No. 11 // For the Love of Dandelions

There are few things that excite me more than the first signs of spring.  Here in Michigan, it's spotting a robin in the yard, a little crop of crocuses shooting up from the recently frozen ground and yellow dandelions dotting the grassy landscape.  

Yet, these sweet little dandelions that we picked and coveted as children now seem to ignite a deep loathing in the hearts of lawn perfectionists everywhere.  Somewhere along the way, a rule was born that only green grass may live on your lawn and any other tiny violet or dandelion must be any means necessary.  

But before you get out your gardening gloves, consider this;  dandelions actually add biodiversity to your yard and provide the earliest source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. They will not outcompete native species for natural resources so they're non-invasive.  And many weeds, like dandelions, have deep taproots that bring up nutrients and provide a reparative effect to help stabilize your soil and prevent erosion.  In some cases, the arrival of a weed is a reaction to a nutrient that's lacking in your soil.  It's a sign of nature repairing itself.

Still not convinced of the dandelion's merits?  If your aversion runs deep, consider a natural approach to keeping them at bay.  Cornmeal gluten applied in the spring and fall will help your lawn maintain a healthy balance of nutrients while naturally preventing dandelions and other weeds from emerging.  With a cumulative effect, you'll see better results year after year.  And if instant gratification is what you're after, grab your weeding tool and go to town.  It's a meditative practice and a good way to get some natural vitamin D while you're at it. 

The truth is, the perfectly green lawn is a wasteland for our pollinators and a monoculture that provides no actual benefit to people or our planet.  The benefits of letting these little plants live in our yards far outweigh the negative impacts of removing them via toxic chemicals.  In fact, the many chemicals people use to attain the "perfect" lawn are a great detriment to our health and the health of our pollinators who need such biodiversity to survive.  We track these chemicals into our homes on our shoes and our pets and children who unknowingly bath in these chemicals with each innocent romp in the yard.

Whatever you do, don't let the humble dandelion get you down.  If you're not able to see it for its aesthetic beauty, perhaps learn to look at it as a harbinger of something much more lovely - a sign of spring, a friend to our pollinators and maybe, one day, a new normal in a sea of natural and healthy landscapes. //

Vanessa Friedman