April’s Ag Advice

April's Ag Advice by April Borders Friend or foe? This herbaceous perennial develops from a long, milky tap root about the size of your little finger and has golden, yellow flowers and it is the most common broadleaf weed in your yard. Do you know who I'm talking about? Well, if you haven't figured it out, I'm referring to the dandelion. So is it a friend or a foe? Well to most of us it is a foe but have you ever considered that it might be a friend?

Appreciate its history. Reports indicate the dandelion had been found among preserved materials in the pyramids. Early colonists intentionally brought it along, primarily for its then recognized herbal value for ailments and probably as a food source.

Think about the aerodynamics of nature's parachutes. Dandelion seeds can be suspended in winds as low as one mph. Bees use the flowers as a source of nectar for honey. The plants are found worldwide, from sea level to elevations of 12,000 feet.

All parts of the plant have been used at one time or another for food or medicinal purposes. It was considered a tonic for digestive disorders. Some early herbologists suggested it was a cure-all for everything from warts and abscesses to scurvy, or as a diuretic. It was reportedly grown in early medicinal gardens of monasteries.

"Wild plant" recipes use the young leaves boiled like spinach or you can use it raw as part of a green salad. SDSU Extension Weed Specialist Leon Wrage recommended it with extra vinegar dressing.

Some sources suggest that the plant has high levels of vitamins and it compares to cabbage or spinach in calcium. The roots can be peeled and sliced for salads, roasted or fried. The blossoms can be made into wine or jellies.

If you choose to consider the dandelion as a friend, we caution you not to rush out and start eating this plant unless you are sure that it has not been treated with chemicals. Dandelions, regardless of their virtue, are a tough weed and are considered unwanted in many landscapes. If you want to rid yourself of this foe, you really should consider fall as the best time to take control. But you also don't want to let them run ramped all spring and summer so there are some spring options that are available. Remember that first year plants are most susceptible, while older plants become less sensitive after they flower.

Herbicide treatment can be applied in popular weed and feed products using granular applicators or you can use liquid spray products. Most products available combine two or three ingredients to control a wide spectrum of weeds. These chemicals must enter the plant through their leaves.

Spray products can be applied with a variety of equipment. Also available are "Ready to Use" products that are pre-mixed. These products help homeowners avoid any mixing or the need for other equipment. These "Ready to Use" products are generally used for individual plants. They keep the spray course, and use low pressure to reduce non-target problems.

Spot-treaters include "cane" tubes that dispense a course spray solution onto the dandelion. "Ready to Use" trigger containers or small hand sprayers can also be used to treat individual plants.

If you choose not to use chemical control methods, scattered plants can be dug by cutting the root below the surface. Be sure to cut below the "crown" area. The "crown" is the growing point that can produce new plants.

Make sure when using chemicals that you dress properly. Use rubber gloves, rubber boots, eye protection and follow all handling and application precautions on the labels. Don't mix more solution than required. Allow the spray to dry before allowing pets or children into the treated areas. Finally, make a note on your calendar for this fall so that you can treat this pest.

So now that you have another insight into dandelions, are they friends or foes in your landscape?

Remember that the Clay County Master Gardeners are holding regular hours at the Extension office on Mondays from 8 to 10 a.m. If you have questions concerning landscaping, gardening or general plants questions, please give them a call at 677-7111.

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