Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weeds Week: Eliminate Dandelions the Organic Way

Dandelions like to grow in acidic soil, a pH of around 6.9 and lower. Once this nuisance of a plant will find a home in your lovely garden, it means war!
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When I worked for a few months in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, during summer time I noticed the huge dandelion blooms and 'seed heads' everywhere floating in the summer breeze. I once visited a friend who was busying herself with a dandelion remover. I told her that it is impossible to control the dandelions from invading her pretty little lawn for there were an 'umpteen' of the pesky puffballs already thriving in her garden. Plus, I observed her neighbor's lawn to be occupied with dandelions as well. You know what they say about dandelions, "if your neighbor has it, then expect it will come to you too." Luckily for me that time, I rented an apartment at a tenth floor so I just had a small container garden then and "0" dandelions.

Enough chit-chat, let's get to the nitty gritty details, how do we eradicate dandelions?

First and foremost, one should be aware that this weed has a strong taproot system (with several secondary roots branching out). The roots help the entire plant to anchor firmly in the ground. Once the weed is established in the soil, it then rapidly grows and flowers in early summer to late summer, and then produce seeds come fall. Unlike other plants, dandelions do not need the help of pollination to reproduce seeds. In fact, a dandelion reproduce through asexual means which explains why it spreads like wildfire.The seeds are attached to a parachute tail which assists in propagation.

TIP 1 - Controlling in Numbers

If your lawn is infested with dandelions, then I suggest you should secure:

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1) a dark colored tarp
2) heavy stones
3) hot, boiling water

Pour boiling, hot water over the weeds and it will eradicate all parts of the dandelion down to its root level. Be careful not to pour the water on nearby plants or it will be damaged as well.

Cover the area with your dark tarp and secure the edges with the rocks. Lack of sunshine will disrupt the photosynthesis of the dandelion and will eventually kill it.

TIP 2 - Mowing Away

When dandelions are competing against your turf grasses and you want to eradicate them, use a lawnmower. Mow at the time when dandelions have not yet started to produce flower buds. Set your lawnmower at high to exclude cutting the grasses. Constant cutting of the leaves of this weed will also hamper its ability to make food and thus inevitably eliminate it from your garden. Dispose all the clippings in a sealed plastic bag before dumping it a compost bin to prevent the weed from reproducing.

TIP 3 - Dig Out

Do this tip only if the soil is moist and there are a few dandelions in your garden. Using a shovel or a garden knife, dig out the dandelion all the way to its roots. Use the tool as a lever to uproot the whole plant system.

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