On a recent morning, I stood at the edge of our lawn, glaring at the meadow of yellow flowers that spread across the grass, and thinking of our neighbors.
They shouldn’t have to deal with the Rozens’ blooming dandelions, carried on the wind and landing on their carefully tended lawns. I also remembered that I write a garden column. Allowing our own yard to go to seed — literally — is not a great testimonial to my credibility.
I narrowed my eyes and stood as tall as a 5 foot 2 impetuous gardener can stretch. A Chinese proverb flashed through my mind: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
That morning, my path to a thousand decimated weeds began with a single dandelion.
The young children I know like dandelions very much. They pick fistfuls of the flowers and offer them to me as bouquets, which I display in water glasses on the kitchen windowsill. I try not to wince when they ask me to watch as they blow a bazillion fluffy seeds into the air.
A friend’s 7-year-old granddaughter recently stared, awestruck, at a lawn swarming with her beloved flowers and said, “That is an impossible number.” I considered the impossible number of dandelions blooming in our own grass, and moved “weed invasion” to the top of my garden list.
I needed a plan. Pesticides might be most effective in knocking out the dandelions, but their potentially toxic effects on our own health and on other plants, birds — and Benjamin BadKitten — worried me.
Some of our neighbors use a hoe-like tool with a long handle and a sharp, pointed blade; others prefer hand-held tools. The long one requires forcefully stepping down on the top edge of the blade, and the hand tool needs repeated jerks of the wrist to yank out the dandelions’ long roots. Both devices are nonstarters for me, because the necessary repetitive motions would place direct stress on my knee and wrist.
I thought my pal, Mo, our battery operated lawn mower, would be a superb guillotine for the weeds, but when I turned him loose in the yard, he wimped out. My husband, Lee, thinks the dandelions simply duck their heads when they sense Mo is coming, and then spring up, perkier than ever, as soon as I steer him away.
Finally I decided to use my own method, which requires only garden gloves, a large weed bucket, a pair of garden scissors — not shears — and a thick pad for kneeling. Trying to snip off individual dandelion stems is pointless. Instead, I cut below each plant’s central cluster of leaves and across the fat top of its root. This method decapitates not only the visible flowers and buds, but also the nascent buds sprouting under the leaves.
I’ve spent four afternoons stalking dandelions in our front lawn. Lee and I probably will use an environmentally safe weed-control product in our backyard and see if it’s more effective than my own knees-on-the-ground, have-scissors, will-travel approach.
My method demands a lot of time, attention to detail, and patience. It’s not a perfect or permanent solution, because a typical dandelion root is eight miles long. If the plant is not already flowering, it blends in all too well with the grass. So the empire of weeds eventually will strike back.
I’m slowing it down, though. Nearly a week later, I can see only a few yellow flowers lurking in the wide, green area I’ve cleared. I hope Mo the mower is embarrassed.
Sydney Craft Rozen is working on garden projects that bring her more joy than she felt while she was beheading a bunch of weeds. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.