How to Grow: Dandelions

Learn about dandelions, including how to control and eat them.

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Peter Campion called it “the flower that is a weed that is a flower”. We call it the dandelion. Dandelions are one of the most maligned flowers in our yard and they shouldn’t be. They have a rich history in Europe as a medical and edible plant stretching back to the 11th century. The name derives from the French “dent de lion” or tooth of the lion referring to the serrated leaves.

dandelion greens

When the Mayflower landed in North America, there were no dandelions. Blame it on the pilgrims who brought them here for good reason. Dandelions are rich in calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C. A serving of dandelion greens has as much calcium as half a cup of milk. You can also make wine from the flowers and roast the roots as a coffee substitute.

So if I’ve convinced you to consider seeing dandelions in a new light, try growing some in your garden. Cultivated varieties are better than wild ones because they feature tall, easy to cut leaves with a more delicate flavor. Grow them as you would other greens using young leaves in salad mixes. To remove some of the bitterness, eat them cooked, or blanch plants by covering the dandelions in the garden a few days before harvest.

But if you just want to rid your lawn of dandelions, here’s some organic control ideas. Dig dandelions before they flower, removing as much of the taproot as possible. Keep your lawn thick and lush so those white fluffy seeds can’t get established. Spot treat plants with an acetic acid herbicide, such as Burnout II.

Now for this week’s tip, the forsythia are starting to bloom and you know what that means? It’s time to spread corn gluten, pre-emergent herbicide on lawns to kill crabgrass seed as it germinates.

Oh by the way, when applied in early summer, corn gluten also kills sprouting dandelion seedlings.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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