University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Dealing with Dandelions

May 11, 2000

Dandelions have made many lawns and turf areas into a sea of yellow this spring. While most attention is given to them while the flower and seedhead are visible, management of the problem can be done throughout the season. As with most turf weeds, management includes both chemical and nonchemical options.

Hand-pulling or digging the plant out is one option. The dandelion population and size of the yard usually dictates how realistic this method is for any particular lawn. Remove as much of the deep taproot as possible when pulling dandelions out of a lawn. Also, mowing flowers off before they set seed may help reduce future spread.

Using herbicides, or weed killers, is another option. There are herbicides found in garden centers that control broadleaf plants such as the dandelion without damaging the grass the weed is growing in. Specific herbicides include 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid); mecoprop or MCPP (2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid); and dicamba (3,6-dichloro-o-anisic acid). Many products have two or all three of these herbicides combined as one product.

As with all pesticides, be sure to thoroughly read, understand, and follow all information on herbicide labels. With these broadleaf herbicides, avoid windy days, as these materials can damage many landscape and garden plants if they drift (spray droplets land off the lawn). Also avoid hot days (over 85°F).

Consider September or early October for controlling dandelions and other perennial broadleaf weeds in lawns. Control may be good as weeds prepare for winter dormancy, and lawns fill-in bare areas created by the weed dying readily in the cooler weather of fall.

To optimum control, it's best to have adequate soil moisture and actively growing weeds. Avoid rain or irrigation for 24 hours after application and don't mow for few days before and after application. Consider spot treating weeds rather than broadcasting weed killer over the entire area. Refer to the product label regarding time to wait before treating newly seeded areas or seeding an area already treated. Also check labels regarding any potential hazards when used on lawns over the root zone of trees (such as with dicamba).

Finally, remember a healthy, vigorous turf is able to resist weed invasions. Sound lawn care practices including fertilization, watering and mowing help lawns stay thick and vigorous.


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