Spring has sprung with warmer than usual temperatures. I’m sure the dandelions are in full bloom by now unless they already came and went by the time you read this article. A weed is described as a plant growing somewhere you wish it was not. Let’s explore the dreaded dandelion.
Weather in spring can vary greatly; many days are cooler and wetter than usual. This year dandelions bloomed in early March and some of you reported seeing some blooming in December of last year, incredible! Dandelions are very persistent weeds and due to the mild winter we may get a much larger crop than usual this spring.
Dandelions are in the broadleaf weed family. They generally put down a strong tap root frequently in fall after their “fluffy” seeds blow around after blooming in the spring. No one likes the yellow flower invading their lawns but kids certainly like to spread the seeds by blowing the puff balls around the neighborhood. Sometimes you may get dandelions from your neighbor’s yard which is loaded with dandelions.
Dandelions are best controlled in late spring and early fall. Fortunately, we have selective controls that will kill dandelions and not injure the lawn provided label directions are carefully followed. Late spring is a good time to apply treatments because dandelions usually appear when we get a flush of warmer weather. Both Weed and Feed and Lawn Weed Control are good choices. A few years ago I went to lunch and saw a few dandelions and then when I came back an hour later temperatures had dropped ten degrees and dandelions could not be found. They tend to come in and out with sudden temperature changes. This makes it difficult for homeowners to decide when to apply controls. If the dandelion flower and leafy crown are not actively growing and exposed, controls will not work very well. Fall is also a good time to apply controls even though you do not see much of the familiar yellow flower blooming. Controlling dandelions in the fall will certainly reduce the dandelion population next spring.
Here are a few tips whether you use granular weed & feed or liquid controls. Do not mow the area you are treating two days before or two days after application. Apply to an early morning dew lawn or a slightly sprinkled lawn so the controls will stick to the dandelions better. Do not irrigate or have rainfall for 2 days after application. If one or more of these tips are not followed, the percentage of control will drop dramatically. Also, do not apply controls when the lawn is under stress when temperatures are over 80 degrees or high humidity is present, this could damage the lawn. Remember you need to delay sowing grass seed for 4 weeks after applying broadleaf weed controls.
Controlling dandelions before they go to seed is the key to long-term success. My father called me a few years ago saying he pulled 500+ yellow dandelion flowers from his lawn. The problem is unless you kill the dandelion plant down to the root it will grow back. You need to be patient after applying controls for complete kill. If it is warm enough you will start to see the dandelion plant start to wilt in 7-10 days. Complete kill down to the root may take up to 30 days. If you still have lingering weeds do not re-apply controls in less than 30 days, follow label directions. Remember when you apply broadleaf weed controls they also are labeled for control of many other broadleaf weeds.
What about dandelion salad or wine? Some farms are growing dandelions for profit, so it would not be considered a weed for this purpose. Perhaps you do not mind a few dandelions in your lawn? I hope that you reach your goal this year if you wish to eliminate dandelions from your lawn. Don’t lose heart; it may take a few seasons. The best defense is to grow a healthy, thick lawn.