Losing the war on dandelions? Here are the best nonchemical solutions.

Surely every Alaskan knows what a dandelion looks like. In fact, is there anyone in North America who doesn’t? I keep reading that all our dandelions are descendants of European and Asian plants brought to North America as a vegetable source. Wow. Prolific.

There was a time when dandelions were lawn enemy No. 1 in everyone’s book. Quite an industry has developed to cope with these weeds. I cannot tell you how many different tools I have used to eradicate ours, how many different chemicals and methods of application I have tried. The chemicals gave a false sense of success. Then I realized I had to apply them at least annually, which means they were not really working.

Today, there are fewer out there who insist on continuing the chemical battle in the Dandelion Wars. The smarter folks realize this is a losing effort. After all, these plants came from Pilgrim salad gardens. They spread continent-wide and are now in your lawn all the way up in Alaska. Yet you think you can keep them out of your yard? We lost. The dandelions won.

I am not saying it isn’t possible to have a nice green law, free of dandelions, though it is difficult; it entails constant effort. It is possible to go out and pull them all every spring and in the middle of the summer and in the fall. Just realize they are coming back and probably more plants for each one you pull as there are always pieces of viable roots left when you tug them out — no matter what kind of tool you use.

Or you can enlist boiling water, flame, organic-based spot sprays and the like. It will be a holding pattern, but thank you for respecting the environment and protecting your family and neighbors. The best time to hit them with these methods is in the fall. Still, you are engaging in a losing battle.

• • •

Listen to the “Teaming With Microbes” podcast:

Know this: Dandelions are perennials. They don’t spread underground, unless you leave pieces. To limit what you already have you need to control their flowers. Try to deadhead them. You might weed-whack them off. Or mow the lawn as the heads form and bag clippings just to be safe.


Dandelions will blend in and you will have a beautiful, green lawn that is turning into a meadow. No one will know the difference unless you are the neighbor still fighting the chemical war. This is, by the way, the new suburban lawn. You just need to get the old, golf course putting green version out of your head.

I did not include eating dandelions as an eradication method. I suppose that would depend on the magnitude of your situation — and the size of your family. All parts of the dandelion are edible.

Dandelion flowers, for example, in addition to making wine are a great addition to tempura meals. I am told they are high in vitamins and that leaves are good in salads, too‚ but they must be harvested before flowers form or they will be too bitter. You can even buy special seeds for planting a row in the garden, but who would need to do that given the numbers in our lawns?

You can even drink dandelions. Their taproots can be dried and ground into a coffee substitute. Remember, of course, that pulling a dandelion to get a tap root will create more plants.

So, my advice is to get on the train. Dandelions are here to stay for the time being. Coming someday will be a safe, biological solution. Until then, live with them.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: What are you waiting for? Get that family or individual membership. There are discounts and so much going on at The Garden.

Mowers, weed eaters, chain saws and blowers and even mowers and tractors: Battery machines should replace these polluting gas monsters.

Mulch: Gardens and containers. Brown for perennials and trees and shrubs; green for annuals and row crops.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.