Advice to the public about dandelions moving from nuke ’em to eat ’em


by SusanDandelion2
The other day I discovered this advice sent by DC’s Extension Service to a local weatherman for posting to
his blog.  First we are told to respond to the dandelion "invasion" by applying a broadleaf herbicide once in May. Then…

On the other hand, areas with
massive populations of dandelions need to be tackled now to reduce the
amount of seeds produced, and to reduce the competition of the
dandelions with the turfgrass. This action will require a second spring
application of broadleaf herbicides later in the spring/early summer,
if other weeds are present.

Most of the broadleaf herbicides are
formulations of 2,4‑D, MCPP, dicamba, MCPA, 2,4‑DP or some combination
of these products. Read the labels on these products carefully, paying
close attention to limits to the number of applications permitted per
year, timing of mowing in relation to the timing of application,
environmental conditions, and avoidance of runoff into bodies of water.

No surprise, coming from the Extension Service that directed me NOT to "promote the environmental agenda" when I wrote gardening fact sheets for them – a directive I pretty much ignored.  Naturally I left comments on the blog suggesting a different attitude toward synthetic herbicides and dandelions in particular, and so did DC Urban Gardener prez Ed Bruske.  (After all, he wrote about the good eating and good drinking that can be gleaned from dandelions for Martha Stewart Living.)

The little dust-up on the blog made me wonder if this kind of chemical warfare is still being recommended by other Extension Services, and I was pleased to find the very enlightened approach taken by Maryland’s. That link goes beyond mere organic weed control to suggest weed tolerance by the homeowner – imagine!  And the other mention of dandelions on their website is this one about how to grow a low-maintenance meadow.  No wonder that’s the Extension Service that local Master Gardeners direct the public to for environmentally responsible advice, even the ones in Virginia (where they’re still steeped in pre-Rachel Carson thinking).  DC’s Extension Service doesn’t even have a website, thank goodness.

Further evidence that the tide is turning is this decidedly pro-dandelion and anti-toxin piece by Joel Lerner in the Washington Post. Then of course has lots to say about dandelions, as does the eco-friendly company Gardens Alive.

It’s funny that this pro-herbicide advice appeared in DC the same week we’re seeing the amazing news out of Canada that Home Depot and other big stores are taking crap like 2,4-D off the shelves!  Voluntarily, according to this story, but surely just ahead of the government order to do just that.  Incredibly, the cosmetic use of synthetic pest control products is being banned by communities and now provinces across the great nation of Canada, which has "reached a tipping point on pesticides and will eventually become a nation of organic gardeners, at least for residential areas."

Well, maybe under the next U.S. president we’ll all wake up, smell the dandelions, and choose not to nuke ’em after all.

Photo by Nutmeg66.


  1. The writer’s attitude is pretty typical of the sort of lawn jockey who believes in total weed control, not just to preserve the pristine monoculture that is his own lawn, but out of a sense of civic duty to protect the purity of all lawns in the neighborhood. A relaxed attitude toward weeds is akin to Communism to this sort of fellow.

  2. I love dandelions!! I remember my dad thinking they were pretty and putting up with the disapproval of our neighbors when he wouldn’t eradicate them.

  3. This is a great topic for me because I am one of those of whom the neighbors disapprove! But I have found that if I go out early in the day and just pick the yellow flowers, no one from 50 feet away can see the rest of the weed. There is no way I can dig them up by hand and I won’t use weed killers. This year I may try the leaves in salads.

  4. Got out the dandelion digger, the knee pad, and cranked some good ol’ rock n roll – – over 100 properly picked out by the root today! Down from 300 last year – – must have lost 2 lbs – feel great! Organic rocks! Spray my _ _ S!

  5. I don’t like my lawn run amok with dandelions and have been trying to kill them for a few years. They still keep coming back though in fewer numbers. I never use weed & feed products, and only spot spray them when the blossoms are mowed. It’s still 2-4-D I use and I guess I should feel guilty. I’m not using any chemicals now because of all the birds making babies. Spent the day pulling weeds. Use the weed killers when the birds are gone and the bloosoms are mowed so the bees aren’t attracted. Will be happy when weed & feed is taken off the market because hardly anyone reads the fine print.
    The president has more to worry about than dandelions! Wouldn’t think that George & Laura would want Barney & Mrs Beasly running around in the White House lawn treated with too many herbicides.

  6. If you want to convert dandelion haters all you have to do is send them a bottle of homemade dandelion wine.

    My dad makes it every year and it’s so good that not only do I let my dandelions go to seed in my yard, but I’m almost ready to start planting them myself. 🙂

    And obviously you can’t use lawn chemicals if you’re doing this, so that kills two birds with one bottle of wine.

  7. I’m so glad to hear that Maryland’s Cooperative Extension is enlightened–some progress is being made. This obsession with perfect lawns has got to go!

  8. I’ll be glad for the day when they ban all these chemicals from over the counter use and treat them like prescription drugs. And then if you need to spray something you’ll have to hire a licensed applicator or pay to take the test yourself so you know what you’re doing.

    Ever look at the LD on the backs of some of this stuff – scary.

    Sometimes there is a need a for chemicals but not to the extent that I see homeowners doing.

    As for dandelions, I remember my mother making dandelion wine. Good stuff.

    And regarding a way to organically control them on a limited scale (think smaller property) is to periodically pick all the blossoms so they can’t increase in population. And then, as time allows, dig them out section by section.

  9. Dandelions are among the varied ‘wildflowers’ in my flowery mead of a lawn. I haven’t made wine, but I have eaten the young leaves in a salad. I also pick a few every day and give them to my chickens who love them. I guess not everyone is fortunate enough to have a flock of pretty chickens.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent
    herbicide. It isn’t fast acting, but it is safe, and will also provide nitrogen fertilizer. Jeff Gillman talks about this in his book The Truth About Organic Gardening

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