One broadleaf perennial weed many people are familiar with is the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). While the bright yellow flower may look cheerful to some, it can certainly be an eyesore in home lawns and it’s often difficult to remove. Commonly found in sunny, moist areas of the lawn, dandelions spread easily from their far-floating seeds and continue to persevere with their long tap roots.
Found throughout the United States, the dandelion can often be seen for the majority of the year but will go dormant in the winter months. Even though the above-ground plant may disappear, the tap root will continue to survive and produce new shoots come spring. The flowers of the weed will bloom during the spring and fall and will then turn into the characteristic white seed heads that easily disperse to neighboring areas as the wind blows.
Tap roots grow vertically down into the soil, so even though one may remove dandelion by hand-pulling or using a hand-shovel to dig it up, a large tap root often exists deeper beneath the soil’s surface making it hard to remove permanently. The root, which can be up to three feet in length, must be completely removed or killed for total control of the weed. Since this is a perennial weed, if the problem is not properly taken care of, homeowners can expect the same plants to pop up year after year until the correct management strategy is identified and used.
Dandelion Non-Chemical Control
If the problem is isolated to a few individual plants and you want to give hand-weeding a try, there are a few tips and tricks that can make this difficult task more attainable. To begin, water your lawn so that the soil is damp and the weed will be easier to pull, then grab a garden tool to help you loosen the tap root in the soil. If done correctly, the tap root should pull up from the soil with little tension, letting you know that you are not breaking it. It is best to pull these weeds when they are still young so that they do not have time to spread their seeds. There are also special tools available, known as “dandelion pullers” that can assist you in hand pulling.
As always, maintaining a thick, healthy lawn will also help to prevent these weeds from appearing so developing a proper maintenance regime can stop this problem before it ever starts. One of the best ways to maintain a thick, healthy lawn is to fertilize the lawn with the nutrients it needs. Here are some of our favorite fertilizers. You can learn more about them in Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
Dandelion Chemical Control
Pre-Emergent Control of Dandelion
There are also options for chemical control of dandelions, which may be required due to the difficulty that can arise when they are pulled by hand. While it is difficult to find a pre-emergent that is dandelion specific, it is a good idea for homeowners to apply a general broadleaf pre-emergent to stop germinating weed seeds before they start, like Mesotrione or Prodiamine.
Hi-Yield Atrazine is a great product to use for prevention of dandelion on St. Augustine or centipede lawns. Both grass types are sensitive to active ingredients like 2,4-D and MSMA, so Atrazine-based weed control products are safer to use on these grass types if applied appropriately. Hi-Yield Atrazine has pre- and post-emergent properties. A pre-emergent, as its name suggests, controls weeds before they germinate and appear in your lawn. Pre-emergents should be applied during the spring and fall for effective control. Post-emergents, on the other hand, are products that control currently existing weed
Post-Emergent Control of Dandelion
As previously mentioned, post-emergents are products that control currently existing weeds. Overall, chemical controls with active ingredients quinclorac, 2,4-D, Mecoprop, dicamba, triclopyr or fluroxypyr are effective post-emergent controls of dandelion. A few options for dandelion are SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide, SpeedZone Southern Herbicide, Drive XLR8, Crossbow, PastureGard and Q4 Plus. These chemicals should be mixed in a spray tank and applied with a backpack sprayer in accordance to product labels.
If you decide to use a chemical control to stop your dandelion problem, make sure you read the label carefully to ensure that it will not cause any damage to your lawn and is compatible with your grass type.