Dandelions: A Love/Hate Relationship
Dandelions appear to be everywhere—to the delight of some folks and to the dismay of others. A rite of spring, dandelions can be ignored, consumed or dealt with.
Most people have a love/hate relationship with this perennial plant, which belongs to the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. As a pest, the dandelion is one of the most common weeds found in yards. They may also harbor certain disease pathogens (such as tomato ringspot virus) that can affect fruit and vegetable crops. But it does have culinary and medicinal value, as well, serving as a forage plant for livestock. In addition, it is an early pollen source for pollinators, apart from vivid blooms that liven the spring landscape and to bring joy to children engaged in dispersing their seed!
The Benefits of Dandelions
The entire dandelion plant is edible and has been used as a medicinal plant since Roman times. Several countries actually cultivate this plant for its medicinal properties.
When they are tender in the spring, dandelion leaves—or greens—can be added to salads. Dandelion flowers are used to make dandelion wine, which tastes similar to sherry and supposedly is an excellent tonic. The taproot can be roasted to make dandelion tea.
Some beekeepers appreciate dandelions because they provide a valuable feed source for honeybees in the spring. To help the honeybees, you may want to reconsider getting rid of those yellow flowers in your yard.
Manual Controls for Dandelions
One of the easiest ways to get rid of dandelion weeds in your lawn is to pull them out. But you need to make sure to get the deep taproot. If you don’t, the plants will grow back. You can find several dandelion tools on the market that will “pop” the plant right out of the ground. Specially designed “deep root weeders” are available online for the ardent gardener. These tools seem to work best if the soil is moist, not dry soil.
Chemical Controls for Dandelions
You also can find several herbicides labeled for use for dandelions in landscape, turf and bare ground areas. Lawn herbicides containing the active ingredient triclopyr are especially effective. Late fall (October) is a good time to apply such systemic herbicides to manage them. Apply the herbicide according to label directions.
Once lawn weeds are controlled, it is critical to provide optimal growing conditions such as lawn fertilization, proper mowing regime, soil pH, over-seeding and irrigation if necessary. A healthy and competitive turf is the best line of defense from pesky weeds!
Adapted from information provided by Mary Beth Bennett, Retired WVU Extension Agent – Berkeley County
With information from Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist
Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.