Dandelions are pretty to look at… when they’re not on your lawn.
As spring rolls around, the first things to pop up in your garden are often dandelions, and whilst you may only have a few, they’re still super annoying when you’re trying to maintain that perfect golf course-style lawn.
If you hate these pesky little weeds ruining the aesthetic you’re aiming for, then read on to find out the best tips and tricks for ridding your lawn of dandelions naturally.
- Why is it Important to Remove the Dandelions From Your Lawn?
- What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Dandelions?
- An Alternative Approach
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Why is it Important to Remove the Dandelions From Your Lawn?
Firstly, let’s just clarify that aside from noxious weeds, many weeds are actually just opportunistic herbs that are so good at growing in your garden that they start to take over.
Dandelions are a great example of this.
They don’t cause any harm per se, and are actually a valuable part of the ecosystem, providing food for pollinators. But, they are very good at setting up shop and not leaving. So, it’s understandable that if golf course-style grass is what you’re after, dandelions are not welcome.
The issue with dandelions is that they have a really long, sturdy root. These roots are known as ‘taproots’ and are usually around 6-8” deep in established plants. Whilst you may be able to pull out the dandelion from the surface, if any of this root remains it can easily sprout a new plant.
In addition to this, you have the seeds.
Ah the good ol’ fluffy dandelion seeds that as kids we all used to naively blow… What we didn’t realize then, was that these seeds can travel long distances.
All of this considered, I think it’s safe to say that these bad boys are hard to stop!
Once you notice that you have dandelions popping up in your lawn, it is best to remove them as soon as possible. It is much easier to do this while they are in small quantities than when they’re all over your lawn.
What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Dandelions?
There are many ways to get rid of dandelions, ranging from natural methods to chemical methods, though the latter are best avoided.
But what is the BEST way to get rid of dandelions for good?
Read on to discover the top natural methods that you can use to protect your lawn from dandelions.
As mentioned above, hand pulling may only serve as a temporary fix if you don’t succeed in removing the whole tap root.
But if you do it right, manual removal is the best way to remove dandelions for good, with no negative consequences for the surrounding soil or lawn.
It all comes down to technique and time of year. Dandelions are perennials that go dormant in winter and then return voraciously in spring.
Pulling up dandelions in spring guarantees the highest chance of success.
The reason for this, is that new seedlings that are sprouting won’t have had a chance to grow really deep tap roots, so they’ll be easier to remove in their entirety.
Plants growing from existing tap roots will be a little harder, but digging them up in the spring before they have spread their seeds is still the best course of action.
Make sure that the soil is damp before you start digging, as this will loosen the soil around the roots, making it easier for you to pull them out.
You can also purchase weed grubbers specifically designed to make removing the whole tap root easier. Alternatively, a garden fork is also an effective option.
The aim is to use the tool to loosen the soil from around the tap root so that it is easy to remove the whole thing in one go. If you notice that the bottom of the tap root appears to have snapped off, you have the option of waiting for the plant to regrow and trying the hand pulling method again, or digging a small hole in the ground to remove the missing piece.
One of the best ways to manage weeds in your lawn is actually to support healthy grass growth and leave no room for weeds to appear. But reducing the seed load, or weed bank, of your property goes hand in hand with this.
One of the best ways of doing this is to prevent weeds from reaching their flowering stage, and the easiest way of doing this is mowing with the catcher on.
If you mow your lawn before the dandelions have had a chance to flower, and mow often enough that none of them gets a chance to spread their seeds, the number of dandelions on your lawn will reduce over time.
In early spring, while new dandelion seedlings are popping up, leaving your grass a little longer will shade out the seedlings, starving them of light and nutrients. You can (and should) still mow your lawn, just leave the mower on its highest setting.
Come late spring, when dandelions are flowering, lower your mowing height and mow frequently. Dandelions do not cope with being mowed over repeatedly and will die. (Who knew managing dandelions could be so simple?!)
Mowing short and often through the warm months is not strictly speaking best practice for grass health, as grass benefits from being a little longer when water is sparse. But mowing regularly is one of the best natural ways of getting rid of dandelions from your lawn.
You can learn more about mowing for weed control here.
If you don’t already have a thick, lush lawn, and you have some bare patches or weeds appearing, fixing this is one of the best ways of managing dandelions.
Overseeding a weedy or patchy lawn is surprisingly effective at reducing the number of weeds present.
This article explains how to do it in more detail. But, in a nutshell, you’re spreading a thin layer of topsoil and compost mixed with lawn seed, over your lawn and waiting for the magic to happen.
Check Your Soil pH
If you’ve been doing everything right to maintain a healthy lawn but dandelions are still happily making themselves at home, check the pH of your soil.
Dandelions like a pH around 7, but most grasses prefer a slightly more acidic environment.
Adding some soil amendments to increase the acidity of your soil might be all that is needed.
Applying boiling water to dandelions is an option if you have a few to get rid of and prefer not to try and dig them up.
Boiling water will kill the vegetation that is above the ground, though you will need to repeat the process a few times before the tap root succumbs. If you repeatedly kill any vegetation that is above ground, the tap root will eventually run out of energy, as the plant won’t have been able to photosynthesize.
Just be careful though, as this will also kill surrounding plants and grass so be sure to aim for the dandelion only!
Using salt as a weed killer is a little controversial. There are some who are concerned about its effect on soil health and don’t recommend its use.
This is a fair point. However, if the alternative is a chemical herbicide which is most definitely toxic, I’d be reaching for the salt first.
Salt, when used in small quantities and carefully applied, can be an excellent dandelion killer. The main thing to be aware of is that it will take time for grass to grow back in the same spot.
You can help things along by dousing the area with more water after the dandelion has died, and then re-seeding the patch with some fresh topsoil and grass seed.
Vinegar is another natural option that gets mixed reviews for the same reason as salt.
Using household vinegar likely wouldn’t be strong enough to kill a dandelion’s taproot. We’re talking 20% acid here, which would most definitely kill any surrounding grass as well.
But, again, if the alternative is a herbicide like Roundup, with numerous known and unknown consequences for human, animal and environmental health, I’d be reaching for the vinegar first.
Worst case scenario you end up with a dead patch of grass that needs a re-seeding with some fresh topsoil. But that would happen with Roundup anyway.
Use a Weed Burner or a Torch
Weed burners and torches are a popular method for ridding your garden of weeds. They also have the advantage of not harming the soil in any way.
However, like the boiling water method, you need to be careful to avoid surrounding vegetation. This is fiddly with small plants like dandelions, but easier if you’re targeting dandelions that are growing in places like your driveway or garden path.
Shop-Bought Organic Weed Killers
Lastly, there are also some great organic weed killers on the market that are safe and effective. Some use essential oils, some fatty acids.
There is a range to choose from, and the range is getting bigger as more people become aware of the harmful side effects of synthetic chemical formulations.
There are a few other ways to kill weeds naturally that could be worth checking out too.
If you’re concerned about your pets, all of the methods listed above are perfectly safe. I also have an article on pet-safe weed killers that is worth a read if you have furry friends at home.
Other than your garden, dandelions can pop up on your driveway and between the cracks of paths. The boiling water and salt method is the easiest and safest method as you don’t have to worry about killing surrounding plants. But I also have an article on the best weed killers for driveways as a last resort.
An Alternative Approach
Last but not least, if getting rid of dandelions is too hard, you could always embrace them!
For centuries, dandelions have been used in herbal medicines and tasty infusions. Today, they are sold as an expensive addition to salads as the whole plant is edible!
Roasted dandelion root makes for a delicious coffee-like drink, similar to the chicory coffee alternatives you may have seen in the shops (but with abundant health benefits – dandelion greens are known for their liver and kidney cleansing properties).
Other than this, their flowers are great for bees!
Dandelions are some of the earliest spring flowers to bloom and provide bees and other pollinating insects with food.
While your lawn wouldn’t be rocking the pristine golf-course look, you could be happy in the knowledge that you are supporting the local ecosystem and saving yourself a ton of work (and money).
To wrap it up, dandelions can be a pain and we dread the season that they sprout in as it usually means more yard work!
There are so many ways in which you can get rid of them for good so just pick your choice! Herbicides are definitely easier, and some can be more effective than natural methods, however, some may choose to avoid the chemicals and try the holistic way – both are a great option!
If you know any other ways to kill dandelions or even weeds in general, share them below I would love to hear your experiences and how you combat the weed issue!