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Getting Rid of Dandelions (And Yard Shame)

July 21, 2014  —  Written by Chris 

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To say we had the worst yard on the block would be quite accurate. All last summer, this house was vacant and the lawn wasn’t cared for either. We tried our best when we moved in at the tail end of summer/beginning of fall to give it attention and honestly, it was looking alright–but the lack of care last summer must have come back with a vengeance this year. Six weeks ago, our lawn looked like this.

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I wanted to cry. I thought we needed to start all over–rip it all out and plant new grass.  For a couple weeks, while we were still figuring out our game plan, we just mowed and hoped our neighbors wouldn’t notice. During our research phase, one neighbor did come over and make small chat and eventually asked us to please treat the dandelions because his house was down wind and they were popping up over there. That was six weeks ago. And, hey, we figured it out! Our yard now looks like this:

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Here’s the opposite direction six weeks ago:

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And today:

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We’re thrilled with the progress. Before I go into how we got here, I will say, we did use chemicals. I know some people prefer to treat their lawns naturally–but desperate times call for desparate measures, we say. We made sure Charly and Greta steered clear of the treated areas for a few days. Here’s what we did:

1. Kill the dandelions. Because we had so many weeds, we were a bit skeptical about spraying them. I don’t know why, it just didn’t seem like anything short of dousing the hole thing in gasoline and torching it would do the job. And if we did kill the dandelions–would there be any grass left? We picked up a sprayer (one of those backpack ones) and a bottle of concentrated weed killer, and sprayed every single one. The product we used is called Weed Free Zone.

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After a couple days, some wilted, but the weeds didn’t really die. They just mutated into these gnarly, super weeds that looked like they were straight out of a scene from The Little Shop of Horrors. We read this could happen and decided to spray them again. It took about a week after that, but the dandelions all shriveled up and began disappearing more and more as we continued mowing the lawn and working on the grass.

2. Replaced and adjusted sprinklers. We had a few sprinklers that weren’t doing their job. For some reason, our yard has the type of sprinklers you see at golf courses – you know, the ones that spray like 20 feet but can’t seem to get the grass immediately surrounding them. So we replaced a couple of those with short-range RainBird heads and it made a huge difference in bringing back to life those that were once dead. The thicker and healthier your grass is, the less weeds will come through. Some people actually recommend spreading grass seed as a way to choke out the weeds, but we opted to try to grow the grass we currently had–just better.

3. Adjusted the watering start time, duration and frequency.Each zone on our lawn was set to water for 10 minutes, every day, right in the middle of the day. The problem with that is the sun is out so it evaporates the water for the first several minutes, so essentially our lawn was receiving hardly any water at all and thus our grass wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed to be strong and healthy. Instead we set each zone to water for 45 minutes every day beginning at 2am. This way the water doesn’t evaporate. We kept it going every day for about 2 weeks, to improve the health of the ground, then decreased the frequency to 3 or 4 times a week, depending on the weather.

4. Adjusted the mower blade height. A lot of people like to cut their grass really short, because it looks nice. And I agree, it does look really nice. The problem with that is moisture can escape from the ground easier. By raising the mower blades a couple clicks so we’re cutting about 2.5 inches, it keeps it looking trim and clean, but is long enough to hold onto the moisture for as long as possible after watering.

5. Weed & Feed. (We used the Ace Brand, but have used Scott’s in the past and it works just the same) This is another chemical, and it was a game changer. We’ve always been leery about it, but after using it on one side of the yard and not the other (to test), we saw a major, major difference. It comes in big 50lb bags, and is just little pellets. So we used our fertilizer spreader and put it all over the yard. It blocks weeds from coming in and really allows the grass to flourish. The Weed & Feed was what really drove the dandelions out completely. They just disappeared into the grass and are no more.

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It feels amazing to not be embarrassed of our lawn anymore–to have it on our side instead of what felt like battling it! It’s definitely an ongoing job, but now that things are under control, fertilizing twice a year and keeping up on care should be easy going from here on out. Dandelions. Conquered.

What do you think?

  1. Gloria Gray says:

    Today is May 19, 2018 … Just happened to run across this post. Every front yard door n my street has dandelions with the exception of our next door neighbor who treats with his own solution as well as a hired weed free mobile company..
    Our mower was in the shop for 2 weeks, so I asked if he could mow our yard, while we were gone a few days.
    Come to find out, he has sprayed/treated our yard.. that’s all we can figure. The dandelion greens I sauté, with garlic and lemon pepper have been eradicated from my property. He has not bothered other neighbors.. just mine.
    I cannot openly accuse him, but he did have access to our yard. I have to use words wisely when I approach him. It’s not like he didn’t know. I have told him and showed him articles that if you ever want to grow clover for the bees and you treat your yard it will take SIX YEARS BEFORE THE SOIL WILL ACCEPT THE CLOVER.
    I feel violated.. I now have to fence off an area and grow my dandelions separately. I also eat Plaintain leaves as well as Lambs quarters. And purslane. I have tried to seed my edible greens but they tend to grow where THEY CHOOSE TO BE.
    My 12foot tall Iron Weed for the Monarhs Has bern Weed whacked down as well..
    My next prospect is to have a security camera around house installed… and wireless so I can observe with my phone.
    I would never think to trespass onto a neighbor’s property and do whatever I please.
    And of all things.. these are church-goin neighbors.

  2. Ben says:

    This was the third result from googling “my weeds mutate when I spray them”. I’m just glad I’m not alone. I was about to hire a cryptobotanist or something. Good to know, I’ll keep spraying them.

  3. Danny says:

    Can you use this some product on flower beds? I have weeds that over run my beds.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Danny! Depending on the type of weeds you’d probably be ok using the first product listed, so long as you don’t spray the other plants (flowers and such). But the Weed & Feed is meant specifically for grassy areas, so I wouldn’t use that.

  4. A says:

    I understand needing to reset the state of your lawn, I’m approaching that point myself, but in future, keep the kids and dogs away for a week or two after putting weed and feed out. 2,4,D has a half life of six days.

    If you want a safer herbicide to use, glyphosate is pretty much gone as soon as it hits the soil, so spot treating weeds with it is a better option than using a persistent herbicide. Be careful, though, don’t use a mixed formulation with glyphosate and something else. Any weedkiller which promises to keep weeds away. That means the herbicide is going to hang around in the soil, getting on your feet, your children, your dog and in the waterways.

  5. Deb says:

    I don’t like using chemicals either but sometimes you have to to get things under control and start over. Your lawn looks great! Another benefit to higher grass is I think it makes it harder for weeds to grow. Our lawn looked horrible when we paid a lawn service to mow it. We told them to set the mower blades higher but they gave it a buzzcut and year after year the lawn looked worse and worse. Bald patches all over, dry, etc. Now our neighbor’s son mows it with higher blades and it looks great. We never water – our property is 1.5 acres and we’re not investing in a system that large, plus it’s really not needed once a lawn is established. I don’t think lawns need as much water as people think. Sometimes we have drought for months and the lawn dries up a bit but it always bounces back.

  6. Bethany says:

    I will say I am jealous! We bought our house back in September last year and the back lawn was bare, full of weeds and half dead. My husband has been away all summer working and I’m pregnant, so chemicals were out. BUT, I did put down weed and feed along with some grass seed to thicken it up.
    Our problem we now see is our grass does not have a root system (previous owner watered too much). So I have a lot of dead areas that we are working on, but just doing small treatments of things like weed and feed really makes a difference. Nice seeing the results on another lawn. I am going to show my husband this post, because I think a couple of the things you did may help our lawn.
    And since we are in Blackfoot, just under an hour from you, I think it will work for our soil/grass.
    Long live thick green grass!

  7. Shelby says:

    Wow – I really cannot believe the difference in just 6 weeks! We moved into our new home in June and the yard is just beyond fixing. We tried Weed & Feed over the entire yard (about half an acre) and noticed no change at all. It was so discouraging. We are tempted to regrade the entire lawn and just start over at this point. We have just about every weed there is ALL over our yard (dandelions, crabgrass, clover, creeping charlie – you name it!) thanks to the house being vacant for about 4 years before we bought it. We are first time home buyers so any advice for newbies like us would be greatly appreciated! :)

  8. jaclyn says:

    We have a good amount of clover in our yard and it really does wonders. Hopefully with this new slate, you can manually maintain the weeds and not use any more chemicals. Just think about the millions of people in the country spraying chemicals all over their yards and then the impact that can have on the planet.

    It seems your watering is still overkill. Grass really only needs about 1 inch a week and also watering at night can promote mold/fungus growth. Early morning watering is ideal since the water can absorb into the ground but water on the blades of grass can evaporate appropriately.

  9. Leigh says:

    What great results! We recently moved into a new to us home in northernTexas and had the same weed issues as you did. We also benefitted from a combo type treatment to manage our weeds. Our town offers free sprinkler checks on a yearly basis. I was amazed at some of their watering suggestions. They recommended we change some of our heads as you did. They also recommended we shorten the duration of our watering to 5-10 minutes at a time but then to cycle through the cycles 2-4 times based on our weather. This suggestion was to prevent water run off. 5-10 minutes allows the water to soak in and then accept more water come next cycle time. Not sure if this is making sense, but we actually water for less time overall and our water bill has decreased because of it, as well as have healthier looking grass now! We have a serious drought and are limited to using our sprinklers to 1x every two weeks. Even with this regenine we have a beautiful lawn this year! Don’t know if this will help you out at all, but I found it very interesting!! Really enjoying all the progress your making on your new home!

  10. Allison says:

    Had the same problem and the same solutions solved it for me! I think this is the fourth summer in my house and the first I’ve really been happy with the lawn. The first couple years I sprayed the dandelions individually, and it got rid of them somewhat but the results weren’t stellar and it was tedious. This is the second summer I’ve used weed & feed (Forever Green from Menard’s) and I really have started to notice a difference. I think what really sealed the deal for me though was when I raised the mower blade. I had been mowing it on either the lowest or second-lowest setting. Raising it a few clicks has made the yard look much, much better. It’s greener and I like the fullness of it better.

  11. Wow! What a difference! It looks great! Major accomplishment! :)

  12. Laura C says:

    I think it’s time for Americans to embrace an alternative aesthetic. Not every lawn needs to look like a golf course. It’s so weird to me that we run around spraying chemicals to kill dandelions which are, after all, edible salad greens with pretty yellow flowers.

    • Julia says:

      I know a lot of people that have embraced that! On the other hand, our neighbor is actually a chemist and loves to test his soil and fill its voids–his lawn is immaculate. It’s his hobby. The commenter above used clover leaf instead of battling hers. I think it’s nice that we live in a place with so much variety and allows people to do as they wish.

      • Marie says:

        I could not agree more with Laura, live the chemicals to your neighbor and appreciate those beautiful yellow flowers over the green grass, don’t you like the mix ?

      • Julia says:

        Hahaha. No? Sorry. We knew this post wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but we just prefer green grass–as lush as we can get it. And our neighborhood (and property values!) depend on that, too. But! I also am a believer in doing what you like, too. Want to grow clover grass? Do it!

    • Anna says:

      Yes! I agree!

  13. patt says:

    They have banned the sale of weed & feed products in Canada: “the timing of fertilizer applications generally does not coincide with the timing of killing weeds. Also the herbicide ends up being applied to the entire lawn often to areas it is not needed. Fertilizers and herbicides are two very different products and combining them is not sound turf management”. While I understand what they are saying we miss having the choice to buy one product rather than two.

  14. Meagan Briggs says:

    That can’t be the same yard!! Amazing results!

  15. Jennifer R. says:

    We had some bare patches in our yard and researched and researched the best option. We don’t care to have a perfect lawn, but we want it to be lush and without big weeds. We also have to have a dense lawn because we have two dogs that come in with muddy paws otherwise, but we have a lot of trees so there are shady areas that get muddy. Our solution was spreading clover seed and we couldn’t be happier. We have both regular grass and clover all throughout. It never ever has to be watered because clover is very drought tolerant. Our yard is the first in the neighborhood to green up and the last to die. We also don’t have to fertilize because clover is extremely nitrogen rich and feeds the other grass. The only negative is if we don’t mow for two weeks we will get the white flower buds but I don’t think they look bad. We keep mowing them and eventually they will be very short. A full clover lawn never has to be cut either because it will only grow about 3 inches tall… but we mow once every week or two in the summer because the other grasses get tall. Clover is very dense and chokes out all weeds so there are virtually none at all.

    Just an idea for anyone who wants and organic easy maintenance lawn that stays super green all the time. We love it but it’s not for everyone.

    http://cloverlawn.org/

    • Julia says:

      Interesting direction, Jennifer!

    • Molly says:

      Yes! So happy to hear this! I’m always touting the benefits of clover, but people are so often dead-set on just one exact aesthetic and the idea of a lush green lawn. There’s a lot of other options out there, and clover is one of my favorites, for all the reasons you mentioned. Everyone figures out what works for them, but as for me, I’ll choose soil health, weedy flowers as a pollen source for bees, drought-tolerance, and chemical-free upkeep over the stereotypical grassy lawn. So glad Chris and Julia figured out some water conservation measures!

      • Jennifer R. says:

        Hi Molly, I am so glad I am not the only clover enthusiast around here. My husband’s grandpa gave us the weirdest look when we mentioned what we were doing and said how much money and time he spends each year to keep from having clover around. We have been taught by landscapers and chemical companies that anything besides green blades are “weeds” and must be killed or your yard will look awful and people will think poorly of you. We get compliments all the time on our lawn and actually you can’t tell it’s clover until you actually inspect it. And man does clover feel nice on your feet! So lush!

        Anyways, miniclover is a great option for people willing to try it. But I am of the mind that since everyone is well aware of water shortages world wide, the thought of pouring gallons of treated drinking water on our grass every day is pretty awful. I know that is an unpopular viewpoint though. But, to each his own. We are thankful to live somewhere that you have the resources to waste, I guess! I am willing to bet in 50 years green lawns will be a thing of the past.

    • Tarynkay says:

      Thanks for posting this! I am hoping I can make clover work in our backyard, which is an ongoing battle against poison Ivy. I would love dandelions back there. We get a few in the front and side yard, I would love for them to proliferate. They are so pretty, I think.

    • Susan M says:

      Thank you for the information and the web site! We have a dog and don’t use any fertilizer, etc, and a lot of our backyard is woods, so lots of shade…and our grass died as a result. I LOVE this idea. I think we may try for a clover lawn back there!

    • Anna says:

      I love it! I’m a big fan of natural lawns. I even like dandelions. They’re good for the honey bees! Weeds are hardy, they don’t need to be watered & if you let them live then you’re not contaminating the ground water with chemicals. Also, voles/moles love grass roots, which is why many places have an increased rodent problem with moles & voles popping up all over the place. And so many bees are dying because we’re killing everything they use to live off of.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m a fan of clover, too! I run an organic lawn care company and encourage all of my customers to add some to their lawns!

  16. Dominique says:

    We don’t deal with dandelions, but have yard shame instead from crabgrass. We were told that you really have to be preventative with crabgrass and basically that if we did anything before fall it would be worthless. We used some chemical spray that got rid of all other weeds but the crabgrass remains. :( Major yard shame and determination to take care of it before another summer of weeds.

  17. Cami says:

    Your yard looks great! Sadly for me my lawn looks like your before photo, would you mind sharing which weed and feed you used?
    Thank you!

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