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Fighting Dandelions in Your Lawn the Natural Way

by Kate McIntyre, All About Lawns Columnist

Along with warmer days, gentle rain showers, and robins' return to our lawns, dandelions are harbingers of spring. Their bright yellow flowers seem full of optimism and renewed life--as long as you do not have a lawn that is filled with them. Many people reach for the herbicide at the first signs of dark green, toothed leaves, yellow blossoms, and white puffballs. However, there is no need to resort to such drastic measures. With a little bit of effort, you can conquer your dandelion problem without using any chemicals.

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The Problem with Herbicides

Herbicides can definitely help your lawn if it is overrun by weeds, but for some scattered dandelion plants, they might be overkill. People often recommend a "weed and feed" herbicide and fertilizer combo for lawns with dandelions because they believe that dandelions attract bees. The bees can pose a hazard for bare feet in the summer. However, bees are not attracted to dandelions the way they are to other weed plants, such as clover. Most dandelions reproduce asexually, which means that they do not produce any nectar that lures bees to spread their pollen. Instead, each plant can pollinate itself. Aesthetics is the main reason to get rid of dandelions in your yard.

Beef up Your Lawn's Defenses

The best way to keep dandelions from getting established in your lawn is to ensure that it is as healthy as possible. Healthy lawns are dense carpets, providing little space for weeds like dandelions to grow. To ensure that your lawn is at its healthiest, water it deeply a couple times a week in the summer if you live in a dry climate. This will encourage your lawn to send its roots deeper down into the soil. You can also apply an inch of compost to your lawn in the fall, ensuring that it gets a healthy start in the spring.

An Ounce of Prevention for Your Lawn

Dandelion plants are not particularly difficult to get rid of by hand, especially if you have the right tools. The plants' root system features one big taproot, which tends to break off if you just pull on the plants' leaves. You need to remove the taproot to prevent the dandelion from growing back. To do this, you can use either a dandelion weeder or a long, pointy trowel. Shove your tool into the soil right beside the dandelion's root, and use the tool like a lever to pop the dandelion out of the ground. Your job will be much easier if you wait to weed until after it has rained. Soon, you'll be admiring your lawn's smooth, weed-free beauty.

About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

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