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As part of my other question, I started uprooting dandelions. How successful, exactly, in removing the root, I'm not sure.

Assuming that I am not always extracting 100% of the root, what can I put in the dug-up "grave" to prevent or stunt future dandelion growth? For example, if I put salt, it's not likely the dandelion will grow back -- but neither will anything else! (I plan to eventually grow something.)

So, what can or should I be putting in here? Is grass seed "okay" or "good enough?" Is there something benign that will compete with dandelions?

Chemicals are a no-go -- I have young kids who play in the backyard, and in my area, they just banned a whole slew of lawn chemicals.

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2 Answers

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+50

I haven't tried this, but I might take a two-pronged approach:

  • Squirt a little vinegar down the hole -- maybe 5mL with a child's medicine dropper to get it down in the hole. I don't know if 5mL is enough to really do anything to the dandelion, but it shouldn't be enough to cause collateral damage. IANAL, but I can't imagine that vinegar qualifies as a banned herbicide, and at any rate, it's perfectly safe for kids.
  • Then fill in the hole with finely screened compost, smooth the surface, and sprinkle a pinch of grass seed over the top. Keep moist until it germinates.

My hope is that the vinegar would damage any remaining taproot without causing damage to the lawn, the compost will buffer the germinating seed from the vinegar and feed the new grass, and the lawn seed will sprout and grow in thickly before the dandelion gets a chance to regrow.

(After writing the answer above, I found this article about battling dandelions with vinegar, so it looks like what I've described above has been done before. About halfway down they mention that the best time for this treatment would be in autumn.)

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How To Get Rid of Dandelions: The best way to get rid of dandelions is to remove them by hand. The key is to get all, or as much as possible, of the long taproot, since the plant can regenerate from any root pieces that remain in the soil. Water the area the day before you plan to weed, then use a long, narrow tool, such as a flat screwdriver or dandelion digger. Insert the tool as deeply as you can next to the crown of the dandelion, and wiggle the tool to loosen the soil around the root. Test to see if it is loose by gently tugging on the plant. Once there is little resistance, pull the dandelion out of the soil.

How To Prevent Dandelions: Soils with low levels of calcium, and that don't break down organic matter quickly, are havens for dandelions, especially in lawns. If you have a lot of dandelions, top dress your lawn in the fall with compost. This will improve the nutrient level and introduce microbes that will break down organic matter more quickly. In addition, mow your lawn high and use a mulching mower to leave your clippings on the lawn. Try to remove any existing dandelions before they go to seed. For garden beds, a three inch layer of mulch will usually prevent dandelions from popping up. -http://organicgardening.about.com

But if I could convince you to spare these well-intended yet invasive buggers:

The dandelion plant is a beneficial weed, with a wide range of uses, and is even a good companion plant for gardening. Its taproot will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to soil. It is also known to attract pollinating insects and release ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen. http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/companion-planting.html

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Nice answer. But, doesn't address my specific question. I don't mind the dandelions themselves, but the leaves are very spiny, and it makes the backyard unusable for playing. Plus, it sucks up nutrients that could go to other plants. –  ashes999 May 21 '12 at 15:05
    
Let me explain further, when I read "Soils with low levels of calcium, and that don't break down organic matter quickly, are havens for dandelions" I interpreted that as calcium (lime or chalk) will prevent or diminish the growth of dandelions. –  SuppositoryPlacebo May 22 '12 at 15:10
    
So you're proposing I put a piece of lime or chalk in dandelion graves? Seriously? (And if so: how will that affect future growth of anything else?) –  ashes999 May 22 '12 at 15:24
    
I am suggesting that perhaps twice in one month you spread a light layer of lime or chalk over the entire area you intend to prevent dandelion from growing. Calcium carbonate will help improve the uptake of major nutrients in all plants growing in acidic soil. –  SuppositoryPlacebo May 22 '12 at 16:20
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@ashes999 are you sure those are dandelions? I've never seen dandelions with spiny leaves. Are they perhaps thistles? –  DA. May 27 '12 at 7:07
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