Updated: May 3, 2022
At the first sign of Spring, the grass starts to green and the smell of the season is in the air. Then those little yellow flower buttons start to dot the grass and fields ushering in the songs from the birds. But before you start putting a plan together to kill off all those dandelions, read this.
Why did Dandelions get a Bad Reputation?
Let's start with the why the bad rap before we discuss how maybe you should just let these great sources of food grow. Dandelions along with other broad leaves "weeds" a.k.a. plants, were targeted because a chemical fertilizer company discovered they can target those plants and are easy to kill.
As an example, it was common to have clover (a broadleaf) mixed in with grass seed years ago as it helps pull nitrogen, the stuff that greens your lawn, deep from the soil to the surface. But now those are also labeled as a no go for the "perfect" lawn. So it came down to a chemical company training all us suburban dwelling people that broad leaves are bad, so we rely on their products for a 100% grass lawn.
So the dandelion is a perennial and can live approximately 3 or more years and is spread through their seed blooms, which my kids love to pluck and blow the seeds all over the place. Each plant can only spread through its seeds and often produces many flowers each season from one plant.
The dandelion plant has a long deep root, similar to a carrot, and helps loosen up the soil and pull nutrients from deeper in the soil to the surface. And though if they go un-mowed and allowed to go to seed, they can spread in mass numbers. Often the plant will only flower in a couple of seasonal cycles, and can easily be controlled through simple well-timed mowing. For more information on the dandelion plant follow this link.
Why are they beneficial?
These plants are wonderful for the local ecosystem and can help provide natural nutrients to your lawn by pulling up the deep nutrients and loosening the soil.
It may go without saying, but bees LOVE the dandelion! It's one of the season's first major nectar flow for many kinds of pollinators like native bees, butterflies, and the honey bee among others. And if you enjoy honey, you should try dandelion honey. It has a wonderful flavor and often can be used for cooking and sweetening your tea or coffee.
Because dandelions are one of the first flowering plants in the season and often are prolific in the Spring, it helps the pollinators that are coming out of a long Winter and is a needed nutrient to strengthen themselves and their colonies.
No Mow May for the Pollinators
The primary reason for the "No Mow May" in the Northern climates is primarily to allow plants like the dandelion to help the bees and butterflies get a start to the season with strong forage. If you want to help the pollinators, as human impact on pollinators through broadleaf chemical usage and building development, has been greatly reducing habitat for bees and other pollinators, you can join the "No Mow May" movement.
Dandelions as Food
You read that right! Every part of the dandelion is edible and can be as simple as putting the leaves in your salad.
Besides the plant being edible, it offers plenty of nutritional value, such as:
The Flowers- cancer-fighting antioxidants and vitamins A and B12
The leaves- potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C
Cooking the dandelion leaves/ greens can be as simple as mixing the leaves in with your salad, frying them up with your scrabbled eggs, or even making a separate dandelion recipe.
So let those dandelions grow and in doing such, help the local eco-system and offer a nutritional food source to complement your breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner tables food. If you want to keep the population of the flowers from spreading simply over-seed your lawn early in the spring or late in the Fall and time your mowing to mow the flowers down before they go the seed.