Should you get rid of dandelions?
Wondering if you should get rid of dandelions? Or maybe you want to know the benefits of dandelions. On the other hand, you might be curious about how to weed dandelions out of your garden and how to eat dandelions too. So let’s get answer all of these questions about dandelions for gardens everywhere, not just Seattle!
But, before I get into managing dandelions as a weed, let’s consider the many benefits of growing dandelions!
You can eat your dandelions!
To its humble credit, this plant produces healthy greens that are tasty cooked or raw. Hot tip: dandelion greens taste best harvested before they bloom.
But if your dandelion has flower buds, try pickling or frying them. And if those flowers are open, you can eat them, but you might want to leave them for pollinators instead.
Plus, dandelion roots are used for a variety of herbal treatments. And apparently, it is a key ingredient in an ancient softdrink. But one of the best ways to enjoy dandelion root is to dig it in fall and roast it. Then grind it up for dandelion tea!
But, before you harvest and eat any plant…
As with any plant, proper identification must be made before consuming dandelion in any form, and it has many evil twins out there. So be sure you’re harvesting Taraxacum officinale only!
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.
Moreover, 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 or a place where your dog pees, you may want to forgo your foraging and toss your harvest into the compost bin.
Pollinators love dandelions!
If you’re trying to attract pollinators to your garden, dandelions are a great plant to grow. That’s because they bloom early in the season to feed early pollinating insects. And they bloom repeatedly, so they pollinators can keep coming back for more.
Dandelions may help keep rabbits out of your garden beds…
Rabbits love to eat dandelions. So they often will choose dandelion greens first. And that means wild bunnies may stop eating your beloved garden borders. Or at least they may leave your borders alone so long as their other favorite foods like these “weeds” are available.
Dandelions can help your garden soil too…
Because dandelions have a powerful root that’s hard to weed out, they can help break up dense soil. That’s because dandelion roots act like drills. So they break through clay and move around rocks. And when that happens, soil breaks apart naturally. Moreover, this leaves more space for air, water and soil microbe to move around in the earth. And when this happens, soil may become easier to work.
Plus, because the roots till the soil deep below the surface, they don’t encourage more weed seeds to grow in the way that happens when you run a tiller at the surface.
But what is the best remove dandelions?
If you decide you do want to remove these plants, these methods may make removing dandelions easier.
First, it’s important to remember that dandelions love cool, damp weather. And damp soil allows them to really power up their tap roots. But, this is also one of the easiest times to root out your dandelions. So, to root out dandelion, grab 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 yard waste. Don’t put them in your compost, or they’ll probably just sprout there.
Secondly, stop blowing the seed heads of dandelions. Sure, it’s tempting. That’s because 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.
However, 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.
Third, 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 to your unwanted weeds right? Well, sort of, but not the way you want if you’re trying to get rid of dandelions.
Instead, 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.
Finally, 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 yard waste. 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 weeding methods for dandelions?
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. 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.