Friday, May 1, 2009

Taming The Lions...

(dande)lions that is.

It is the season of growth. We love the budding trees, the pretty flowers, the nesting robins. All signs that the harsh winter is over and we can now look forward to warmer weather, fresh produce, backyard barbecues and long walks. But there is something else that grows this time of year...weeds. Of special interest to my husband is the dandelion.

We like a green lawn as well as anybody, but we are not very intentional about it. By that, I mean we don’t use fertilizers, pesticides and all that. Bill mows on a regular basis and we may water if it is really dry, but not even that too much. We are actually looking at ways to reduce the size of our lawn, because grass takes so much water to keep it looking nice (and having less space to mow wouldn’t disappoint us either). So, we are extending our flowers in the front yard and using mulch to keep the moisture in. We are committed to the “green” philosophy.

But last year Bill became particularly interested in ridding our lawn of the dandelion. This season already, he has spent several days digging up (or popping) dandelions. A couple times this week when he came home, one of the first things he'd say is "Should I go pop some dandelions?" He has even taken to reminding me daily that I could also go out and do some “popping” too; I remind him that it has been raining quite a bit of late....☺

He figures that digging them up is the only way to rid our lawn of these things without using a weed killer (which kills the grass too by the way). So, I decided to do a little “digging” of my own concerning these pesky little flowers...he won’t be happy with these tidbits I found in my research:

  • Most gardeners detest them, but the more you try to weed them up, the faster they grow.
  • The taproot is deep, twisted, and brittle and can grow up to 10 feet long! Unless you remove the root completely, it will regenerate. If you break off more pieces than you unearth, the dandelion wins
  • And how about this joke... “What’s a dandelion digger for?” a dandelion asked.“It’s a human invention to help us reproduce,” another dandelion replied.

Sounds like my mom’s old method of just picking the heads off wasn’t so lazy after all!

We all know the dandelion...those little yellow flowers that pop up everywhere in the spring and summer. Every kid has picked one that has gone to seed...little white puffs...and then innocently blown on the white ball to watch the seeds float through the air (and thus spread the weed even further). In my research of dandelions it is said that each little seed is a mini parachute.

We don’t like them a whole lot, but they are actually pretty interesting. There are several theories on the name “dandelion“. I got these from ”Wikipedia“, which really can’t be trusted for accurate info since it can be edited at anyone’s whim, but I chose it because it is consistent with other sites describing dandelions.

The English name dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves. The names of the plant have the same meaning in several other European languages, such as the Italian dente di leone, Spanish diente de león, Portuguese dente-de-leão, Norwegian Løvetann, and German Löwenzahn. In modern French the plant is named pissenlit, which means "urinate in bed", apparently referring to its diuretic properties. Likewise, "pissabeds" is an English folk-name for this plant. In various north-eastern Italian dialects the plant is known as pisacan ("dog pisses"), referring to how common they are found at the side of pavements, while in many other northern Italian dialects it is known as soffione ("blowing") referring to the blowing the seeds from the stalk. The same is true for German, where Pusteblume ("blowing flower") is a popular designation. Likewise, in Polish it is called "dmuchawiec", deriving from dmuchać ("to blow"). Whilst in its flowering form the Poles know it as Mlecz, a word derived from "milk", due to the plant's milky sap. Dandelions are especially well-adapted to a modern world of "disturbed habitats," such as lawns and sunny, open places. They were even introduced into the Midwest from Europe to provide food for the imported honeybees in early spring. They now grow virtually worldwide. Dandelions spread further, are more difficult to exterminate, and grow under more under adverse circumstances than most competitors.

Pretty tough cookies it seems. Just the way they grow is a survival tactic. Their leaves uncurl and reach up, so all the moisture travels down to the center, where the root is (that root that can grow to 10 feet). They are also edible, so if you are interested in turning your hard work into a harvest, here is a website with recipes

I kind of hate to share all this with my sweetie, as he is so determined with this. He was so proud of a dandelion that he dug up the other day that he brought it in the house to show me the 3 foot root. It gives him a sense of satisfaction to look out and not see any of the yellow puffs sticking I will support him in his on-going effort to rid our yard of these things. The weekend is coming up and it’s been raining all week; wonder what he’ll be doing....

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