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My lawn is infested with dandelions. Although they're benign, the flowers are fun to play with and the plant has several useful properties, it sure is an eyesore and I'd like to get rid of it. How can I eradicate this weed without damaging my lawn?

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Get a pet rabbit, it'll make short work of them! –  Ivo Flipse May 25 '13 at 11:04
    
That lawn is an eyesore without the dandelions. –  J. Musser Jul 22 at 2:47

6 Answers 6

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There are several ways of removing these dandelions from your lawn:

  • If you have a cool-season lawn and are happy to take the chemical route, you could use a selective weedkiller containing 2,4-D or MCPP, such as Trimec, Speedzone or Momentum, which are best applied in mid-spring or early fall

  • You could hand-weed using this tool which has received excellent reviews, and would make your task much easier; however, bear in mind that if you leave even a small fragment of dandelion root in the soil, it will produce a new plant.

Good lawn maintenance is also essential to keep your lawn weed-free:

Since dandelions thrive on thin weak turf, a good preventative measure is proper lawn maintenance.

Mow high and mow often. Mowing high means keeping your grass on the longer side of its optimal height. This keeps the soil cooler and provides shade that restricts the growth of annual weeds. Weed seeds on the soil surface need the heat of the sun to flourish. Scalping your lawn is an open invitation for weeds. Second, once weeds have already invaded your lawn, frequent mowing will keep them in check. A weed can't form seedheads when its topmost growth keeps getting lopped off.

Fertilize at the correct times. The goal is to feed your lawn, not your weeds. Cool season grasses should be fertilized in early spring and late fall. Fertilizing cool season grasses in the heat of the summer will only promote more weeds. Warm season grasses should be fertilized at the height of their growth period in the summer. Avoid feeding in the cooler spring or summer when the weeds are likely to emerge.

Water deeply and infrequently. There are weed seeds hiding out in your lawn just waiting for the right conditions to emerge. Those seeds grow best when kept damp with light frequent watering.

Reseed in the Fall. The fall is the best time to reseed for several reasons. Grass has nine months to get its roots deep and to get more established before facing the summer heat. It has a better chance surviving than grass planted in the spring. In the North, crabgrass and other weeds complete their life cycles in the fall and die out. So they aren't there to compete with the new seedlings for space, water, and soil nutrients.

What Will Kill Dandelions?

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Credit for this answer goes to my mum.

When we (wife and I) moved into our current home 4 years ago, the front and back lawns were covered in dandelions (and other broadleaf weeds). I didn't want to go the herbicide route, and after speaking with my mum, she said the only way to truly get rid of (control) dandelions is to hand remove them (important: you need to remove root n' all) and recommended using a small hand garden trowel for doing so.

I didn't have a "small hand garden trowel", instead I bought a small (and cheapish) builders trowel and used that for 3 years:

Dandelion remover - small builders trowel

Then last year on clearance (paid $1) I picked up a Fiskars Softouch Weeder:

Dandelion remover - Fiskars Softouch Weeder

Both of the above hand-tools have worked well in removing dandelions (roots included).

  • The first three lawn cutting seasons I pulled a lot! of dandelions, at least once a week I would walk the lawns and hand remove all the unwanted plants I saw (all of them went into a plastic bag for offsite disposal).

  • During last year's lawn cutting season I noticed a big drop-off in the number of unwanted plants I was removing, except for crabgrass (but that's a whole other story).

  • This years lawn cutting season I've only had to remove a handful of "small" (young) dandelions, this is to be expected as I can't control dandelion seed heads blowing into my garden (though I wish I could).

  • Yes, getting any unwanted plant under control via an "organic" approach is going to take patience and time, but if you stick with it, you will see (excellent) results.

    • And bare in mind, even if you go a "non-organic" route, you're pretty much "forced" to continually use the chosen method if you don't want to see the unwanted plant(s) return.

If you wish to read more about how I approach "organic" lawn care, go here on SE:

Good luck!

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@Mancuniensis has a good answer. I would add that dandelions can be controlled by de-heading all flowers and flower buds before they go to seed. This goes a long way to reducing their numbers in future years.

I also find they are very responsive to the broad leaf weedkillers and the weed&feed treatments. Ie. not much is required, and stronger "kill everything" weedkillers are not required. These days I use the de-heading combined with limited spot treatment with a broad leaf weedkiller once or twice a year.

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I'm trying to avoid being to much of a "me too" answerer here, but I wanted to emphasize the parts of the existing answers that are my preference.

I highly recommend the tool that @Mancuniesis linked to, and also second his advice to keep the lawn itself healthy.

I'm a bit more of the organic type, so I tend to avoid herbicides as much as possible. I can say that it is possible to get good dandelion control sans herbicides if you're willing to keep up with the manual work. It's a small amount of work, but you can't let it wait, because, as @winwaed pointed out, it's very important to pull them before they go to seed. If you spend a few minutes each week early in the season attacking the weeds as they start to appear though the lawn, you can get the upper hand on them. I had a lawn that was pretty well infested, and after a couple of seasons of pulling them up with that Fiskars tool, the number of new weeds that came up each declined greatly.

And the Fiskars puller is an easy tool to use. I would sometimes leave it in an easy to reach place so I could yank a weed whenever I saw it, even if I was still in my office clothing. It will, of course, always leave a bit of root behind, but with a little persistance and a healthy lawn, the remaining roots will eventually be beaten back.

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To understand why you have dandelions in the first place goes a long way into preventing them.

A dandelion is not a "weed" it is what is known as a Pioneer Plant.

Pioneer species are hardy species which are the first to colonize previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems, beginning a chain of ecological succession that ultimately leads to a more biodiverse steady-state ecosystem.1 Since some uncolonized land may have thin, poor quality soils with few nutrients, pioneer species are often hardy plants with adaptations such as long roots, root nodes containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and leaves that employ transpiration. Pioneer species will die creating plant litter, and break down as "leaf mold" after some time, making new soil for secondary succession (see below), and nutrients for small fish and aquatic plants in adjacent bodies of water. Full Description

When a home is constructed there is something that happens that causes all lawns/soil to be low quality. The construction company comes to the plot of land and before constructing the house they scrap away all the top soil and sell it. Most people don't know that their humus layer of soil is stolen and sold [Though this is besides the point :)].

Because the soil is now super bad quality very little can grow there. The pioneer plants are the plants that are first adopters and will work to fix the soil till things become bio-diverse.

Dandelions love acidic, low nutrient soil. They will continue to grow in this environment until it is no longer acidic and has an over abundance of nutrients to support an array of plant life.

So your options for really taking it to your dandelion problem include:

  1. Balance the pH and add nutrients of your entire yard via composting additions
  2. Leave the dandelions alone, until they do it for you. Every time you pull them up or kill them you make the environment for dandelions even better for them.
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I think it could longer than some people's lifetime for dandelions to improve a sub soil. So you are right but a better answer would be to add more detail about composting additions as a solution. –  kevinsky Jul 6 at 13:33

Begin

Repeat Until

   Dig out plant;
   pour boiling water in plant hole ;
   fill hole with peat;
   sow seed on top;
   wait for new growth;

All dandelions gone;

End

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This isn't going to be practical even in a small lawn. –  J. Musser Jul 6 at 2:28

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