Did you get a chance to stop and smell the flowers last weekend? It is amazing to watch them go from tiny buds to fully open colourful carpets of life in your yard. Of course I have also noticed that the warm weather has brought out carpets of another flower in my yard. More specifically, the field of yellow is a sea of dandelions that is competing with the newly green lawn.

Sigh…

Dandelions

Genus Taraxacum; sunny yellow dandelions

Welcome to life as a homeowner. So what do we do with these sunny weeds that were brought over to North America compliments of our early European settlers? Now that is a question that has been asked by lawn lovers for an awfully long time. How about one of these helpful suggestions;

DANDELIONS: Fight or Foster?

I remember picking dandelions as a child and chanting the ominous little ditty “Mama had a baby and its head popped off”, as I popped the end of the flower off of its stalk. A bit macabre, but it filled hours of entertainment for all the neighbourhood kids and potentially eradicated at least a few new weeds in our parent’s lawns. Nowadays though, most North Americans first response when they see these infamous yellow flowers is to grimace. It used to be that you would get out the weed killer and spray those little buggers out of existence, but since 2009 cosmetic pesticides have been banned in Ontario. That means that if you want to get rid of the virulent Taraxacum invasion in your yard, you have to other means.

Dandelion Digger from Lee Valley

The obvious, but extremely time-consuming answer is to dig the dandelions out of your yard. Cutting them down with the lawn mower might remove the flower head and some of the long, tooth-shaped leaves, but you have to get to the root of the problem. Literally. Because even if you shear the plant to the ground, this perennial plant will keep coming back year after year. That is unless you pull the dandelion out, tap-root and all. And those tap-roots can be 15 cm or longer. You will need a ‘dandelion digger’, or a simple trowel (if your back can hack it). Your only other ingredient is time to dig them up.

Vinegar; the natural herbicide

If digging dandelions doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are some other options to get rid of those pesky plants. Dandelions need plenty of sunlight to grow. If you smother them, cutting off their source of sun, you will kill the flower. Of course if your yard is overrun by them, you will also be effectively killing the grass around them too. Think of this as a small-sized solution or conversely, a wide-reaching one. You can also pour boiling water over the plant several times a day until it dies. Vinegar also works to clean your world inside and out. Spraying vinegar on a dandelion plant works as an effective natural herbicide that won’t harm the soil or contaminate ground water.

There are a few other methods to combat your battle with dandelions. One is to over-seed your lawn. This simple step not only improves the health and look of your lawn, but it also chokes out weeds, making it harder for them to flourish. Another tip that lawn care companies will gladly suggest is to improve the quality of your soil. Dandelions love acidic soil. If you improve your soil with mulch or compost, dandelions get weaker and less likely to thrive or take root in the first place. As a bonus, this also makes them easier to pull out!

Of course you could also learn to love the prevalent weed. They do make for sunny spots in amongst the green grass in the spring. They are also edible, from their roots, to bitter leaves, to brilliant yellow flowers. You can add leaves to your salad for a dash of calcium and iron. They also contain vitamin A, B complex, C, D, potassium, and even zinc. Plus, they are low in calories! The common dandelion has even been used in various herbal remedies, such as being used as a diuretic, stimulating appetite, aiding digestion, detoxifying the liver and gallbladder and just generally improving the immune system. Not bad for a plant that most homeowners consider a scourge on their property.

So if you break down and pick a pack of dandelions this spring, why not think of taking them to the kitchen, instead of depositing them in your local yard waste bags. This recipe for dandelion pesto from David Lebovitz, just might help to sway you in leaving at least a small pocket of yellow in your yard, if not for your children than at least for your culinary taste buds. Enjoy!

Dandelion Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces (350g) washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup (250ml) olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons (40g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces (70g) Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Put about one-third of the dandelion greens in the food processor or blender with the olive oil and chop for a minute, scraping down the sides. Add the remaining dandelion greens in two batches, until they’re all finely chopped up.

2. Add the garlic cloves, pine nuts, salt, and Parmesan, and process until everything is a smooth puree.

3. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. If it’s too thick, you can thin it with more olive oil or water.
Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to four days. The top may darken, which is normal. You can pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent that. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Good luck with your (delicious/dastardly) dandelion dilemma!

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