patches use to be.
    I gave 16 oz to my parents. Their weeds are gone. dust. disappear. go to farm supply web sites and get a 4-d active ingredient at over 50% concentrate with surfactant. Done. battle with weeds is over forever.

    • Hi harrye.bauer
      Glad you have been successful with your weeds. The more concentrated products like you describe require less material to be mixed with water than the less concentrated materials. Typically these kind of weed controls require 2 to 4 weeks to kill, so if you are getting kill within 5 to 7 days the dose is likely on the high side. Sometimes when this happens the weed tops are “killed off” however the roots are still there because they did not take in the weed control before the foliage was gone. I have seen regrowth in this case. This is a case where slower is better because you see a more complete kill of top growth and root growth. The opposite happens when the dose is not strong enough: you get some regrowth when the roots did not completely get killed. Good luck with your lawn and thanks for sharing your experience.

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