How To Get Rid Of Dandelions

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Dandelions in Grass

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To kids, dandelions provide endless hours of seed-blowing entertainment. To adults, they represent endless hours of weeding. To get ahead of these stubborn weeds, take a cue from the kid inside of you and focus on the seeds. Dandelions have a deep tap root and can live for many years, making them challenging to control once established. The most effective management strategies focus on prevention and removal of young plants. Here’s how to get rid of dandelions and get back to enjoying the landscape.

How To Remove Dandelions

Some dandelion seedlings inevitably get through your first lines of defense. It’s important to remove mature plants before they can go to seed.

Removing Dandelions by Hand

To prevent a few plants from turning into hundreds, it is necessary to pull or kill established plants before they go to seed. Hand pulling is very effective against young plants. Use a hand weeder or trowel to dig seedlings, removing as much of the taproot as possible. 

Removing Dandelions with Herbicides 

The deep tap root of mature dandelions makes them difficult to pull by hand, as plants will regrow from root tissue left behind. For persistent plants, you may want to spot-treat with an herbicide. While synthetic herbicides like glyphosate and 2,4-D are effective against dandelions, they are not the safest products to use in the landscape. Iron-based herbicides, such as Bonide Weed Beater FE and Natria Lawn Weed & Disease Control, offer a safe-to-use alternative. 

Iron-based herbicides are designed to kill broadleaf weeds in lawns. They are safe to use in turf because grasses do not take up iron as readily as broadleaf (non-grass) plants. However, some products cannot be used on newly established lawns. Also, these herbicides are not labeled for use in garden beds. Some organic products are available to treat dandelions in garden beds, however they only control small plants. Read product labels for specific uses and limitations. 

How To Prevent Dandelions 

When it comes to controlling dandelions in the landscape, it’s important to focus on seeds. Prevent seeds from establishing by maintaining a healthy lawn, stop seed germination with pre-emergent herbicides, 

Maintain a Healthy Lawn

Dandelions thrive in thin, sparse lawns and garden beds. The tiny seeds need light, water, and space to establish. Once they germinate, the young plants must compete with lawn grasses or garden plants for water and nutrients. We can greatly reduce the chances of a seed establishing and growing into a mature plant by maintaining a healthy lawn and garden.

The idea is to choke dandelions out by limiting the availability of critical resources. This is achieved through proper irrigation, mowing, and fertilization to encourage healthy plant development. In lawns, take care not to mow too low, as this opens the canopy to seed establishment. Leave grass clippings in place and overseed when needed to promote a lush, dense lawn. You can achieve the same goal in the garden by spacing plants closer together and using mulch to cover exposed soils. 

Use Pre-emergent Herbicides

Another way to prevent seeds from establishing into plants is by applying a pre-emergent herbicide. These herbicides kill plants as they emerge from the seed by preventing the seedlings from establishing a root system. There are several types of pre-emergent herbicides available. Some are registered for use only on turf areas, while others can be used in ornamental and edible gardens. Products with the active ingredient isoxaben, such as Ferti-Lome Broadleaf Weed Control with Gallery, are effective against dandelions and can be used in both lawns and garden beds. Be sure to read the label thoroughly to ensure the product you purchase is labeled for use in the area you plan to treat.

To be effective, pre-emergent herbicides must be applied to the soil before dandelion seeds germinate, which occurs when soils warm to about 55 ˚F. Dandelion seeds germinate over a long period of time. Monitor treated areas to determine if they need a second application. Preemergent herbicides must be watered in within 24 to 48 hours after application to activate the chemicals. It is important to note that pre-emergent herbicides affect all seeds. Do not apply in areas where you intend to overseed grass or plant flower or vegetable seeds.

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