How Remove Dandelions From Your Yard

A dandelion being blown in the wind

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Pesky dandelions, with their little yellow flower and fluffy seed puffs, can be a nuisance to home gardeners. Above-ground, their seeds ride the wind currents, poised to drop into the slightest opening in your lawn and propagate the species. Meanwhile, below-ground, the weed lays down a taproot up to 10 inches long. Pulling the taproot as a means of removal is problematic. Thick and brittle roots easily split and any fraction left behind will regenerate.

That said, you can approach removal one of two ways:

  • By considering the weed a nutritious green, one that can be pulled and eaten until its eradicated
  • By getting out the big guns and spraying down an herbicide. This method should only be implemented in extreme cases after making sure the product you use is safe for your grass, kids, and pets.
Close up of Dandelion removal
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When to Remove Dandelions

You can harvest and eat dandelion greens in the early spring. The leaves can be boiled, as you would spinach, or used in a salad. This superfood is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and iron. The flower can be made into wine or boiled and stir-fried, too. And the roots can be dried and steeped for a tea that aids in detoxification. For the best taste, harvest dandelion greens and dig up their taproots before they go to seed.

Dandelions are broadleaf, herbaceous perennials that die back in winter, while the plant's roots live on underground. In the early fall, nutrients are transferred from the leaves to the roots, making this the best time to attack them with an herbicide. Chemicals applied during this time are absorbed by the leaves and passed onto the roots, following the same path as the nutrients.

Warning

When pulling dandelions to eat, avoid harvesting near roads where road salt or other toxins may be present. Likewise, you obviously shouldn't harvest from a lawn where herbicides have been used in the past.

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Garden spade or pitchfork
  • Gardening gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Garden hose or sprinkler

Materials

  • Pump sprayer
  • Broadleaf herbicide
  • Grass seed
  • Dandelion puller (optional)
Red Dandelion Greens
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Instructions

Pulling Dandelions

As with any weed-pulling method, persistence is key and it may take several seasons to fully eradicate the nuisance.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on the level of infestation
  • Total Time: Several weeks for the grass to grow from seed
  1. Water the lawn to facilitate weeding, and then wait for about half an hour. Weeds are more easily extricated from wet soil.
  2. Using a garden spade or pitchfork, make an incision in the soil alongside the taproot. Wiggle the tool to loosen the taproot.
  3. Pry up the weed, fulcrum-style, and then grip the leaves (as many as you can) and tug them gently until the dandelion gives way and the taproot yields.
  4. Once the taproot breaks free, remove the weed from the soil. Otherwise, make further incisions around the root and continue to tug gently at the leaves until it comes free.
  5. Reseed and water the bare spots.
  6. Cut and wash the leaves for use in salads, and trim, wash, and dry the roots to make a tea.
Spraying the dandelions
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Killing Dandelions With Herbicides

It's best to avoid using chemicals when alternative weed protocols exist. However, if your pulling efforts don't eliminate the problem, you may want to use a broadleaf herbicide as a last resort.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: About 1 hour
  • Total Time: Several weeks for the grass to grow from seed
  • Material Cost: Under 20 dollars
  1. Check the weather and wait for a time stretch that is sunny and dry.
  2. Purchase a broadleaf herbicide, such as Roundup, as your local garden center.
  3. Put on gardening gloves and protective clothing and add the chemical to your pump sprayer, mixing it with water per package directions.
  4. Using the sprayer, apply the herbicide selectively to the dandelions in your yard. Allow it to dry.
  5. Wait several days until the dandelions' foliage turns brown before you begin watering your lawn again.
  6. Once dead, pull out or rake up the remains of the weeds and reseed with grass seed (after waiting at least three days from the chemical application).

Tips for Removing Dandelions

If you're serious about organic removal methods (or really like to eat dandelion greens), purchase a specific dandelion puller to more efficiently tackle the job.

Horticultural vinegar (made of 20 percent acetic acid) can be used in place of a chemical herbicide. It's the acetic acid in the vinegar that gives it a herbicidal punch. Vinegar used for culinary purposes is relatively low in acetic acid (coming in at about 5 percent) and won't work. Also, note that vinegar kills grass, so be very careful during application.

For at least two or three days before applying herbicides, don't mow the lawn. The bigger the surface area of the dandelion leaves, the more effective your application. Likewise, wait at least two or three days before mowing after application to allow time for the chemical to be transferred to the roots.

The herbicide Weed-B-Gon is selective and won't harm grass, unlike vinegar and Roundup, making it a popular choice for killing dandelions in the lawn.

Preventative Dandelion Control

Promoting lawn health is the best method of dandelion control. Don't think of your grass as a passive partner needing rescue from weeds. If managed properly, your lawn can compete effectively against the weeds, eliminating the need for laborious dandelion removal.

Practice leaving grass clippings on your lawn. They will act as a mulch to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Mow "high," leaving lawn grass at the height of 2 to 3 inches. This will allow the grass to "protect its own turf" by depriving weeds of the light they need. And, don't let bare spots remain uncovered for long, inviting the invasion of opportunistic weeds. In the fall, fill in bare spots by overseeding.