One of a lawn owner's greatest headaches is the dandelion. Each of these plants is capable of producing over 15,000 seeds that are easily spread around your property by both the wind and children who love to blow them away. But how did they become so prevalent and what are the best ways to keep them from popping up in your yard this year?
Dandelions are native to Europe and Asia, but they spread like wildfire after being introduced wherever Europeans migrated, including America. As an invasive species, they spread quickly and can now be found all across the country. Luckily, by using pre-emergent herbicides we can suppress their presence in our lawns.
Why Get Rid of Them?
As with any undesirable plant, dandelions absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil that you likely want to see used by your lawn and garden plants. Dandelions are perennial plants, meaning they will return each year if not treated.
Dandelions can prove extremely hard to get rid of because of their root system and the way they develop. A vertical tap root comes out of the bottom of the plant and by the time you notice it in your yard, it has already taken hold. A single plant can live up to ten years and flower multiple times a year, so without an effective removal method they can take over in a hurry.
“A single plant can live up to ten years and flower multiple times a year…”
What is a Pre-Emergent?
A pre-emergent is a chemical that is applied to your lawn to combat plants that have not germinated and sprouted yet. The goal is to use a pre-emergent early enough in the season that the dandelions never have a chance to break ground.
Pre-emergents are used for many applications other than dandelions. It is common to use pre-emergents in new flower beds to prevent weeds from growing through the topsoil or mulch. They are also used to prevent the growth of many other plants besides dandelions, like nutsedge, crabgrass, clover, and many more.
Unlike a pre-emergent, post-emergents are used to eliminate a plant after they have sprouted and are above ground. If you have gone around your yard with a bottle of Round-Up, spraying weeds in sidewalk cracks or along a fence line, you have used a post-emergent. Both pre and post-emergents come in a liquid form that is sprayed and a granule form that is spread on top of the ground.
Best Pre-emergents for Dandelions
Keep in mind that dandelions are perennials. If there have been some plants that have gone dormant and wintered in your lawn, they will come back to life in the spring. But, these pre-emergents are the best you will find to keep any new seed heads from sprouting.
At the top of our list, we have Barricade 4FL which contains the active ingredient prodiamine (40.7%). This is a liquid herbicide that will need to be mixed with water and applied with a sprayer. Depending on the type of grass in your yard, somewhere between .23 – 1.1 oz will cover 1,000 sq feet.
Barricade can be put out as early as January, and a single application is intended to last through the entire season. This is a professional-grade product that can be mixed with other herbicides and pesticides in a spray tank without altering its effectiveness.
This granular herbicide covers more broadleaf and grassy-leaf plants than any other on our list. To control dandelions effectively, you need to apply it at a rate of 3.5 lbs per 1,000 square feet. Use a rotary spreader to ensure your lawn is covered as evenly as possible. If rain does not water in the herbicide within three days, you need to water it into your lawn.
This is a professional-grade pre-emergent with the active ingredients isoxaben and trifluralin. A single application of the appropriate dose provides eight months of protection. If you notice after the initial application that dandelions are still appearing, you can apply additional rounds of Snapshot 2.5 TG. Just make sure that any follow-up applications happen at least 60 days after the first round.
Another granular pre-emergent rounds out our top three and includes another very popular active ingredient that keeps dandelions from sprouting – dithiopyr. One 50 pound bag can treat anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000 square feet depending on the type of grass you are treating. Cool-season grasses require less pre-emergent than warm-season grasses.
An added benefit to this Anderson’s product is that it also includes essential nutrients that fertilize your lawn at a 21-0-10 formulation. So not only are you keeping dandelions and other weeds from robbing your lawn of nutrients, but you are also feeding and nurturing the yard’s desirable grasses that are already there.
When to Apply Your Pre-emergent
To determine when and how to apply the pre-emergent you choose, it is crucial to read the instructions on each product’s label. Most should be applied in the early spring like the Barricade 4FL, but others like Snapshot 2.5 can be applied as early as January.
Labels also include information about how much of each herbicide you should apply to suppress your target plants. Be aware that some can pose health risks to pets and children if they are in an area of application before the chemical has had a chance to be absorbed. For these reasons, it is critical that you read and follow all directions before using any herbicide.
Mowing Tricks to Limit Dandelions
If dandelions are already appearing in your yard, you can use a couple of mowing tips coupled with a post-emergent herbicide to get rid of them. Mow with a bag and collect your clippings. The blade with take the flower off the plant and bagging your clippings will make sure you aren’t spreading more seed heads around your lawn.
Also, be especially sure not to scalp your lawn. Scalping can kill portions of grass which will allow weeds like dandelions to take hold. If there are already some dandelions present when you scalp a section of grass, odds are good there are seeds lying in wait, eager to sprout.
Dandelions can prove to be one of the more difficult plants to eradicate and suppress. Their perennial nature helps them take root in an area and return year after year. Luckily, with the use of pre-emergents, we can keep our lawns protected throughout the growing season. Barricade 4FL, Snapshot 2.5g, and The Anderson’s Dimension are three products that have proved effective at stopping dandelions before they start across the country.