Botanic photo of dandelion

The weather is finally warmer and the spring dandelions are starting to show their colors. Outside of being a nuisance in our turf grass, dandelions are actually incredible plants.

Today, I ran across a worker dramatically over-applying chemicals at a townhome association and it got me thinking about the incredible opportunity Property Managers have in reducing chemical use – specifically with dandelions. Read on…

History

Dandelions are native to Europe and Asia (as are the majority of our turf grasses) and the name derived from the French term ‘dent de lion’ or ‘tooth of the lion.’ It is assumed that dandelions were brought to the US on the Mayflower for their wide-ranging medicinal uses.

It was not until the 19th century invention of the rotary mower that dandelions were thought of as a weed and the scourge of the pristine lawn.

Pollinators

Dandelions are currently going through a Martha Stewart-esque rebranding phase because of their excellent use as a pollinator. As you know, honey bees are suffering due to the overuse of pesticides. There are many recent studies that prop dandelions up as one of the main sources of pollen during the April/May/June time period.

Dandelion, The Pest

The proliferation of irrigation systems and the newer expectation that turf will be consistently lush and green has made dandelions unacceptable in the lawns of most commercial buildings. Ironically, dandelions are perfectly adapted to thriving in turf situations. As a result, we need to use a significant amount of chemicals to keep them in check. In fact, Minnesota applied 1.4 million pounds of pesticides to our turf areas in 2013 alone. For our health and safety, we need to reduce that amount wherever possible.

There are a lot of great ways we can reduce chemical use:

  1. Let grass grow taller. Turf is usually cut at 2.5″ to 3″ on commercial properties. Let the grass grow to 4″ and it shades out dandelions and has a lot of other great benefits.
  2. Fall treatments. Dandelions live for multiple years and are much more susceptible to chemicals in the fall when they are moving nutrients into their roots. If you have a major dandelion problem, blanket treat your entire turf area around Labor Day to kill all of them that you would see the next spring.
  3. Spot treatments. After you have dandelions under control, you do not need to spray chemicals on every inch of turf. Only treat spots where you see weeds. Spot treatment IS NOT the normal practice, you will need to instruct your provider to spot treat.

A few notes about the video. This is the standard method for turf companies to treat lawns in the spring. This is a very healthy turf area that had – maybe – 10 dandelions. Every square inch of the property was treated regardless if there were weeds or not.

As much as we want to believe that pesticides are not dangerous to us, it is simply not true. We must be careful and conscientious about their use and over-applying is wasteful of resources, money and unnecessarily damaging to the environment. I don’t like chemicals but they are necessary and logical in certain applications. However, I hate when they are used carelessly and lazily.

Action Steps

  1. Copy and paste the email below and start a conversation with your provider. You can cc: btabke@ethicallandscape.com if you need some technical assistance.
  2. Rewrite your turf specifications for 2015 to include reductions in chemical use.
  3. Talk with your team about expectations for turf areas. Are a few weeds ok?

Is this something that would work for your properties? Use the comment section below to let us know!

Have a great day!

Brad

begin copy
——-

Hello –

In an effort to reduce chemical and water use on our properties in 2014, how many of the following do you think you could do on our properties?

  • Adjust mowing height to 4″ on all of our properties
  • Spray chemicals on turf no sooner than 36 hours after mowing
  • Save money by only spot treating weeds in the turf instead blanket treating all (I know we may have a few more weeds)

Thank you for your help with this project!

 

cc: btabke@ethicallandscape.com

——-
end copy

Sources

http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=756
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html
http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Taraxum_officinale.htm
https://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/news/~/media/Files/news/govrelations/pollinators/legrpt-pollinators14.pdf
http://www.american-lawns.com/history/history_lawn.html