How to make war or call a truce with the ubiquitous dandelion
While it's easy to pull them out of ornamental beds, they can be almost impossible to remove from the lawn.
What can you do?
Take action now.
Spring is the ideal time to work on your lawn and those dastardly dandelions.
They haven't all gone to seed yet. And the cool days of April and May are perfect for reseeding the weak areas of your lawn as well as the bare spots left behind by pulled or poisoned dandelions.
Here's a look at some of your options.
Special garden tools can help you fight the wily ways of dandelions. They are long handled and have prongs and prying devices perfectly suited to grabbing dandelions' long tap roots. Look for brand names such as the Hound Dog Weed Hound or Grandpa's Weeder.
When pulling dandelions, try to remove the entire root system. Root pieces left behind will produce more dandelions.
Weed and feed
These lawn products typically combine quick-release fertilizer and weed killers into a bag of granules.
Conservationists and local governments discourage their use because they can lead to overfertilization and pollution.
They are high in nitrogen and are often used incorrectly by home gardeners. They are also seen as overkill because they encourage homeowners to spread toxins onto areas that do not have any weeds.
Gardeners with children or pets must be especially careful using weed-and-feed products to avoid health risks.
Weed-and-feed products can be easily tracked indoors, where poisons can persist because rain and sun can't break them down.
Rather than putting a blanket of poison over your entire lawn, simply spray the main offenders, said Steve Smith, owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
He recommends Bonide's Weed Beater Ultra, available in a ready-to-spray form or a concentrate that can be diluted and applied with a home sprayer attached to a garden hose.
Smith recommends the home sprayer solution mixed with Bonide's Turbo Spreader-Sticker.
"The sticker will increase the effectiveness of the herbicide by at least 30 to 40 percent," Smith said.
Similar to weed-and-feed, spot treatment herbicides are toxic and must be used with caution.
Dave Zimmerman, owner of Turf's Up of Lake Stevens, said homeowners should avoid coming into contact with recently sprayed weeds, especially when they are wet.
Even if you manage to kill or remove all the dandelions, you'll continue to have problems with weeds if you aren't taking care of your lawn.
"If you're lawn is healthy and the grass is healthy, it can crowd out the weeds," said Brian Skinner, an Edmonds Community College turf instructor, master gardener and owner of Skinner Landscape Service of Snohomish.
Moss, thatch, poor soil, inadequate drainage, shade and many other factors can make it hard for grass to grow and therefore easier for weeds to take root.
Renovating your lawn and continuing to maintain it is the key, said Todd Bricker, owner of Green Earth Lawn & Landscape of Lake Stevens.
That includes fertilizing, liming, moss and thatch removal, overseeding and, most important, core aeration, which usually involves using a machine to remove cores of soil to create air pockets.
Spring is an ideal time for renovation, Bricker said, adding that homeowners should wait about two weeks after spraying dandelions to do a renovation.
Waiting gives the weeds enough time to die back and the herbicides to break down or wash out.
If you pull weeds instead of spraying them, you can start renovation right away.
Professional renovation of a 1,200-square-foot area of turf grass can cost between $200 and $500, depending on the condition of your lawn.
If your lawn is more than 50 percent weeds, it's time to start over, said Skinner, who offers new lawn installations ranging from $2,500 when planted from seed to $3,500 for sod for the average 1,200-square-foot lawn.
Learn to love them
This isn't an option if you have strict neighborhood covenants or if you're trying to be courteous to the people who live next door.
But there are good reasons to let dandelions roam wild on your property: Bees and other pollinators love them.
Plus, you can eat the yellow flowers as well as the greens, which are nutritious and, according to Snohomish County master gardener Stan Lundgaard, tasty when sauteed in butter and garlic.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Earth Lawn & Landscape of Lake Stevens, Todd Bricker, 206-841-2585, www.greenearthseattle.com.
Skinner Landscape Service of Snohomish, Brian Skinner, 206-779-9300, www.skinnerlandscape.com.
Supreme Landscape Services of Redmond, Dave Smith, 425-868-4222, supremelandscapeservices.com.
Turf's Up of Lake Stevens, Dave Zimmerman, 425-377-8788.
Get your lawn off drugs: See tinyurl.com/naturallawncare for tips on natural lawn care.
Natural Lawn Care for Western Washington: See tinyurl.com/naturallawncareSnohomishCounty.
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