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Fall is the Time to Control (the not so dandy) Dandelions

The common Dandelion is a broadleaf perennial weed. It harbors a massive tap-root, up to ten inches long. This root anchors the plant deep into the earth, making it nearly impossible to remove entirely when pulling by hand. Any fraction of the taproot left in ground regenerates. We see Dandelions coming up in early spring and may think it’s the time to spray while the plant is in flower. WRONG. Spraying a Dandelion while actively growing does not offer much more than temporary relief and an unnecessary use of chemicals. The Dandelion, being an herbaceous perennial, dies back every winter. When going into dormancy, the dandelion directs all of its energy that was spent growing leaves and flowers, back down into its roots. This enables it to survive and come back aggressively next spring. With this being said, Dandelion control must be implemented at the right time -in the right way- to be effective. Here are several ways to control these common weeds:

How to Kill Dandelions:

  1. Pulling Them: Despite the difficulty just mentioned, it is an option:
    1. Water your lawn first (weeds are more easily extracted from wet soil)
    2. Use a spade (or something similar) to make an incision alongside of the tap root
    3. Wiggle tool to loosen taproot
    4. Use the ground as a fulcrum to pry up the weed.
    5. Tug the taproot using the leaves as a “handle”     
  2. Herbicides: Our recommendation.
    1. There are a wide variety of herbicides on the market- Selective and Non-selective
      1. Roundup (for example) is applied directly to the leaves of a plant and is non-selective. This will kill anything it comes into contact with, including your lawn.
      2. Weed-B-Gon is an example of a selective herbicide, and won’t harm your grass. This is a popular choice for killing dandelions in a lawn.        
      3. Vinegar is a non-selective and organic option- the acetic acid in vinegar gives it herbicidal potential. Culinary vinegar can be boiled down to increase strength before application.
    2. Early fall is the best time to kill dandelions with herbicides. In early fall, while their nutrients are transferred from the leaves down to the roots. This transfer continues until the first hard frost. This presents you with an opportunity to really knock them out. Herbicides applied during this time are absorbed by the leaves and passed on to the roots, following the same path down as the nutrients.
    3. For at least two or three days before applying herbicides, don't mow the lawn. The bigger the surface area of the dandelion leaves, the more effective your application can be. Likewise, following the application of herbicide, wait at least two or three days before mowing, to allow time for the herbicide to be transferred to the roots.              
  3. Prevention: Lawn health is the best method of weed control.
    1. Leave a layer of grass clippings in your lawn to help prevent the germination of weed seeds.
    2. Don’t mow to low: 2-3” will allow your lawn to protect the soil surface, blocking light from the weed seeds, which allows germination.

Do yourself a favor; be proactive and control Dandelions this fall! Avoid these ruthless weeds haunting your lawn this spring. You’ll be happy you did.  

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