Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a curious plant in that humans have deliberately spread its cultivation around the world.
You see, this plant has been historically considered one of the most edible of plants in the vegetable gardens. The Celts ate it and introduced it to the Roman legions when Caesar invaded the north. AngloSaxons and the Normans used it as a preventative for scurvy. It was a staple food and medicine (diuretic) in the monastery gardens of the middle ages. Puritan settlers brought seeds to North America as a common garden vegetable.
Edible leaves and oh so yellow flowers
Treat the young leaves of dandelions as you would spinach. It can be used fresh or stir-fried and I’m told that they taste best when grown in the shade and are blanched. Slice the roots and peel them; they can be eaten raw in salads or roasted/fried as part of a vegetable dish.
The yellow blossoms can be eaten fresh, fried, mixed into breads or made into wine.
When we were kids we discovered that eating the blossoms made our spit turn a fascinating yellow (the flowers are slightly bitter).
Dandelion leaves can be made into a health tea and the roots dried and ground up for coffee (like chicory).
This plant is a fine source of iron, copper, potassium and half as much phosphorus as spinach and twice that of cabbages. It has the same calcium content as spinach and is an excellent source for Vitamin A and C. The roots are said to be a digestive stimulant.
And its name apparently is a corruption of the French “dent-de-lion” (lion’s tooth). Depending on which botanist you consult, you’ll find there’s 50 to 60 species and in almost every country of the world, it is considered a weed.
They produce new plants by either seed (those fluffy seedheads) or by vegetative means (if the roots are broken, each bit will produce a new plant).
How to get rid of them from your lawn
OK. We’re talking environmentally sound systems here. I’m not interested in polluting my yard (where kids and pets play) with chemicals.
You need an organic lawn care system to build up a thick turf.
Without that, you’re just wasting your time because the seed will continually blow in.
A thick turf is your first line of defence and the trick to that is to apply 2 pounds of grass seed per 1000 square feet of lawn to your turf every fall. If the lawn is in poor condition, start with a higher amount but always do the 2 pounds to keep it thick.
You can use corn gluten in the spring
Corn gluten not only stops weed seeds from germinating, it feeds your lawn at the same time. Instructions for use are going to be on every package but it’s generally 20 pounds of corn gluten per 000 square feet of lawn – applied just when the forsythia start to bloom.
Use an agricultural vinegar to “burn” the leaves.
Burning the leaves means you get a leaf kill but the plant will have enough energy in its roots to produce a new set of leaves. As soon as they unfold, you burn those before they have a chance to replenish the energy it took to make them. The plant will grow a new set…..
How many times it regrows depends on how big the root is. Your job is to spray every time it unfolds and sooner or later, the roots will expend all their energy and the plant will die. It’s not easy I note but it’s doable.
And with agricultural vinegar, you’ll burn whatever you hit. So, if you hit the grass next to the dandelion, you’ll burn it off as well.
Doug’s book on lawn care is here – it has all the information you need in one handy spot.
Your second best defence is a little bit of relaxation.
A small yellow flower isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your life – it’s a first world problem – (if it is we should talk) and isn’t worth getting bent out of shape over. It is not worth polluting your world to eliminate these small yellow flowers.
You can use a lawn spud
This tool is a long handle with a flat section of steel with a small v-shape at the working end. You put the v-shape against the dandelion root and lean on the handle. It slices through the root cleanly and evenly.
This kills off the top (similar to burning with vinegar) but leaves the bottom to regrow.
Generally you’ll have to do this twice to a dandelion root to kill it but the really big ones can take three goes.Those are the easiest and most environmentally sound ways to eliminate dandelions from your lawn. A healthy lawn, one with thick turf, is your best defence against this weed.
My old lawn spud