Are dandelions becoming a big problem in your yard? If so, you are probably eager to find out how you should deal with this unsightly issue. After all, this weed is never something that you should leave in place. It can be detrimental to your lawn and will detract from the beauty of your property. Today I’ll tell you how to get rid of dandelions in your lawn and share some tips for how you can keep this pesky weed from coming back.
What is a Dandelion?
The dandelion is a type of broadleaf perennial weed. This type of weed is quite difficult to get rid of permanently, so you must be diligent. One dandelion plant can grow a taproot that is 10 inches long! Once this happens, the weeds are sure to come back every year.
How Dandelions Grow
One reason why dandelions are so pervasive is the fact that they’re able to grow in pretty much any kind of soil.
They thrive most strongly in full sunlight.
The taproot will create new sprouts in the early spring. The dandelion taproot is found as deep as two to three feet underground if left to grow undeterred. This allows dandelions to easily survive drought conditions that cause your grass to go dormant.
Once they are established they have an easy time staying strong, healthy, and creating seeds that spread easily across your lawn.
Flowers and Seeds
Dandelions develop cheery yellow flowers that kids love to pick and many homeowners hate to see in their lawn.
When these flowers mature, they become the white puffballs we’re all familiar with. These puffballs hold the seeds that will quickly disperse through the air.
One reason why the dandelion tends to proliferate so quickly is the extraordinarily large number of seeds it produces. Dandelions produce seeds even without cross-fertilization from different flowers.
The dandelion seed even has a structure that makes it act a bit like a parachute, meaning that it can travel quickly and over long distances.
It’s because the seeds are so lightweight that they’re able to spread so far on even a gentle breeze.
About the Dandelion Taproot
The dandelion taproot survives through the winter, even though the dandelion plants appear to disappear on the surface of your lawn in the fall.
In the spring, the growth cycle will begin again and dandelion plants will start popping up again, either from seed or re-growing where the taproot over-wintered.
When Dandelions Grow Best in Lawns
Dandelions mainly appear in the spring, but they show up in the fall as well.
Soil temperatures of around 77 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for the dandelion to germinate and grow.
These are extremely resilient plants that can stand up to most pests and diseases. They can even live through inadequate nutrition in the soil and conditions such as drought. Their long taproot stretches deep into the soil, enjoying moisture many plants can’t reach with their roots.
How to Get Rid of Dandelions in Your Lawn
In order to get rid of your dandelions so that they won’t automatically appear again the next year, you will have to remove or kill the entire taproot of each plant. You can kill your dandelions and the taproot by spraying with a broadleaf herbicide. This will destroy the entire plant.
Make sure that you are very precise in how you mix and spray the product. Any time you’re using herbicide products on your lawn, you should try to use a targeted approach so you don’t harm the “good” growth in your lawn.
I use an herbicide product from Southern Ag (Amazon link) that works very well as long as you follow the directions and mix it properly.
Remember to always wear some PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when spraying herbicides.
If you would rather not resort to using chemicals to remove dandelions, there are several steps you can take to eliminate dandelions from your lawn.
Pulling dandelions by hand can work, but you have to do it a certain way to get the entire taproot.
The first step is to apply some water to the soil around the dandelion, just to make it slightly damp. Give the moisture a few minutes to sink in.
After that, use a weeding knife or a weed puller (I use this Fiskar’s tool that I picked up on Amazon for under $10 and it’s perfect for Dandelions) to get down along the dandelion’s base in a few different places. Move the soil away from the dandelion by moving the weeding knife.
After that, grab onto the plant’s base and pull gently. If it doesn’t pull out easily, go back in with the weeding knife and move it around a bit more.
Next, pull out the dandelion with the whole taproot. Keep in mind that there is a strong chance there will still be some remnants of the taproot in the soil. If you leave these in the soil, the dandelions can come back next year.
In order to kill the remainder of the taproot, apply an herbicide. Be aware that the herbicide you buy will probably be non-selective. This means that if you accidentally get it on other plants, including grass, it could kill it.
Carefully place the herbicide in each hole from which you have pulled a dandelion.
This is an excellent way of targeting the dandelions and avoiding any burning of your lawn or killing any turf grass in the area. A few weeks after you complete this process, you should also apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the holes, to prevent new weeds from developing as your lawn fills that area with spreading rhizomes.
How a Healthy Lawn Keeps Dandelions at Bay
Did you know that keeping your lawn healthy will make it harder for weeds, such as dandelions, to take hold?
When grass is healthy and well-established, it creates a dense canopy. This will help to prevent dandelion seeds from reaching the soil. Those that do reach the soil won’t get the light needed to germinate and grow.
Maintaining a healthy lawn and applying a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn each spring is the best way to combat weeds, and it’s what I recommend to those who don’t already have a large weed problem.
Steps to Take This Year to Prevent Dandelions Next Year
Start taking better care of your lawn now to help ensure that weeds won’t appear again next year.
I have a lot of helpful information on this blog that you can use as a resource, but to be brief you can do this by following the guidelines below:
- Water appropriately and deeply. Do research on the type of grass you have and how much watering is needed. Appropriate watering is essential for your grass to become established as it should, putting it in the position to help crowd out weeds before they take hold. Watering too frequently and not deeply enough can actually weaken your lawn, so read this article to water your lawn correctly.
- Don’t overcut your grass. Ensure that you remove only a maximum of a third of its length during any one lawn-mowing session. This will mean that your grass is able to photosynthesize properly and it will be less likely to dry out. It will also be more susceptible to disease and pests if you mow your lawn too short. And you may allow enough light to reach the soil for weeds to germinate and grow.
- Make informed decisions about when (and how) you’ll fertilize. I have an in-depth article about creating a fertilization schedule for your lawn that I recommend you read. When you fertilize depends upon what type of fertilizer you use. I recommend and use slow-release organic fertilizers. If you have a cool-season grass and only want to fertilize once, fall is probably the best time. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, usually do better if you fertilize in spring if you’re applying fertilizer only once per season.
- Try grass-cycling. It’s a simple process that will help give more nutrients to your lawn. You just need to leave the grass cuttings from mowing on the lawn after you’re done cutting the grass. The cuttings will decompose rapidly, acting as a fertilizer. Note that having a good mulching mower is essential for this to work, otherwise your clippings may just smother your grass. Whatever type of lawn mower you have, you will probably be able to convert your current lawnmower to use as a grass-cycler. If you have a small, level lawn, you can get a reel mower. The best reel mowers are known to be especially effective for this use. They are user-friendly, quiet, eco-friendly, and a great workout. The nutrients that grass-cycling will add to your lawn will boost its general health, making it better able to ward off dandelions.
Other Natural Ways to Get Rid of Dandelions
Beyond applying herbicides and pulling dandelions by hand there are a few other natural approaches you can take to dealing with your dandelion problem.
My favorite approaches include:
- Applying Corn Gluten Meal
- Spraying with Vinegar
- Maintaining a Lawn with Taller Grass
Let’s explore each below so you can learn what’s involved and decide if one of these approaches may work well for you:
Corn Gluten Meal
Applying corn gluten meal to your lawn at specific times of the year is an excellent way of stopping dandelions from growing. It acts as a natural pre-emergent herbicide and makes it impossible for the dandelion seeds to germinate and become established in your lawn.
Keep in mind that using corn gluten meal won’t do anything if you have existing flowering dandelions that have already germinated.
You need to apply the corn gluten meal to your lawn shortly before the beginning of the dandelion growing season, in the spring. I recommend an application when your soil temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit to block dandelion seed germination.
Corn gluten meal must be re-applied several times over the course of the growing season. This is because its efficacy only lasts between five and six weeks.
For best results combatting dandelions apply corn gluten meal when your soil reaches 60 degrees, and then re-apply every 4-4.5 weeks.
This product won’t harm your existing lawn at all (unless it is mostly annual weeds)
Vinegar will kill dandelions. You can apply it by putting vinegar in a spray bottle and spraying the dandelion.
Another helpful tip is to spray vinegar into the holes after you pull out dandelions and their roots.
Be aware that vinegar will burn or kill other plants (including grass), so use a targeted approach with this natural way to kill dandelions, and be prepared to have some brown spots on your lawn afterward.
Keep your grass at a minimum height of between 2 and 2.5 inches to help crowd out dandelions and prevent germination of new dandelion seeds.
Making sure you never cut your lawn shorter than this height will definitely help you maintain efforts to combat a dandelion problem.
Relatively long grass will help to shade the dandelions from sun and block seedlings from germinating and growing.
Dandelions need lots of sun to thrive. Creating a dense, tall canopy of grass is the best approach to preventing an army of dandelions from invading your yard.
These are the Best Ways to Get Rid of Dandelions in Your Lawn
Dandelions are one weed that pretty much every homeowner is familiar with. They’re easy to spot from a distance, and their presence can interrupt an otherwise flawless carpet of manicured green grass.
Getting rid of dandelions can be a lot of work. This is especially true if you have a number of these pesky weeds present in your lawn. It can feel overwhelming, but it is possible to achieve a dandelion-free lawn.
Make a plan, commit to your goal, and have patience. Removing dandelions from your lawn is a process. It won’t happen overnight, and the project may not be complete in a single season.
But with dedication and meticulous attention to detail, you can get rid of dandelions in your lawn.