help! I need earth-friendly weeding advice

Our new house came with a neglected lawn almost completely taken over by dandelions. We tried eating them (which was great for a few days) and mowing them down (that worked temporarily) but now they’re back. I’ve been scouring the internet for the best green way to handle them and have been overwhelmed by options. One site recommends pouring boiling water or sprinkling salt on them to kill them. Another recommends white vinegar, and yet another recommends a stronger, acetic acid solution, saying that salt is harmful to the soil. And of course, some say to just rip them out. At this point, I’m so confused — I’d really just like my lawn back! Have you had any luck with any of these methods, or can you suggest something even better? –Megan B.

From our partners
Rebecca

Try the Weed Popper available at Ace Hardware. It works great on dandelions and other weeds with tap roots. You’ll just have to pull them up this season and not let them go to seed to reduce the number of dandelions next season. Horticultural vinegar applied on a hot sunny day works ok, but kills the adjacent grass too.

Hopefully next year the population will be reduced, but it will probably take several years… and if you have neighbors with lots of dandelions in their yards too, it’s probably a losing battle.

when i moved into my house three years ago, it also had a very neglected yard. i am sorry to say that the only thing that worked was to get down with a little weed tool (i use fiskars aluminum weeder from home depot) and pop them out by their roots before they go to seed. it was a lot of work the first year and i still have to do it every spring but there are far less than that first year. also, i am finding that the better shape my lawn and garden is in, the less dandelions i get :-)

luckily, i don’t have neighbours with lots of dandelions in their yards too otherwise, as Rebecca says, it would be a losing battle …

good luck!!

Amy

We have used the weed popper on the dandelions and the clover that can tak-over… that and a lot of patience pulling and pulling. Since we have gotten our chickens, the weeds just don’t come back as fiercely and now just require some light maintenance pulling.

Dandelions have a deep tap root, which is why the gentler weed killers like vinegar or boiling water don’t work (they will kill your lawn, though!). You need to get the tap root out or they will just come back. I use a weeding stick (a metal stick with a little flat forked end on it). Your local nursery can help you find a tool for pulling tap roots.

I find the process of going through and pulling weeds really relaxing. Just me, the weeder, and a bucket. At the end of a session, you look up and there’s a big clear patch behind you.

lynne

we have this nifty dandelion weeder: it’s this skinny 3foot long metal contraption that pulls out the plant and root. You don’t have to bend over to weed, so it’s fast and painless. and chemical free.

lynne

oh, this is what I’m talking about: http://www.hound-dog.com/weed_hound.htm

If you wouldn’t have any zoning/neighbor issues, consider sheep or goats. I haven’t tried it since I don’t have a yard, but it is eco-friendly and goats have even been used to take out kudzu. See the following article about kudzu.

Or, you could just try Dandelion Wine!

Megan B

Wow! So it seems like physical labor is the best way, so I guess I’ll have to get one of those hounddog things. I can see myself on a hot and sunny day with my ipod on, ripping up dandelions.

I envy you for your “problem”. Dandelions are sooo good for you in so many ways. One of the kings/queens of wild herbs. For starters, great for kidneys and liver and said to detox the system.
Both the greens and the roots are good. The roots can be made into a coffee substitute, but my favorite idea, one I am about to try out myself, is to make lactic fermented soda. The roots of many plants contain lactobacilli, the same that make yogurt, and can be used to make a culture, which can then be used to make a fizzy and healthy pop drink like ginger beer and more. There are some video instructions at Learning Herbs . You can dry or roast the roots for later use (not for the soda culture), and “weeding” the lawn can be seen as harvesting.
And what’s left will enhance the lawn ;-)

Megan B

Oh Judy! You have no idea- I had plans to save some of the roots for tea, but a naturally fermented drink?! I’m intrigued! Thanks!

Willa

And if you’re going to be out there pulling out dandelions anyway, have you considered just digging up some of the sod as well and putting in some non-lawn plantings: edible landscaping, garden beds, native shrubs and ground cover plants — you can even reseplace native grasses which will do a better job of squeezing out those dandelions than your common lawn grasses will in the long-run.

nia

pull them by hand when the soil is wet. its really the only way to get rid of them. then take care of your lawn, aerate, de-thatch, overseed, get the soil analyzed if you have time. (this old house has great advice) a healthy lawn will take care of itself and weeding will be minimal.

also — removing lawn for beds, or tree planting is much better. you can never have too many tomatoes!

You may find this extreme but the Weedburner might be effective.

http://www.charlesandhudson.com/archives/2006/08/weed_burner.htm

Phyllis

Use 20% vinegar. I order mine from Marshall Grain Co. in Forth Worth TX. They sell it in cartons of 4 one gallon jugs. The stuff is MARVELOUS! Spray it on anything you want dead; it starts curling up and turning brown within hours and the next day it is d-e-a-d. Just be absolutely sure you don’t get it on plants you want. It kills by going in the leaf, through the stems and into the roots. Then it disappears into the soil—no harm done. http://www.marshallgrain.com

Phyllis