Opinions about dandelions have changed over the years as we learn more about how to sustain healthy growing environments. It used to be that city crews and homeowners were out with their spades and herbicides at the first hint of the bright yellow bulbous blooms we are all so familiar with, however, as with everything, there has been some evolution in our thoughts about dandelions. Although dandelions are technically a weed, in Calgary they are consider invasive, but not noxious, and are not a major worry on the tops of mind of city gardeners.
Through several surveys, the City of Calgary has discovered:
- 30% of Calgarians think dandelions should be sprayed
- 30% of Calgarians think dandelions should be left alone
- Another 30% have no real opinion about whether dandelions should be sprayed or not
The City takes a multi-level approach to dandelion control. They do spray sports fields for safety purposes, and spray public parks on a rotating five-year schedule. They do not control dandelions alongside roadways and ditches.
Let them grow early on
In the past few years there has been a push to allow dandelions to go ahead and grow – especially early in the spring – as they provide much-needed pollen for our bee population when they have little else to snack on. A huge benefit of dandelions is that they fill a gap in the growing season when bees, butterflies, and beneficial bugs are all looking for food. If managed properly, the presence of dandelions can lead to more healthy gardens for everyone.
Another benefit of dandelions is that they also help improve soil quality. Because their roots are so long and hardy, they act as aerators where soil can be overly compact. If you have a lot of dandelions, it could be a sign that your soil quality is poor.
How to properly pull your dandelions
Later on in the summer, when annuals have been planted and perennials are in full bloom, dandelions can be pulled.
- Water your lawn so the soil is nice and moist and loose.
- Use a spade or a pitchfork to dig around the root of the dandelion.
- Shake the tool often to loosen the soil.
- Grasp the dandelion near the soil, wriggle, and gently tug until it begins to let go.
- Gently pull the dandelion out to preserve as much of the root as you possibly can.
- Dispose of the dandelions in your composting bin.
- Throw down some grass seed to cover any bare spots and water.
If you are the more adventurous type, and you have a lot of dandelions, you may want to check out some recipes. Another benefit of dandelions is they are very nutritious. A 2020 Globe and Mail article quotes the 400-year-old Gerard’s Herbal, calling them, “highly valued,” and “full of iron, calcium, vitamins C and A, and folic acid. They contain 25 times more vitamin A than tomato juice (14,000 IU per 100 grams of raw greens).” People have long added its blooms to salads, used the plant as medicine (mainly a diuretic), crushed its roots for brewing a type of tea, or even fermented the flowers into a weak alcoholic drink called dandelion wine.
Before harvesting dandelions for food, make very sure they have not been sprayed with any sort of herbicide. Always wash the plants thoroughly before using.
Dandelion recipes are provided by:
Weeds to you want to avoid in Calgary
Learning the more common weeds we see in Calgary is not only great for your garden, but those of your neighbours’ as well. Keeping your property free of weeds means their seeds can’t be spread to other peoples’ properties by wind, insects, and birds. Weeds choke out other plants, compete for nutrients in the soil (basically stealing the food), block out the sun, and take all the water. Basically, they are like unwanted houseguests that have overstayed their welcome.
Weeds also cause problems by:
- Changing the makeup of natural plant communities, which hampers the biodiversity of plants and animals.
- Altering the flow of water, its direction, and its quantity.
- Decimating habitats for fish and animals.
- Impeding food production by causing raised prices due to the cost of weed control.
- Lessening the aesthetics of parks and tourist attractions.
Although it’s pretty, creeping bellflower is becoming a big problem in Calgary. A community effort is needed to help get rid of them. When you spot it, pull it out in the same manner as a dandelion, but do NOT put them in your composting. Creeping bellflower is so hardy it has a high chance of survival in composting bins. Instead, place them in a plastic bag, securely tie it closed, and throw it in your black bin for the landfill.
According to the City of Calgary, other weeds that should be completely removed, bagged, and thrown in black bins are:
- Canada thistle
- Common tansy
- Diffuse knapweed
- Leafy spurge
- Nodding thistle
- Purple Loosestrife
- Scentless chamomile
- Spotted knapweed
- Creeping bellflower
Find out more about noxious weeds that must be properly disposed of here. If you are ever unsure about what do when encountering a weed or a pest in your yard that you have never seen before, you can contact the City of Calgary at 311 for advice.
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