Sat May 18, 2013
Garden Report

Dandelions: Friend Or Foe?

It's that time of year again and those little yellow flowers are starting to pop up in gardens across the state.

The lowly herb has more iron than spinach and more vitamin C than lettuce. Still, we spend millions of dollars in energy and chemicals to eradicate it.

KUNC's Gardener Tom Throgmorton talks dandelions

As the saying goes `any plant out of place is a weed’. The yellow spring flowers in the lawn are unwelcome. Neighbors who leave their dandelions unchecked reseed the whole neighborhood. There are basically two methods to kill dandelions. One is hand digging. The other is using herbicides.


Dandelions were grown as an herb that cured a number of illnesses. Its world wide distribution is evidence a lot of people carried it as they migrated and immigrated. Even though it isn’t a cure-all; it’s still used as a digestive aid and mild laxative. 

Crops of dandelions are grown in rows 18 inches apart and the plants a foot apart in the row. The soil is prepared deeply for the best roots. The clusters of white fluffy seeds germinate easily.

The roots are harvested in the fall of the second season. The dried roots are roasted for a coffelike drink. Of course the bitter tops can be cooked like spinach or eaten fresh in salads. The flowers are the flavor in dandelion wine.


I don’t mind the yellow flowers in the grass. But I know if I let them go to seed I’m to blame for my neighbors spreading herbicide on their lawns.

Chemical companies have invested deeply to kill dandelions. The preferred herbicide is 2,4-D applied either in the spring or fall. It’s usually applied over the whole grass area killing all broadleaved plants including dandelions. But because trees, shrubs, perennials and annual flowers fall in the broadleaf category, they can also be damaged or killed by 2,4-D. 

Another chemical control for dandelions is spot spraying. With a wand in hand, wander the yard hitting each dandelion plant. If this stuff gets on any other plant, including grass, it will kill that plant too. So instead of yellow flowers you may end up with brown splotches in the lawn.

Hand digging also involves wandering the yard to find each dandelion plant.    In garden beds I use a digging fork to loosen the soil before pulling the dandelion with as much root as possible. In the grass I’ve used about every dandelion digger invented.  I’ve bent or broken them all in my pursuit of dandelions. 


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