Best Way To Get Rid Of Dandelions Permanently

Got dandelions? Learn how to eliminate this common weed once and for all.

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Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By:

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Win the War on Dandelions

The first step in winning any war, including the one against dandelions, is to know your opponent. Equal parts perky and pesky, dandelion plants can live for 5 to 10 years, growing up to 20 inches across. Because they spread by wind-blown seed, no lawn or planting bed is immune to a parachuting invasion of dandelion seeds. Dandelions have some weedy superpowers, but if you understand how they grow, you can beat ‘em.

The Tap Root Is A Big Problem

Dandelions are perennial weeds (they come back each year) with fleshy taproots. Typically the taproot is 6 to 18 inches long, but on older plants, it can extend even deeper into soil. When you dig or pull a dandelion, try to get at least 2 to 3 inches of the taproot. It comes up easiest when soil is moist, like after rain or watering. Any part of the taproot left in soil can sprout, growing a whole new plant.

Dig ‘Em Out

You have several options for getting rid of dandelions permanently. The first is hand pulling or digging. When digging a dandelion, use a special dandelion fork or weeding knife, inserting it into soil along the plant. The taproot typically extends straight down from the tuft of leaves, so aim to place your tool alongside that root. Wiggle the tool a bit to loosen the soil around the taproot, grab all of the leaves in your hand, and pull.

Yank That Tap Root

Hand digging or pulling dandelions is the method to use when your lawn has just a few dandelions or you’re working in planting beds where weedkillers could damage other plants. Weed puller tools like this one take the back-breaking labor out of weeding. Always try to dig dandelions when soil is moist. If you have to, before weeding, water the area where you’ll be working.

Dandelion Double Header

The upper section of a dandelion taproot is full of buds. When you dig a dandelion and the leafy part breaks off above soil, the remaining taproot regrows, producing two plants. This regrowth comes from buds on the taproot, which sprout when the root is broken. When digging or pulling dandelions, do your best to remove all of the plant with as much of the root (still attached) as possible. Any part of the taproot left in soil will regenerate and produce a new plant. Pull that new plant as soon as it appears so it can’t help feed (and grow) the taproot. Keep doing that, and eventually the taproot will have used all its food reserves—and will stop sprouting.

Get The Young Ones

Young dandelion seedlings are the most vulnerable stage of the plant when it comes to digging, herbicide applications or homebrew weed killer. At this stage, seedlings have a thin taproot that’s easy to pull, and leaves haven’t yet developed a tough, waxy outer layer that’s impervious to weedkiller sprays. Watch for young dandelions to appear in spring and fall. This is the size dandelion that you can effectively kill with the newer organic weedkillers, which contain things like botanically based oils (clove oil, eugenol and d-limonene), fatty acid soaps or acetic acid. Household vinegar (5 percent) doesn’t kill dandelion roots according to extension specialists.

Target Your Weed Sprays

The best sprays to use on dandelions are ones that kill the leaf and the root (it should say that on the bottle). If you’re spraying dandelions that are located in other planting beds, create a spray collar by removing the top and bottom of a can or plastic bottle. Slip the container over the dandelion, and spray the weed inside the can.

Old Ones Are Tough

As dandelions mature, leaves develop a waxy coating that sheds water and weedkiller sprays. This is why it’s best to try and treat dandelions when they’re young. There is a way to overcome that, though: Injure the plant just before spraying it. To do that, simply scuff your foot over the plant a few times. This breaks up the leaf tissue, creating openings for the weedkiller to enter. This dandelion and the one in the next photo were sprayed at the same time. This dandelion wasn’t scuffed prior to spraying. It never did die from the weedkiller, which was the kind that kills dandelions, not lawn.

Scuff And Spray Works

This dandelion was scuffed just prior to spraying a weedkiller. It died quickly and completely, never to return. The best time to spray dandelions is in the fall, because this is when plants are naturally shifting materials from leaves to roots for winter storage. Weedkiller applied in fall moves directly to roots, which helps get rid of dandelions permanently. Avoid using lawn weed and feed products in fall to kill dandelions, though, because if your lawn goes dormant for winter, it won't absorb the fertilizer. Instead, any weeds present take up the fertilizer and grow stronger.

Don’t Let Seeds Sprout

Killing actual dandelion plants is one tactic in the war on this weed. Another is creating an environment where dandelion seeds can’t successfully germinate. To do this, use a pre-emergent herbicide like corn gluten meal or Preen. This type of weedkiller interferes with seed germination, which means seeds can’t produce a plant. Use corn gluten meal in fall and early spring (about the time forsythia flowers). Another technique to make your yard unfriendly to dandelion seeds is to mulch planting beds, and don’t cut your lawn shorter than 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass grows thicker, shading soil so dandelion seeds can’t sprout.

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