The dandelion dilemma

My back garden this morning.

Photo: My back garden this morning.

I hate killing dandelions.

I hate it.

I love their yellow bobbing heads, dandelions are so cheerful and smiley.

But my lawn was carpeted with them. And I want grass.

Also I need a lawn with grass to fulfil my tenancy agreement. When it was carpeted with hawkweed and dandelions last time around, I returfed it. A lot of hard work for a not-great result.

So this time I vowed to remove every dandelion (and all the not-yet flowering buttercup) and reseed the patches.

I talk to my houseplants. Always have. I can feel their attention on me when I do. They like it.

So if I talk to houseplants, accepting that they may be improperly categorised sentient beings, I’ve already gone a step too far for gardening. This was the same nightmare I had when I reared goslings, but in a milder way, being that I’m not on pecking terms with the dandelions.

But still it pains me.

They’re bright and cheerful and totally resilient … antifragile, even. They don’t need my pity. Dandelions have been around since the dawn of time, and they’ll be filling up lawns long after I start pushing up daisies.

But it isn’t just that I kill them.

It’s a long, slow death. Over a couple of days, the pulled-up plant weakens and becomes floppy. The mud around the root is caked and dry. Streaks of white juice are still visible. The head never opens again, and the underside of the petals are pale. The root is bendy where once it had stabbed the ground with a proud stiffness.

Some dandelions are many-headed Hydra – and even won the fight with me when the tip of their root broke off in the ground – and some are just little, starting out. I found some completely white ones under the wheelie bin, which the December storms had laid flat. Still growing despite being in the dark. Still with flower heads formed.

Dandelions are a hugely successful plant. The bees love them, and they attract hoverflies and suchlike that do wonders in your garden. They’re a worthy adversary for the gardener. Sometimes they hold on and you lose the tip of the root in the ground. Maybe you dig the lost part out, or maybe you leave it in “Dandelion 1, Maggie 0”.

And dandelions aren’t a bad thing at all. You can use every part of the plant, though I only know about dandelion coffee, where the root is roasted and ground, and dandelion leaf tea.

The medicinal effects of dandelion leaf are supposed to be centred around supporting the body’s digestive system, the liver, and even the blood. Dandelion root also acts as a diuretic, so it affects your waterworks too.

I wish I’d been able to use the 150 dandelions that filled up two feed sacks, but alas where the dog pees (and worse) I don’t eat.

I think I’ll pay some penance by buying some dandelion products, since everything these cheery little plants offer is something I could do with right now.

back yard sans dandelions

My back garden this evening.

And don’t be fooled. I’m not a bleeding heart. I sold my geese and crossed my fingers, knowing that some would be doomed. I’m not a vegetarian, but food provenance is really important to me and most of my diet is veggie. Farming is near my heart, but I’ve always been stubbornly soft.

The dandelion guilt is a milder version of the daily meat dilemma.

Images c/o: and




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