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Time to Deal With Those Darn Dandelions!
Q. I'm newto your show.  What is the best way to get rid ofdandelions?  I
don't like the taste of dandelion wine or greens.
           --RayWilliams; American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region;
Philadelphia

A. That's right,April showers have brung uslots of May flowers. Unfortunately, they're yellow and in your lawn! Sorryto disappoint you, Ray—but it's already too late to try and change yourmindand convince you to eat the greens from this first batch of dandies,which you couldhave enjoyed raw in a nice 'Spring tonic' salad or cooked up as aspinachsubstitute—the leaves are only nice and tasty before the flowerbudsform, after which they turn bitter. But you'll have a chance to savoryoungmembers of the next generation if you don't scorch thosepuffballsbefore they can drop seed, and then remove the perennial roots.

That's right—scorch! Yourmostimportant dandelion chore right now is to not allow any ofthose prettyyellow flowers to turn to white; those puffballs you used to love toblow intoyour friends' faces contain the seeds of hundreds more dandelions. Socut themdown quick like a bunny with a lawnmower or weedwhacker if they'restillyellow.

If they'realready ghostly white, you only have two options. 1) Destroy themwithoutspreading any seed with a little flamethrower; you can use the smallkind ofpropane torch sold for sweating pipes or get a real flame weeder likeBernzOmatic's "Outdoor torch" and do the job standing up; either way,incinerate those seed heads before they can propagate! Or, 2) Spread corn gluten meal on your lawn;no seed can germinate when this all-natural weed and feed is around!(We'lldiscuss the details on corn gluten in just a few minutes. But now,it'sback to flame!)

The originalflame weeder—BernzOmatic's "OutdoorTorch" (just attach a small, 'camp stove' size propane bottle to thelong metalwand, click it on, and the fiery tip will incinerate your dandelionseedsbefore they can sprout)—is available at hardware and garden stores ordirectfrom BernzOmatic; call them toll-free at 1-800-654-9011 (they don'tsellonline) and ask for Model JT 850, which features an automatic ignition.Lots ofother sizes and models are also available from BernzOmatic and a numberofother companies—check them out; flame weeders are great!

     An especiallyperfect one for the task that must follow this extreme act ofdead-heading—theremoval of the perennial roots—is the "Dandy Destroyer", a propane-powered device that sends 1800° of radiant heat through aspike to charthose not-so-dandy roots without harming your lawn, and with youstanding up! It's available from the Canadian company Rittenhouse; onthe webat www.rittenhouse.ca.  Toll free #: 1-877-488-1914.

     You can alsodestroy the roots with a well-aimed spray of herbicidal soap or avinegar-basedorganic herbicide. Just be careful and spray only the dandy, and notthe grassaround it. 

            Orinstead of destroying them, remove those roots with a tool thatpopsthem out of the ground, root and all, like an old fashioned hand-helddandelionfork.  Mechanical pullers like the "Weed Hound"—available in gardencenters—or the Water Powered Weeder from Lee Valley Toolsallow you to do the jobwhile standing up. All deliver the mineral-rich roots unharmed for yourcompostpile (so you get free phosphorus and potassium rich plant food out ofthe deal)and you don't have to poison yourself, your pets or your family!

The 'Water PoweredWeeder' is a long, thin metal shaft thathooks onto your garden hose and blasts water down into the root zone,allowingyou to essentially flood the suckers out; its availablefrom LeeValley Tools (www.LeeValley.com;1-800-871-8158).

YourLONG-TERM Dandelion Plan

Yes,dandelions make homeowners crazy, but holdback on those harsh chemical herbicides—you can pull or poisondandelions all you want, but if youdon't change your basic horticulturally-evil ways, they'll bebaaaaccck.  

To do the job right,spreadlawn-feeding, seed-killing corn gluten meal on your lawn when the veryfirstpuffballs appear in your neighborhood. This will prevent any newdandelions from taking root in your turf and give your grass a healthy,gentlefeeding. Thenslowlykill off old dandies AND prevent new ones by simply taking proper careof thatlawn!

Raise the cutting heighton your mower to two and a half tothree and a half inches—especially if you have bluegrass, which BREEDSdandelions when it gets the traditional American scalping.

           Thencontinue to feed your lawn correctly, so it develops the thickrootsthat deny dandies their hold.  Give up onthose steroid-like chemical fertilizers; the weak growth they cause invitesweeds. Instead, use that all-natural weed and feeding corn gluten mealin theSpring, and again when ghostly seed heads appear in lawns all aroundyou. Inthe Fall, feed with high quality compost or a gentle organic lawn food. 

Gardens Alivecarries corn gluten alone as "WOW"(short for "With Out Weeds"), and with added natural turf fertilizersas "WOWPlus". They're on the web at www.gardensalive.comor call them at 513-354-1482. Depending on where you live, you mightalso findcorn gluten for sale in bags at larger garden centers

"Whosaysthis stuff really works"?

TheeminentUniversity researcher who discovered it!

It all began when Dr.Nick Christians, a researcher at Iowa State University, used corn gluten mealin some turftests a few years ago, and the grass didn't sprout. Dr. Christians soondiscovered that the corn gluten contained naturally occurring compoundsthatprevent all seeds from sprouting—just like chemically-basedpre-emergentherbicides. AND corn gluten is VERY high in Nitrogen,the foodthat lawns crave the most. Eureka: A chemical-free weedand feedthat's so safe your family could eat it for dinner! If you'd like to read the research behindthis amazing discovery, visit Dr. Christian's corn gluten research pageat the Iowa State website: www.gluten.iastate.edu.

You Bet Your Garden  ©2004 Mike McGrath

HelpfulProducts from Gardens Alive!
If your having problems with dandelions too try some of these productsand watch them disapear!

WOW!Plus
Pre-Emergence Weed Control and Fertilizer
WOW! Plus lets you control pesky weeds while feeding your lawn with acomplete, balanced, and all natural
fertilizer. Easy to apply so it saves you time and money!

LawnsAlive!
Enjoy Beautiful Lawns with less Watering, Weeding, and Worring! The formula includesquick-release nutrients toprovide a greener lawn within 10-14 days.

TurfAlive! III Brand
Grows slower, stays shorter!
Turf Alive! III Brand grass sprouts and establishes itself fast. Yetonce it has been established it grows more slowly cutting down onmowing. Also has deep root system so it stays greener longer!