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Revenge of the Dandelions

Updated on November 8, 2009
The Hunting Dandelion saga
The Hunting Dandelion saga

Revenge of the Dandelions

Dandelions, (Taraxacum officinale) are described as “weeds” by suburbia, the enemies of featureless lawns. In practice they’re edible herbs, used for centuries as food, and significant assets to any garden.

Dandelions are good soil analysts for gardeners. They’re opportunistic colonizers of vacant spots in any environment, but they have a trick up their leaves. They’re copper finders. Dandelions use a lot of copper, and where there’s copper, there’s good soil. If you can’t afford soil analysis, hire a few dandelions to check out the state of your topsoil.

Dandelions in lawns

Dandelions are also good weed mats. Unlike just about anything else that can grow in a lawn, they’re non poisonous, and will suppress invasive weeds very effectively. They also protect the soil from drying out, which can leach moisture from lawns very effectively in hot weather and damage lawn roots in the process.

(Bald patches on lawns are no accident. If you have a lawn which appears OK, with no frayed parts, and still have a lot of dandelions, they’re covering the small gaps which start the deterioration of your lawn. Leave them in place until you’re prepared to re-turf or re-seed.)

Dandelions in garden beds

As pollinator-attractors, dandelions are definitely the bee’s knees and ankles. They’re common forage for bees, and the bright yellow flowers are good beacons for them. A few dandelions hanging around the flower bed won’t supply the bees needs, so your flowers will get their business as well.

Dandelions also serve a very useful purpose in flower beds, keeping out weeds and maintaining your bed’s surface. The reason they’re there at all is because the surface was vulnerable. Be thankful you didn’t get a nasty guest in your garden instead.

Again, don’t remove the dandelions unless you’re ready to give the bed a decent makeover. If you remove them without covering the area, you’ve got a weak spot in your garden bed. They’re not actually very competitive with big plants, because of their relatively shallow root systems. Unlike real weeds, your flowers will be able to live with them.

As green mulch, dandelions are excellent. Lots of good green materials, and plenty of them. The copper value of dandelion mulch is excellent, and can save you a lot of money in fertilizers.

Dandelions and kids

If you have young kids, dandelions are safe flowers for them to handle. Unlike practically every other plant in a suburban garden, kids won’t need to go to hospital if they eat a dandelion.

Important: If you use herbicides, keep an eye out for any symptoms of distress.

Dandelions as human food

Dandelions are actually human food, too, and they’re good quality food, so much so that the European dandelion is part of organic growers’ repertoires around the world. The milk contains B vitamins, notably choline, an important part of the B group, as well as useful copper, which humans use for respiration.

If you use dandelions as part of a salad, make sure they’re well washed. They’re like slightly bitter, tough lettuce, but have much more minerals and good chlorophyll levels.

Dandelion root coffee is delicious, slightly bitter, but not very, if you’re used to good coffee. With honey, on a cold night, it’s a real experience.

Important: Dandelion is used as a diuretic, so be aware of any possible ramifications if you have a related condition.

Dandelions as animal food

If you have vegetarian pets, the dandelions could be an excellent source of greenery for them, and very nutritious.

However-

What’s food for some isn’t for others. Check and make sure that your pet is OK to eat them. Having checked, wash the dandelion leaves thoroughly. A small amount of leaf will tell you if your pet’s interested or not.

Dandelions are the good guys

If I’ve given the impression that you’re better off with dandelions than without them, I’ve done my job effectively. They are particularly useful plants, requiring zero maintenance, and no threat to anyone or anything. The only real control required is an oversupply, and even that will provide you with some useful gardening options.

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    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Yeah, this was practically an article of faith. Of all things to call a "weed", I've seen encyclopedias full of things that would deserve that description more than dandelions.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      8 years ago from New Brunswick

      Dandelion fan here.

    • profile image

      jokerswild 

      8 years ago from mgamaccarone@gmail.com

      And there's nothing more heart warming than receiving a fresh picked Dandelion from a child.

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