Managing Weeds in Seattle – DandelionsOctober 23, 2009
Okay, you liked the reminder from earlier this week about the return of autumn Shotweed? Well, here’s a reminder that the dandelions are showing up again. They love this weather. The damp soil allows them to really power up their tap roots. So, get out there and carefully remove them now. Read more about removing dandelion and putting those weeds to good use:
Original Post from April 22, 2009:
Earlier this week Seattle enjoyed a 70F spring heatwave. These blue-sky-bright-sunshine-warm days encourage our gardens to burst forth with color. And, all too often, as we blink in the face of spring’s shimmering brilliance, we realize our landscapes are simply awash in the purest yellow of the simple dandelion.
I have a hard time thinking of dandelion (Taraxacum) as just an annoying garden and lawn weed. To its humble credit, this plant produces healthy greens that are tasty cooked or raw; they taste best harvested before they bloom. Its roots are used for a variety of herbal treatments. And apparently, it is a key ingredient in an ancient softdrink. As with any plant, proper identification must be made before consuming dandelion in any form, and it has many evil twins out there. Too, be sure to read in depth on this plant before consuming. There are more and newer contraindicators out there on it, including but not limited to gall bladder isssues. Too, be sure you are harvesting your dandelion from a clean source. If it is growing in a heavily fertilized lawn or one that may have received some sort of pesticide treatment, you may want to forgo your foraging and toss your harvest into the compost bin.
So, how do you best remove dandelions?
First, stop blowing the seed heads. Sure, it’s tempting. You know you want to make a wish and blow, but if you do, you’ll just be scattering more seeds into the garden. Of course, if your dream is to create a field of beautiful dandelions, it might just come true.
If your dandelion has gone to seed and you’re able to resist the temptation to blow the seeds everywhere, gently remove each seed head and deposit the seeds into the yardwaste bucket directly. Don’t try to pull the whole plant with the seed heads attached, or you’ll help disperse the seeds. Remove the seeds first. Then proceed to get rid of the rest of the plant.
Second, when you remove the plant, remove the whole thing or just the flowers or just the seed heads. Sounds strange, right? Why not rip and tear? It must do some damage right? Well, sort of.
Really, when you grab at a dandelion and pull all the leaves and flowers off along with a little bit (or none) of the root, you stimulate that powerful, carrot-like taproot to get stronger. You may encourage new growth. The taproot may get stronger. Likely, it will form another taproot nearby and create a second plant. Now you’ve got two-for-one. Again, if you were blowing in the wind to multiply your plants, this might be a good technique for you.
If you really did want to get rid of the plant, best to get out your favorite taproot removal tool. (Mine is a hori-hori knife; available here.) Get down on your hands and knees and gently slide the blade of the tool down the shaft of the taproot. Loose the soil around the taproot and harvest the entire plant — root, leaves, flowers and all. Deposit your unwanted treasure into the yardwaste.
If you don’t have time to get out your tools and then carefully remove the entire plant, taproot and all, just pluck off the flowers and the seed heads and put them in the yardwaste. This will reduce the seed dispersal. Later, when you have the time to attack the entire plant, then remove the taproot and leaves by hand.
So, what are other methods? Well, I’m not going to suggest you use herbicides, but if your dandelion is coming up in a stone patio or sidewalk, you might consider using a flame weeder (Available in the gardening tools store here). And, of course, when you do use flame for any purpose be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions, wear safety gear, keep a hose nearby in case of a flare up, and just be smart about it. Nobody wants to be this guy.
More weeds to eat and tips for managing them in the garden: