How to get rid of dandelions naturally? That’s going to be a tough chore, as anyone could attest. Fortunately, there are great ways to control these stubborn perennial weeds without using commercial herbicides. I’m going to discuss about three ways of getting rid of dandelions naturally.
Dandelion, also called Taraxacum officinale, is found growing in regions with a temperate climate, such as Asia, North America, and Europe. It’s part of the daisy (Asteraceae) family and is famous for its dark yellow flowers, which turn into spherical seed heads (“blowballs”) that kids love to blow away.
It’s awfully hard, or almost impossible, to kill dandelions. Dandelions have been a persistent problem by many Americans for the past five decades. They can survive almost any climate, even cold winters. And it grows anywhere—fast.
The good news is that you can do something to significantly reduce their numbers. If you’re the type who doesn’t like using commercial chemical-based herbicides, there are natural ways to do this. Here are some of the steps for getting rid of dandelions.
How to get rid of dandelions naturally in your lawn
Solution #1: Maintain Your Lawn Properly and Regularly
This is perhaps one of the best all-natural approaches out there. Keeping your grass thick and healthy will ensure dandelions and other weeds won’t have a chance to thrive in your yard. So, how do you go about this?
Leave Your Leaves Right on Your Lawn
If you’re looking for a great reason not to rake or bag your lawn leaves and grass clippings, here it is. Leaves and grass are great natural fertilizers and weed killers. As you may already know, a soil that’s deficient in certain nutrients (nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, iron, etc.) won’t be able to support plant and grass health, resist drought, and fight off pesky weeds.
It’s quite easy to know if you have poor soil. Just take a look at the grass or plants growing there. For instance, grass in nitrogen deficient soil will usually turn yellow.
The nutrient content of mulched leaves will vary per plant species. The average range of nitrogen in dry leaves will be between 0.5% and 1%. Fresh grass clippings, on the other hand, have around 4% nitrogen content.
But the question is, are mulched leaves effective against those eyesore dandelions? A 2009 study suggests that they do. Regardless of tree species—in this case, maple and oak—pesticide-free mulched leaves were able to reduce the population of common dandelions by up to 80%.
Steps for Mulching Leaves
Step 1: Collect your dry leaves or grass clippings into piles, and then chop them using your lawnmower with a bag.
Step 2: Wet (not soaked) shredded leaves after every one foot pile before putting them in punctured black garbage bags. You could also use a compost bin if you have one.
Step 3: Allow the leaves to rot undisturbed for about twelve months, or at least until next spring.
Step 4: Put down a thick layer of mulched leaves to make sure new weeds don’t sprout. A good rule of thumb is to lay as much as 2 to 3 inches, or even up to 6 inches, of mulch to prevent light from coming through.
- Make sure your lawn’s soil has been weeded before laying the mulched leaves.
- Please avoid using herbicide-treated grass clippings.
- Combine fresh grass clippings with leaves, so they won’t produce a strong, unpleasant scent. A good ratio to follow is 3 parts compost leaves and 1 part fresh grass clippings.
Trim High, Trim Frequently
If you trim grass at the recommended height, they will grow stronger and develop deeper roots. You can’t do that if you trim them too short.
First, grass that are mowed below the recommended height will have inadequate surface area for photosynthesis, a process where water and carbon dioxide are turned into food when exposed to sunlight.
Second, trimming high is important because it will help keep the soil moist and cool, thus preserving grass quality and health. And if grass is healthy, they’ll make it tough for dandelions to grow and thrive.
How high is ‘high’ and how low is ‘low’?
Well, a research found out that the growth of the roots of Kentucky bluegrass was doubled when the mowing height was at 2 inches (versus 0.75 inch). In general, you just make sure you cut between 2 inches (for spring and fall) and 3 inches (for summer), or not more than one-third of the grass height.
Frequency of mowing your lawn or garden is another important consideration. A good practice is to mow once every fourteen days.
Mow when grass and leaves are dry. Even when bad weather prevents you from following the mowing schedule, the grass still needs to be mowed. Just make sure to adjust your mower setting to the highest level. Then trim at the desired low height twice in different directions when the leaves or grass are already dry.
Water Your Lawn Grass Deeply and Infrequently
This is still part of the plan to make sure your lawn’s grass develop strong and deep roots. Deep means the water should reach a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
When it comes to the frequency of watering, it depends on a lot of factors, such as grass species, weather, and soil type. One thing’s for sure, watering frequently will promote shallow rooting systems and put your lawn at risk for different stress-related injuries and diseases.
Here are a couple of signs to look for to know if the lawn needs watering:
- Grass and plants start to change in color, like from green to yellow
- Takes longer than normal to spring back into shape
- The top portion of the soil has dried out
There are two ways to know for how long you should leave your watering system activated in order for water to seep 6 to 8 inches deep.
- Turn on your watering system or household sprinkler for about an hour. Turn it off, and then wait for two hours before probing the soil using a shovel. Keep digging until you determine how deep the moisture has leaked.
- Others do it by placing a couple of straight-sided containers (paint tins, jar, tuna cans, etc.) around the sprinkler area, wherein they could catch some water. Time the entire procedure until the desired water amount in the containers is achieved.
Tips: Stab the soil to facilitate water seepage. Water your lawn in the morning to avoid rapid water loss due to evaporation. And postpone watering when it’s windy.
Solution #2: Use Essential Oils as Natural Herbicides
An essential oil, a misnomer, is a highly volatile (disperses rapidly) and concentrated plant extract. Scientific studies say plant essential oils contain natural components, such as phenols and terpenes, that stunt weed growth and either attract or repel insects.
There are several reasons why plant essential oils are great alternatives to commercial synthetic herbicides. For one, they’re eco-friendly. They don’t accumulate on the soil because they’re easily broken down by enzymes and microbes.
Some of the essential oils used as herbicides are peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, and lavender oil. In one particular study, researchers found out that summer savory, clove, red thyme, and cinnamon were highly toxic for dandelion leaves. The most potent among them is cinnamon oil, which herbicidal activity is due to its major active component called eugenol.
Lavender essential oil is also highly effective against weeds, as evidence by a research performed in Italy. Elena Sturchio and colleagues further suggested that this essential oil was lethal even at low concentration. What’s more, lavender essential oil has an effect on soil fungi and microorganisms that are directly concerned in crop growth.
How To Kill Dandelions Naturally with Essential Oils
- 1 tablespoon of liquid dish washing soap (this will allow the essential oil to stick to the dandelions.)
- 15 drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender, cinnamon, clove, etc.)
- 9 ounces of clean water
- Spray bottle
- Combine the water, essential oil, and dish washing liquid soap in the spray bottle. Shake it.
- Directly spray the solution on each dandelion. Be careful not to spray on the soil and important garden plants.
- You can repeat this process daily until the dandelions are dead.
Pure essential oils are irritating to the skin and could damage plants. So, make sure you wear gloves and cover important plants with garden fabric.
Solution #3: Burn Them with Vinegar
It’s cheap, effective, and eco-friendly. That’s why many like to use this as an organic herbicide, especially in combination with other weed prevention strategies. For instance, after laying down mulched leaves or grass clippings, the next step would be to use vinegar to maintain your lawn’s weed-free state.
Acetic acid is the component that makes vinegar a powerful weed killer. It works by sucking all the moisture out of the weeds until they die.
The higher the acetic acid percentage in vinegar, the more potent it is (obviously). But here’s the thing. The acetic acid percentage of your ordinary household distilled vinegar is too low. Specifically, its acetic acid percentage is only 5%. That’s why you may have to reapply your homemade vinegar herbicide solution a couple of times to get the desired results.
Tip: Boil the vinegar prior to use in order to gain a higher acetic acid concentration.
The best times to use vinegar for killing dandelions is between mid-spring and early fall. Why? Experts say it’s during these seasons that dandelions’ two growth phases start.
Making your own vinegar herbicide is pretty straightforward. However, many people use different solution formulas and add-ons. Some combine one gallon of distilled vinegar with one tablespoon of dish washing liquid soap and one cup of tablet salt. For covering smaller areas, you could perhaps mix together four cups of distilled vinegar, two teaspoons of dish liquid soap, and one-fourth cup of table salt.
Should you use diluted or pure vinegar? If you base it on trials and experiences of other people, full-strength vinegar is still the fastest and most potent way to kill pesky weeds.
There’s another important requirement in order for this to really work: a sunny weather. There are two reasons why you should apply vinegar under this weather condition.
First Reason: If it’s raining, it will obviously wash away the vinegar you sprayed on the leaves of dandelions.
Second Reason: Vinegar will dehydrate the dandelions, but sun light will do the real damage a couple of days after the application.
- No doubt that vinegar is environmentally friendly. The downside is it will destroy all vegetation in its path. That’s why you should carefully plan the best way to apply it, so you won’t end up with burned and stunted garden plants.
Final Thoughts on How to Get Rid of Dandelions
In fairness to dandelions, they’re not as bad as many people would think. They’re actually good for your health. They contain impressive levels of vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A and C, copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. No wonder they’re used in salads and as teas.
Well, if you’re not impressed and really dislike dandelions, it’s great to know that you have options that are effective and non-chemical based. There are growing concerns regarding the toxic and carcinogenic effects of artificial herbicides. One wrong use or prolonged exposure to these synthetic herbicides could compromise your health, as well as your loved ones and pets’ health.
Proper and regular lawn maintenance is hard work, but it’s a key step to banishing or reducing the numbers of dandelions in your yard. If that’s not enough, use organic weed suppressants, like vinegar, essential oils, and corn gluten meal.
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