Organic Dandelion Control

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picture of dandelion weed in the lawns

Dandelions, formally categorized as broadleaf perennial plants, often also get typed as a primary lawn weed.

Their natural history extends a bit beyond the modern lawn care conversation, and a quick read through the history describes a multi-use plant. Most notable might be the dandelion history as a natural diuretic, promoting water and salt extraction from the body. Often family pets can be spotted eating dandelion leaves, suggesting they are dealing with digestive problems.

The list of chemically based products aimed at removing all broadleaf weeds, including dandelions, from the lawn can be as long as a modern store shelf. This presentation focuses on some basic organic dandelion control tips.

Dandilion Removal Tips

Effectively removing dandelions from the lawn starts by understanding their growing cycle. Dandelion adaptability, along with their ability to sink a good set of roots into a variety of soil types, makes them one of the most common North American lawn plants. Dandelion taproots commonly grow between 6-18 deep. Failure to remove the entire root, results in plant regrowth later in the season or next season.

Organic removal options begin by either pulling or digging out the root. Smaller plants in loose, moist soil can be removed by grasping the plant on the part of the stem closest to the ground and lightly prying the roots from the soil. A simple garden trowel often suffices for any required digging around the plant to uncover the root system.

Healthy lawns, like healthy gardens, thrive on healthy soil. Soil management still represents the preferred, long term, organic dandelion management strategy. Most experts say that a 6.5 pH level is optimal for growing grass. Since 7.0 pH is the neutral reading, the 6.5 pH level means that grass likes a slightly acidic soil. Dandelions, on the other hand, optimally grow in a 7.5 soil pH level, or a slightly alkaline soil.

Applying a sulfur based product on the soil is the most common suggestion for lowering soil pH. A soil test provides information regarding exact levels of any organic soil amendments necessary for decreasing soil alkalinity.

Corn gluten meal, or mashed up and dried out corn, the most popular organic herbicide for long term dandelion management today works by spreading it over the soil to repress future seed germination.

Finally, dandelion seeds can take flight with the wind and travel across the street or between neighboring lawns. Any long term dandelion removal plan needs to take into account the local environment. Assuming a relatively weed free local environment, then a consistent mowing regime also helps with long term weed management. High density grass lawns, with three inch grass height deter weeds from taking root.

Dandelion Look Alikes

picture of a St. John's Wort flower

From time to time, other similar looking, yellow flower weeds might appear in the lawn. A long folklore history follows the plant called St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in the second picture.

The National Institute of Health downplays the plant’s medicinal value, noting that current research is ongoing and inconclusive.

The plant grows wild on roadsides and disturbed areas across the United States. The yellow flowers bloom throughout the summer.

In areas where the plant becomes invasive, beetles called Chrysolina quadrigemina have been used as an effective biological control agents.

picture of a yellow salsify flower

Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius) goes by many names, including Western goat’s beard, western salsify and yellow goat’s beard. Wherever it goes, it also goes by the name weed.

The multi-petal flowers easily identify it as a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae), and the long, thin, green sepals serve as a good field identification clue.

It grows to three feet in height, often in dry areas of higher elevations. Like other weedy Asteraceae, its long tap root makes it problematic in residential areas. Removing the flowering head prior to its going to seed like the dandelion, helps deter short term plant propagation.