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Dandy weed control ways

Dear Anne,

I think I have dandelions in my front lawn– small yellow flowers that close in darkness and open in sunlight. Is there a remedy for getting rid of these without spending money on store-bought sprays?

Florence, Vancouver

There are several organic ways of removing dandelions. None are quick and effortless but all can work if you apply time and patience.

The most basic one is digging them up. You do need to remove all the root or they will shoot again. Dandelions have an extremely long taproot.

One way of making this task easier is pouring ordinary household vinegar down each almost-vacant dandelion hole. The acetic acid of the vinegar will often kill the last little bit of dandelion root.

A very strong vinegar known as ‘horticultural vinegar’ is sold for weed control. It needs to be used with much more caution than household vinegar. It’s more effective than household vinegar. It can burn skin and you sure wouldn’t want it in your eyes.

Some gardeners use boiling water. It kills top growth immediately, but anything with a healthy, deep root will bounce back quickly. It’s not safe for anyone who’s elderly, or has balance problems or has pets or kids in the yard. But young, athletic and flat broke gardeners are sometimes attracted to this method.

One way of making dandelion digging easier is to buy a dandelion weeder. This is a metal rod that’s forked at one end with the other end set in a handle. Some handles are short (very hard on the back). Others have a long handle and a metal ball welded behind the fork for strong leverage

Though this involves spending money, at least a dandelion weeder (unlike sprays) won’t need to be bought over and over.

But the very best way of preventing weeds is to nurture a healthy lawn by spreading compost, organic fertilizer and possibly a little lime in spring, re-seeding any bare patches and most of all setting your lawn mower to do a long cut.

A lawn cut to about three inches (6 or 7 centimetres) high is tough competition for dandelions. Dandelions need sun and struggle if they’re being shaded out.

Dear Anne,

I have heard complaints that crocosmia produces a whole lot of seeds. Is it very bad? I never had crocosmia long enough to notice.

Mary, Burnaby

The very hardy, small-flowered, orange crocosmia does spread rapidly and becomes quite invasive. It also produces ‘droppers’ that is corms which develop underneath the surface bulbs. As a result, it tends to reappear in the same spot after you thought you dug it out.

It’s quick to spread into thick leafy patches. At that point flowers become sparse and the whole congested clump should be divided.

The large-flowered yellow, red and orange-red mixes aren’t particularly invasive at least in this climate because many have been hybridized from tender South African species.

The red ‘Lucifer’ is hardy, tall and glorious in bloom. It does spread, but not excessively.