Dandelions. To remove them or not? That’s a million-dollar question most gardeners ask themselves.
Of course, like many gardening tasks, we don’t have clear-cut guidance. We must weigh the pros and cons of each issue and decide what works best for our needs. And so we will look into the dandelion dilemma today.
This post will explore the following topics:
- What is a dandelion?
- Are dandelions good for anything?
- Dandelion nutrition.
- How to make dandelion tea.
- How do you pick and eat dandelions safely?
- Why are dandelions bad for your yard?
- The only natural way to remove dandelions safely, permanently, and without chemicals.
What is a dandelion?
The dandelion (Latin: Taraxacum officinale) is a native herb that originated in either the Mediterranean region of Europe or in Asia. It spread across the North American continent and is now a ubiquitous part of the American landscape. Although they have a sunny and cheerful flower that resembles a lion’s mane, most gardeners consider them a blight on their lawns. Conversely, herbalists covet these for their healing properties.
In fact, despite the slight, “weed,” botanists classify this hardy flower an herb. Although it is an edible with much nutritional value, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) warns that few large studies can confirm any claims that it heals specific ailments. Many articles across the internet make claims, but it appears you should exercise caution and discuss the potential healing benefits with your doctor before you try.
Dandelion nutrition (and safe harvesting tips)
The University of Wisconsin’s Agricultural Extension office put out a dandelion fact sheet explaining that almost all parts of the plant are edible, exercising caution about consuming the roots. Although the roots are technically edible, they are also a natural laxative and diuretic. Besides the roots, the milky sap that runs out of this herb contains latex. So if you have a latex allergy, avoid eating this plant. Finally, they warn that you should only eat from an area free of lawn chemicals or pesticides. Examine the plant for insects, dead or alive, and wash your harvest before you use it.
Eating dandelion plants provides the following nutrition in one serving:
% of RDA/100 grams
- 9% of dietary fiber
- 19% of calcium
- 19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
- 20% of Riboflavin
- 39% of iron
- 58% of vitamin C
- 338% of vitamin A
- 649% of vitamin K
How to make dandelion tea
Making dandelion tea is really no different than making any other herbal tea. Here are a few guidelines for brewing a cup to enjoy.
- Harvest some dandelion flowers and leaves from an area of yard free of pesticides, chemicals, or dog urine.
- Rinse the plant materials to remove any dirt or loose debris. Check under the leaves to make sure you don’t have bugs attached.
- Boil water.
- Pour six to eight ounces of water over the plant materials, cover it with a towel, and let it steep for two or three minutes.
- Strain into a fresh teacup. Enjoy a squeeze of lemon and enjoy.
The herb flavor is delicate and fragrant with a slightly sweet flavor.
Are dandelions good for anything?
Yes. Dandelions are “good” for three things:
- Nutritional value of dandelions: As you read earlier, these herbs provide excellent nutrition. In fact, some herbalists even cultivate them for consumption. something.”
- Soil aeration: These herbs have a long taproot, breaking up the soil and aerating it as it grows.
- Attracting pollinators: Undoubtedly, you have seen a fat and satisfied bumblebee feasting on dandelion nectar on a spring afternoon. The yellow lion’s heads attract bees, essential partners for pollinating your lawn and garden.
Why are dandelions bad for your yard?
Despite the nutritional needs these sunny yellow flowers can meet, they are also bad for your yard. Here are the reasons why many gardeners choose to remove these herbs from their yards.
- Nutrition competition: Dandelions compete with the grass for nutrients. Because of their sturdy and rugged nature, they usually win. This struggle for nutrients often results in the yellow flowers growing tall and straight and stunted grass growth.
- Water competition. Ditto for water. Especially in hot, dry climates where every drop counts, you’ll find gardeners removing them.
- Invasiveness: The puffballs of seeds blow apart in the gentlest of breezes, sowing more seeds until you see a yellow carpet instead of green grass.
- Appearance: Some people find the yellow heads punctuating their rich green grass annoying or unsightly, all a matter of preference
- Attracting bees: We also listed this as a “pro.” But people who have anaphylactic reactions to bee stings often go to great lengths to remove plants that bees find particularly attractive.
How to remove dandelions from Your yard permanently (a win-win!)
Some websites tout “organic” methods of killing weeds. Think boiling water or salt. While these tips can be effective, you have an enormous downside–they kill everything around the weed, too. So before you go boiling not only your weeds but grass and desirable plants, think twice.
On the other hand, you can invest in pre-emergent or post-emergent chemical treatments for your lawn and gardens. However, those are costly–both in terms of your wallet and environmental impact.
But wait…All is not lost.
You have one removal method left at your disposal–manually removing the dandelion, including the entire taproot. This gives you the best of both worlds. You can harvest the beneficial herb and enjoy it in tea or a dandelion green salad while ridding your lawn of the pesky and unsightly “weeds.”
This job is not for the faint of heart, it is time-consuming and takes a lot of work. But the benefits of manual removal outweigh the other options.
How to remove dandelions manually
Before you start, grab a couple of things from your shed: a weed fork (I prefer a Japanese style Hori Hori knife – here is a link to my exact tool) and a kneeling pad. Then it is time to get down to business.
Plan this job for an early morning while the ground is moist or, preferably, after a rain shower when you can more easily wrangle these flowers out of the earth.
Gently slide the weed fork next to the base of the plant, wiggling back and forth to loosen the dirt and prepare for extraction. As you feel the earth breaking, gently grasp the bottom of the dandelion plant, under the bottom leaves and begin gently tugging. You want to pull with enough oomph to loosen it up, but you do not want to break off the upper section. You will feel the loosening and eventually work it until the whole taproot pops out of the ground.
The takeaway on deciding to remove dandelions…or not
Whether you decide to cultivate an entire yard filled with dandelions to eat or you prefer to remove them, manual extraction is the only safe way to remove them permanently and without using chemicals or damaging the surrounding plantings. Besides, this removal method allows you to eat a free food source and enjoy a delicious cup of tea 🙂
Will you choose to remove your dandelions at the root and eat them? Discard them? Or let them grow? I would love to know–connect with us on social media. As always, I hope you have a happy DIY day.