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Dandelions: Hate Them OR Love Them

April 22, 2016

If you hate dandelions here are tips to get rid of them.  If you love dandelions here are reasons to maybe love them a little bit more.

Why get rid of dandelions in the lawn?

Yellow dandelion blooms in spring are pretty.  If it stopped there we would love them in our lawns.  The trouble begins when their puffballs start blowing seeds into areas that we do not want them growing like in our landscape.  But here is the real reason to put these lawn wreckers on your hit list:  A foot-long taproot that steals water from your good grass all summer long and plants that thrive flat on the ground under your mower blade to restrict grass growth.

Dandelions spread into ground cover beds via seeds from puffballs.

Dandelions spread into ground cover beds via seeds from puffballs.

How do you kill dandelions without hurting your good grass?

If you have lots of them, put down Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed.  The unique, small particles in this lawn food stick like glue to your dandelions.  This is absolutely crucial for penetrating and killing them root and all.  Plus your lawn gets a deep Turf Builder feeding to help it fill in where the dandelions once grew.  For best results apply to a moist lawn when rain or watering is not expected for 24 hours.  Do not use on St. Augustinegrass, Floratam, Dichondra, Lippia, carpetgrass or bentgrass.

Dandelions are pretty when they bloom, however they soon spread seeds by puffballs to take over your landscape and vegetable garden.

Dandelions are pretty when they bloom, however they soon spread seeds by puffballs to take over your landscape and vegetable garden.

If you have only a few dandelions and other weeds, you can spot spray them with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer OR Roundup For Lawns.  (Be sure to check the label for any weed control to make sure your grass type is listed.)

If you planted new grass seed this spring, hold off treating those areas until your new grass has been mowed 4 times.  And one more thing:  Do not attempt to kill your dandelions with Roundup as you will likely kill some of your good grass by accident.

Why do I have dandelions even though I put down a weed & feed?

Some folks put the weed & feed down too early before the dandelions appear.  Unlike the crabgrass preventer that goes down before you see the crabgrass, dandelions 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.

The dandelions looked like they were starting to die after I treated them, but why did they grow back?

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.

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.

Why is it hard to get rid of dandelions by digging them?

It’s tempting to pull the top off of dandelion weeds that pop up in your yard.  If you miss getting the whole root it will easily come back. Dandelions grow like carrots and produce what is called a tap-root. If you plan on pulling weeds then try using a slim trowel or dandelion puller to get the whole root.

This is the top of a dandelion root with a young dandelion beginning to grow.  Notice that dandelion tops have been pulled off about 4 times leaving scars where it has grown back each time

This is the top of a dandelion root with a young dandelion beginning to grow. Notice that dandelion tops have been pulled off about 4 times leaving scars where it has grown back each time

Why not learn to love dandelions?

I think it is OK to love dandelions.  We all have fond memories of blowing dandelion puffballs in spring and have enjoyed watching our kids enjoy this too.  Some folks look forward to making dandelion wine from the flowers (click here for several recipes).  Other folks grow dandelion greens in their vegetable garden because they are good for you (click here to learn the health benefits and to get a few recipes).   A dandelion is not a weed in these cases because folks want it to thrive.  (One note, dandelion greens from your vegetable garden are better than ones growing in your lawn because they have the room to reach maximum leaf growth since there is no mowing and no competition from the grass.  This is the same reason you would not want to grow your spinach or lettuce in your lawn.  You also would not allow the dandelions in your vegetable garden to create puffballs unless you wanted nothing but dandelions in your garden.  You also would not harvest dandelion flowers from an area where weed controls were used.)

 

 

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14 Comments
  1. Mark Selbert permalink

    I have a row of pine trees in the back of my yard left side. The ground where I can grow grass near these pine trees is not that good. The ground is hard and the grass is thin. I heard a product called gypsim is a good product to breakup hard packed soil which I have near these pine trees? Please advise on this product or any other product you recommend to help break up this hard pan area. I have used pelletised lime about 3 to 4 weeks ago. THX

  2. Hi Mark Selbert
    Gypsum can help compacted clay soils that have a certain chemistry. Most of these clay soil types are west of the Mississippi. Gypsum works best when tilled into these particular soils as a surface application does not help much. The better long term answer to improve poor soils that compact easily is to till a couple of inches of organic matter into the soil. This may not be possible in your situation. The next best thing is to encourage the grass you have to grow more roots into the hard soil to help break it up. You do this by feeding your grass 4 or so times a year. Over time the composition of the soil will shift as more grass roots grow… decompose… grow again…. etc. turning into needed organic matter along the way.

    • Mark Selbert permalink

      When you say feeding your grass/lawn. You mean use Turf Builder or Green Max? Does pellitized lime help that area? As I said before I do air rate and dethatch every year and I do have sprinkler system so watering is not an issue. As you said I will have to get like 3 or 4 cubic yards of loam and top dress and over seed that area right? THX

  3. Hi Mark Selbert
    You can feed with either Turf Builder or GreenMAX. GreenMAX supplies extra Iron so you can give it a try. Lime can help raise the soil pH if it is acid (a soil test can help you decide if your lawn needs lime. Many of the lawns in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are acid, so lime can be beneficial. Many of the lawns in the Midwest are not acid After you aerate in fall, topdressing will help get organic matter down into the core holes. Lots of times in a grass area next to a tree line the tree roots are giving extra competition to the grass so you may find that extra watering in that area will help.

    • Mark Selbert permalink

      HI- Now with fall coming soon-do you recommend I assume it cannot hurt-putting down loam over an established lawn- maybe one inch thick spread out-then I would air rate lawn and after that I would over seed and then put down Turf Builder. Then in first week of November put down Winter Guard product. Let me know if that is a good plan or not. THX

      • Hi Mark Selbert
        Suggest you core aerate first, then spread about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost. (The compost is not totally necessary, however your lawn will benefit especially if you have some uneven areas and you have more than a half inch of thatch. Make sure the compost/soil does not contain weed seeds… some topsoil can contain the kinds of weed seeds that were growing in the area where it was scraped off prior to being sold.) Use a leaf rake upside down to help get the compost/soil down into the turf. Then you are ready to seed and I suggest Scotts Starter Lawn Food rather than Turf Builder to go down with the seed. You will be ready for WinterGuard abut 6 weeks after seeding.

      • Mark Selbert permalink

        Interesting. So even with an established lawn- when over seeding the lawn in the fall use Starter fertilizer VS Turf Builder? Exactly why? Thanks !! Mark

      • Hi Mark Selbert
        The extra phosphorus in Starter Lawn Food is important for grass seed germination and survival after it germinates. The nitrogen and potassium levels in Starter are very close to the levels in Turf Builder when you consider the bag weight (nitrogen slightly lower, potassium slightly higher).

      • Mark Selbert permalink

        OK Thank You. Doing the core aerate first then putting down the loam. Is that good to fill the holes with the loam VS having the loam first then aerate then seed so the seeds can get into where aerating was done? Plus those little pieces of dirt will be all over the lawn and to then put loam down when those little pieces will be in the way?? THX again for your help. Much appreciated.

      • Hi Mark Selbert
        Yes, that is the recommended order: core aeration first, top dress second, then seed. The top dress works its way down into the core holes and this helps to keep you from burying the seed too deep. After you seed and prior to putting down the Starter Lawn Food, pass over the area one time with an upside down leaf rake so the seed makes good contact with the soil. It is ok to see some seed on the soil surface.

      • Mark Selbert permalink

        Great. Thank You !!

      • Mark Selbert permalink

        What is Gypsum ? A product you can use on your lawn VS Turf Builder or add it along with Turf Builder? Please advise. THX

      • Hi Mark Selbert
        Gypsum is not a lawn food like Turf Builder. Gypsum can improve clay soils that have a high sodium content and generally have a higher pH (not acidic). These type of soils are sometimes found west of the Mississippi River and not so much in other areas. It would be best to mix Gypsum into these type soils at the time of planting when rototilling can mix it into the top 6 inches.

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