Homeowners in suburbia have a serious love-affair with their lawns and especially hate dandelions almost as much as they hate pandemics. They spend much of their gardening time on their knees, removing this perennial weed and quietly rejoicing every perfect expulsion, root, flower and jagged leaves. Part of what makes the task of removing dandelions so frustrating is knowing that it will eventually re-sprout if a fragment of dandelion’s long taproot is left behind. Removal must be perfect to be successful. But even that isn't enough to keep the weed from establishing in lawns in the first place. You need to maintain a strong, healthy turf to crowd out weed growth and that is an awful lot of work.
My neighbour's lawn is as lush and unblemished as a golf green with no yellow 'stains' to speak of. If any wayward dandelion weed sets up house on his lot, he spots it immediately and it’s off with their head. He is the master of his lawn and even owns a beloved riding mower. The loud whirring of the motor signals that his grass cutting ritual is about to begin. I often watch him from my front window as he rides his machine with pride, like a cowboy hero on on a prized horse, leaning ever so slightly as the machine turns the sharp corners of his L- shaped lot. I imagine his calendar is filled with “lawn to do chores” such as Monday: mowing and core aerating, Tuesday: thatch removal and over seeding, Wednesday: fertilizing, Thursday: more mowing and so on. (Did I mention he is retired? ). He even manages to water his lawn in areas where his irrigation system doesn’t reach. Kudos to my neighbour for all his work and efforts. Being outside in nature is good for us, both mentally and physically, and if it's his lawn that gets him out and moving around, then good for him.
My neighbour must scoff at my ‘eco-lawn’ which features quite a diverse rainbow of plants in the spring including white clover, wild strawberries and violets. Far in the backyard, the forget-me-nots have self-seeded in open dead patches of the lawn. Instead of digging out dandelions, I dig out these flowers to plant as a pretty ephemeral edging in my garden beds then fill the open lawn patches with grass seed (if I remember), and leave it to the heavens to water.
Monocultures such as perfect grass lawns are not only exhausting to maintain if attainable, they are the antithesis of pollinator gardens. Diversity is the spice of the garden life, and allowing a healthy ecosystem of plants and animals to flourish will ultimately help you care for your landscape, and mother earth.
Although I don’t dispute the merits of a beautiful green lawn, and dandelion sightings do elicit slight irritability on my part, I just don't have the energy to remove them. I prefer to invest my landscaping efforts in perfecting my garden beds instead, enlarging my gardens and re-edging lines of my borders, enriching plantings with my homemade compost and beautifying my landscape by planting new perennials, shrubs and vegetables whenever possible. I do try to pluck out the weeds I spot growing in my pathway and flower beds but leave most weeds be in the lawn. Besides, once dandelions make their flush of appearance in spring my landscape still looks pretty good, despite a less than perfect lawn.(see photo above). I also delight in knowing that my lawn is feeding bunnies, birds, bees and other wildlife much more than I delight in having a dandelion-free lawn.
I have learned to tolerate weeds like dandelions for several other reasons:
1)Early in the season, dandelions are one of the only choice flowers for nectar- hungry bees and other pollinators. Bees pollinate approximately one third of our food crops so are important to our survival. Letting dandelions be, is one of the simplest things you can do to help bees and other pollinators survival. If possible, allow dandelions to flower to feed pollinating insects then pick them before they turn to fluffy seed heads.
2)Their yellow flowers only last a short time and their foliage blends in with the rest of the lawn. In fact, dandelions are often greener than my grass and they blend in nicely with clover.
3)The entire plant including roots are edible and have amazing nutritional benefits. Yes! you can eat them pesticide free, without having to wait in a long, lineup at the grocery store. Not just the foliage but the buds and taproot are also edible. When I was a child sitting in the backseat of my family's car I remember seeing ladies dressed in black picking baskets of dandelions from grassy areas near highway overpasses. Now I know why. They are free food and readily available in your community. Just make sure before you eat them that they were not sprayed with chemicals or picked too close to roadways where exhaust fumes linger.
4)Children love picking dandelions and giving these yellow bouquets to loved ones. They also enjoy blowing their fluffy seed heads while making a wish.( A wish to end the pandemic?)
5)Getting rid of them is an exhaustive chore and a losing battle- Just like Arnold, they will inevitably be baaaaack even if your lawn is completed re-sodded.
Hope this helps you find a little solace when it comes to the fight against dandelions. Its all about changing your perspective. Let me know how you handle the dandelions growing around your landscape. Well, gotta go, I see an yellow intruder in my flower garden.