Our goal here at Gardening Know How is to help fellow gardeners with their gardening questions. We are gardeners too, so we know firsthand the troubles and triumphs faced when growing plants. This includes weeds. While some plants, like dandelions, are considered a nuisance by most people, many others welcome their cheery yellow blooms each spring. In fact, I’m one of them.
Regardless of your personal stance, there’s likely a question or two waiting to be answered. Here are our most commonly asked questions about dandelion plants.
Of course, this is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding dandelion plants. Because of their long taproots and wind-blown seed, dandelions are often difficult to control. Even for those choosing to keep them, there’s a strong chance they will spread to other parts of the landscape. Your best bet for ridding the area of dandelions is to dig them up. This means you’ll have to get all of its taproot; otherwise, the plant will regrow. If you have a large area, though, this may be too time consuming and turning to herbicides are usually the next step. While not my preferred method, broadleaf herbicides work well for this. Organic options are also available for getting rid of dandelion weeds.
There are a number of pet-friendly herbicides that you can try. That said, here’s a recipe that may help, and one that I’ve used in the past (before I started growing them instead). Mix a gallon of white vinegar (5 percent) with about a cup of table salt in a pan. Bring this to a boil so that the salt dissolves in the vinegar. Remove from stove and stir in about a tablespoon of dish soap, or approx. 8 drops. Allow the mixture to cool. Pour into spray bottle and use a stream setting to aim directly into the middle of the dandelion rosette – you do not want to kill the surrounding grass or garden plants. Dandelions should die within a day or so and it won’t harm your dogs or cats.
Oh my, yes! All parts of this plant (flowers, leaves, roots) are edible and chock full of nutrients. In fact, just a cup of dandelion greens is said to contain nearly twice as much iron as spinach. The best time to use the greens is when they’re small and tender so they’re less bitter. Anytime you plan on ingesting this plant, however, it’s a good idea to double check that it is a dandelion plant and not another lookalike, as there are many.
You may have better luck getting them from the plants themselves, as these grow prolifically nearly everywhere. Also, you may find someone more than willing to have you ‘uproot’ their dandelions for transplanting into your own garden. If you choose to get them from your yard or a neighbor’s, make sure the plants have not been treated with chemicals, or that dogs haven’t pottied on them. You could also search online, as many plants/seeds can be obtained there. Just be sure to check out the buyer beforehand. Once the plants have produced flowers, they will begin to die back and turn into the all familiar white puffy seedheads. Carefully remove the seedheads for planting.
Growing dandelion greens is super easy. You can start with plants already growing in your yard, provided they have not been treated with any chemicals. Just pop them up and replant, though be careful to get all of the taproot. It may be possible to plant pieces of root you have on hand too, should the taproot break off, but starting dandelions from seed is normally the easiest method for growing, and you can be assured that they’re not affected by any possible runoff or chemical drifts.
In general, browning leaf edges indicate some chemical imbalance in the soil, such as pH being a bit too high or low, or some mineral may be excessive or depleted. Another possibility is the roots of the plant being too dry. While dandelions can normally handle pretty harsh conditions, and are tolerant of drought for short periods, they prefer moisture. Also, there are a number of diseases that could cause browning. You may have luck taking some plants and soil to your local extension office for analysis.
Anytime you grow plants indoors, light will be a factor, and I expect that dandelions would be no different. So, if you’re choosing to grow these plants inside, make sure that you’re able to provide them with adequate light. If that isn’t an option, you may want to supplement with a grow light. As long as they get around 4-6 hours of light, they should be fine. These plants can grow just as well under shady conditions, and will actually help the bitterness factor when given less light. Since dandelions are known for their long taproots, you’ll need to provide a deep container for the plant to accommodate its growth. Plant in well-draining potting soil and water as needed.
I’m gonna say that spring would be the most ideal time for planting dandelions. If you’re starting from seeds, then you may need to refer to the seed packet for specific planting times since this could vary among varieties. Growing dandelions isn’t difficult, especially considering that most of these plants are considered weeds, meaning they grow easily and vigorously.
When and how you harvest dandelions will mainly depend on their intended use. If you’re using just the flowers, then you can snip the blooms as soon as they appear. Harvesting seeds means you’ll need to wait for the plant to establish seedheads. If the greens are what you’re after, simply pick the greens like any other leafy green plant, while young and tender. You can also dig up the entire rosette to use both the leaves and root. Keep in mind, however, that you should never harvest dandelions that have been treated with chemicals or that you’re unsure of.
Well, other than do away with them as many choose to do, you can eat them or use the plants for medicinal use (refer to a professional herbalist for that). The most common use is eating the dandelion greens, which can be added to salads or sautéed. The blooms can also be eaten fresh in salads or you can fry them into fritters or add in nearly any baked goods. The root can be used for making dandelion tea.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.