Building a Better Community Since 2007

50 Cents a Bucket

Montana Grant  |  Thursday May. 31st, 2018

Dandelions can be found in everyone’s yard or pasture. Ironically, dandelions were brought from Europe with the first immigrants. The name is French for “Lion’s Tooth,” which refers to the edges of the leaves. This “useful weed” is served as food and could be made into wine. Some people actually farm it!

My Dad would pay me 50 cents a bucket to dig these weeds out of the yard. He gave me a WW2 Bayonet from a World War 2 Bolt action rifle. He instructed me to locate the base of the weed and stab straight down, deeply, next to it. Dandelions have very long roots, so you need to get as much as you can. If you don’t get most of the root, the weed will regenerate. If the weeds are huge, spray a directed shot of herbicide, or vinegar, into the root hole. Small dandelions are important to target since they have shallow roots and can be eliminated completely.

I spent hours filing buckets with dandelions. Big ones filled the bucket faster. I also targeted the seeded puffs carefully to not spread a new crop. At first, my “air fill full” buckets did not pass muster. My Dad would push down onto the “filled” bucket and if his hand sank more than a few inches, it was back to work. Fifty cents was a lot of money back in the day. Ten buckets of golden dandelions were $5 in my pocket. Heck, that would buy a tank of gas, some shotgun shells, or some fishing lures!

Don’t put dandelions into your mulch pile. The seeds will contaminate the mulch and the weeds will return wherever you place your mulch. Even unopened flowers will sprout seeds. Since dandelions spread their seeds using airborne adaption, they are found just about everywhere the wind blows. These adaptive weeds are amazing survivors. They ride the wind currents for miles and quickly take root.

Fertilizers and herbicides are chemicals that may affect pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans. Use the best environmentally friendly product available for large spaces. Follow application directions and do not exceed limits. More is not better when talking about chemicals. Time release products are an excellent choice. These fertilizers last longer and create better results.

Lawn fertilizers, such as Weed and Feed, work great for the short term. The herbicide stimulates dandelion growth. The weed grows so fast that it goes into stress, leaves wither, and the Mother plant dies. The problem is that when plants go into stress, they also go to seed, to reproduce. The dandelion flower becomes a puff ball seed blossom and hundreds of airborne seeds are spread. Months later, your weed problem is back, and you need another herbicide application at $20, or more, per 5,000 square feet. It says on the bag that the product only works for 3 months! Surprise! What a sweet deal for fertilizer/Weed and Feed products.

The way to beat the weeds is to dig them up before they turn to seed. Since the Weed and Feed was applied before the grass begins to grow, the weeds are easier to spot. Get rid of the weeds the right way to permanently get them out of your yard. The problem with this strategy is that a small hole will be left. Spray a spritz of vinegar into the hole to kill any roots left behind. Dandelion roots can be a foot or more long. After a day or so, toss some grass seed into the hole and add a bit of soil if needed. If you are going to do the job right, finish what you start.

Try using a combination of solutions to rid your yard of dandelions. Pick the blooms before they turn to seeds. Chickens and rabbits love to eat dandelions. A burner torch will singe the tops quickly. Herbicides, sprays, and other chemicals like muriatic acid also will do the job.

BUT… there is always a BUT! This BUT refers to the neighbors that don’t follow any weed control and allow their crop of dandelions to infest the rest of the neighborhood. The good news is that once you get atop of your weed problem, the future management is less time consuming and expensive. Maybe a neighborhood covenant policy is needed for the Dandelion Weed Sanctuary Lawns.

Many lawn farmers will not mow their dandelion filled lawns until later in the season. Bees, pollen beetles, butterflies, and moths enjoy the abundant nectar found in the dandelions flowers. It is said that dandelions are the first flower of spring and the last in the Fall. Around here, peak dandelion season is May and June. Families with children and pets need to consider whether to attract stinging bees or not.

Allergies or Hay Fever are at an all time high. Dandelions, along with other fragrant flowers are at the top of the pollen producing list. Pollen season seems to be stronger and longer than ever.

Dandelions are a great food source. I once went to dinner at a friend’s house and found the family picking the dandelion leaves in the front yard. The smaller ones were the best. The mother boiled the leaves in vinegar and added a boiled egg to the spinach like salad. The cooked weeds were very tasty. They are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. The dried roots can be ground and used as a coffee substitute.  Rinsing the lawn salad is a good idea especially if fertilizer, other chemicals, or pet waste, were applied.

Dandelions have been a part of the human pantry for centuries. Prepare them into a pesto, salad, smoothie, tea, jelly, syrup, bread, cookies, or an oil to relieve pain. Dandelions can be a valuable resource.

Some of the first wine I ever drank was Dandelion Wine. It wasn’t particularly good, but it had alcohol in it. A friend’s Mom, from the Old Country, would make it every year. The older neighbors loved it as an annual gift. It eased the stress of having a lawn full of dandelions. These unique yellow flowers are also a powerful Diuretic. They are also nicknamed “Pissy Beds” or “Wet the Beds” because of this quality.

You will never win the war against dandelions. All we can hope for is to keep them under control, kind of like the invasive Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake. If you need to only deal with a few stragglers, that’s way better than a school.     

As “Lawn Farmers,” we should enjoy the harvest our lawn provides for us. If you are not “One with the Power of the Dandelion,” follow the steps provided to eradicate them as best as you can. If you don’t care, just remember that your invasive weeds impact the entire county. Perhaps you can at least try spreading some Weed and Feed, mow more often, or start a Dandelion Distillery! It takes a Community! The reward is a lush, green, lawn and maybe 50 Cents in your pocket!   

About the Author(s)

Montana Grant

Montana Grant is a retired Educator, Consultant, Naturalist, Guide, and freelance writer, he spends much of his time sharing and teaching about the great outdoors. For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

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