Taming the Dandelion

Tips for keeping this sunny-yellow weed out of the lawn.


Dandelion — photo by Les Saucier

Dandelion — photo by Les Saucier

This sunny bloom, the bane of many lawn lovers, is an annual weed. Gardeners who prefer using mechanical removal routinely pluck these flowers to prevent the formation of seedheads.

One effective antidote for dandelions is corn gluten, a natural byproduct of milling corn. This safe, effective product acts as an herbicide on broadleaf plants, including dandelions. It works on the seeds, not the plants; in the presence of corn gluten, the dandelion seeds germinate, but no roots form, and the beginning plant withers and dies.

Timing is crucial for applying corn gluten. You have to apply before the seed has sprouted. Applying corn gluten on already germinated dandelions does no good. Also, you must apply it when you're expecting a fairly dry period. The corn gluten needs to be lightly watered in, but too much rain negates its herbicidal effect and in fact turns corn gluten into a fertilizer for weeds. (Too much rain also dilutes the effectiveness of chemical herbicides.)

Apply corn gluten in early spring and again in mid to late summer, using about 20 pounds of corn gluten per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn.

Mechanical removal also works. Weed dandelions during their flowering stage, removing as much of the root as possible. Mow and remove the clippings if they do go to seed to help prevent reseeding.

Using mechanical weed removal can seem daunting if you have a large lawn that's studded with yellow dandelions everywhere. If you have no objection to using chemicals, applying a broadleaf herbicide when dandelions are actively growing should take care of most of them.

Maintaining a vigorous, healthy lawn discourages dandelions. These tips can help you keep this weed out of your lawn:

  • Set your mower blade high to allow the grass to shade the low-growing weeds and slow the germination of weed seeds.
  • Aerate and fertilize your turf as needed and reseed where necessary. Dandelions are opportunistic weeds that jump in to populate thin turf.
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