The Ten Most Un-Wanted Pests
 


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WANTED FOR: PARACHUTING ONTO PRIVATE PROPERTY, DEFACING LANDSCAPES

DandelionDandelion

Aliases Drifter; Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale; False Dandelion, Hypochaeris radicata

Description
Hangout: Sunny, well-drained soil
Physical Features: Up to 2' tall; stems are very short or underground (aboveground stalks aren't true stems); flower-topped, hollow green stalks grow out of leafy crowns; leaves 2-12" long form the crown at the base of the stalk; hundreds of small flowers form a buzzy ball that looks like a single, yellow bloom

Life Cycle
After the first frost, the last of the plants die, transforming fuzzy yellow heads into parachuting seed bombs. Winds or other disturbances give these daredevil delinquents the kick they need to launch toward new terrain, joining others that landed throughout the summer. New shoots also spread from the crown and any broken roots left in the soil.

CAUTION
DANDELION ACCOMPLICES LURK ON EVERY STREET, DISGUISED AS CHILDREN MAKING WISHES, BLOWING OFF THE PARACHUTING SEEDS.
Do in the Dandelions!

1. Patrol the area

  • Starting in early spring, stake out sunny areas for crowns and flowers.
  • Frequently patrol your lawn, carefully searching out trespassers.
  • Write down where problem areas occur, taking detailed notes on how big the invasion is and when you noticed it.

2. Make a positive I.D.

  • Dandelions are one of the most familiar wildflowers, but check out the mug shot if you need help recognizing the less familiar, leaf-like crowns.

3. Do a thorough background check

  • Like many other persistent weeds, dandelions can grow back from pieces left in the soil so it's essential to remove as much of the plant as possible when weeding. Then come back later to finish them off.

4. Determine the danger level

  • Years ago, dandelion was actually planted on purpose for its many uses. People would eat the crowns, make wine from the flowers, and coffee from the roots. It was also considered a folk remedy for many ailments.
  • This fuzzy-headed invader clearly makes itself at home in your lawn, but healthy lawns will keep it under control without your help.
  • If someone in your family is allergic to bee stings, dandelions may pose more of a danger since honeybees love the yellow flowers.

5. Make a plan

  • Do-Nothing Method
    -Leaving dandelions alone is a popular method. Many people don't mind them and some actually enjoy the color they add.
    -Healthy turf can grow faster than dandelions, crowding them out and keeping these sneaks from stealing too much ground.
  • Manipulative Measures
    -It's S.W.A.T. time! Hand-pull dastardly dandelions, yanking them from your lawn. Be careful to remove as much of the plant as possible. Mechanical weapons, like tools designed especially for dandelion removal, can be found in lawn and garden stores.
    -For areas around gardens or ornamentals, deprive the invaders of sun by putting down mulch. Use black plastic covering or natural mulch like woodchips to shade and starve new seedlings to death.
    -Boost your lawn's self defense by properly caring for it. See Lawn Care: Keeping Your Lawn and Lake Whatcom Healthy.
    -In gardens, don't always plant the same crop in the same row if some of your crops are better at fighting back weeds than others. For example, some types of onion do not compete with weeds very well, but corn and potatoes do. After planting a row with onions, plant with corn or potatoes the next season.
  • Secret Agents
    Competition from other plants takes a greater toll on dandelions than anything else. They battle for space, nutrients, and water.
  • Armed and Dangerous
    -Chemical retaliation is usually necessary only if you have no tolerance for dandelions at all. If you must get rid of them, cut dandelion crowns off at the soil and apply an herbicide solution, usually not concentrated herbicide, directly to the cut. Be sure to follow the directions on the label. And remember, more is not better-it's illegal.
    -Apply chemicals in the evening when honeybees are less likely to be around. Do not apply near other flowering plants.
    -Read and follow the directions for use, storage and disposal whenever you use an herbicide.

6. Evaluate the results

  • Record where you find dandelions so you can stake out those areas each spring before they produce seeds. Also document the size of dandelion raids each year. If dandelions are increasing in number every year, that might be a sign your lawn's health is declining.

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Lake Whatcom Cooperative ManagementWSU Whatcom CountyWhatcom County IPM
For more information, contact Scarlet Tang or Todd Murray
WSU Cooperative Extension (360) 676-6736
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