Edmonton Journal

Get the root to kill the dandelion

Pulling out the whole plant still the best method of eradicatio­n

- Gerald Filipski Gerald Filipski is a member of the Garden Writers Associatio­n of America. Email your questions to filipski@shaw.ca. He is the author of Just Ask Jerry. To read previous columns, go to edmontonjo­urnal.com/ filipski

Q: My family has a rare neuromuscu­lar disease called Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, wherein the nerves in our arms and legs degenerate and it is actually as common as multiple sclerosis. As a result of the disease, I have to stay away from toxins. For years I have pulled dandelions, and used a mix of vinegar, salt and dish soap, etc. to get rid of them. However, the dandelions have gotten out of hand. Does the vinegar mix work and kill the whole root? Does the salt in it permanentl­y prevent the grass from growing well? Does overseedin­g help to get rid of them? Would you please tell me what the best way to get rid of the dandelions is? A: I wish I had an easy solution for you, but there is none that I am aware of. I can, however, give you some tips on how to better utilize the methods that you have tried in the past. Before we get to that, let me answer the questions you asked first:

❚ Vinegar can work, but the problem with the vinegar is that it is nonselecti­ve, meaning that it will kill the grass along with dandelions. It does not move from the leaves to the root, which means that the top of the plant will die but the root will remain alive. You may have to reapply several times to kill the plant.

❚ Salt is a bad idea. It is also nonselecti­ve but it takes a long time to be flushed from the soil, meaning that nothing will grow in that spot for some time. It can also leach into nearby beds, affecting other plants as well.

❚ Overseedin­g can help prevent the dandelion seeds from taking root as easily, but it will not get rid of existing dandelions. Note that this method is not foolproof in preventing the dandelion seeds from rooting. Tips for getting rid of the problem: 1) Digging out dandelions is still the best method, but the key is to get the taproot out. Make a hole next to the weed with a dandelion weeder or knife and then gently wiggle the whole plant until you feel it getting loose. Pull gently until the whole root pops out. If you leave the root behind and get just the top, it will come back. Wetting the lawn before you dig is also a good idea. 2) Vinegar has to be 20 to 25 per cent in strength and will have to be reapplied. 3) Once you have removed all the dandelions you can use a pre-emergent such as natural corn gluten to control future seeds from sprouting. Use this in early spring. The con here is that all the dandelions would have to be gone to start with, because it will not work on existing plants. 4) Pick off any flower heads you see to keep them from reseeding. Q: Since that wonderful invasion of aphids a couple of years ago, my Virginia creeper has been infested every year. It comes along fine until mid- August and then it starts to drop leaves. It is quite big, almost two storeys, and has some thick branches. What can I do? A: The aphid problem might be controlled with a single applicatio­n of pesticide, if done at the right time of the year.

The Doktor Doom House and Garden is a very good product for this applicatio­n. The product has residual properties, meaning that it can last for a period of time and reduces the need for more frequent applicatio­ns.

Spray the fence, wall, trellis, or whatever surface the Virginia creeper is growing on, as well as spraying the plant itself. This spraying should be done early in the growing season. Any aphids that are present will die off once they come in contact with any of the treated surfaces.

There may be some evidence that this treatment acts not only as a pesticide but also as a repellent. The active ingredient permethrin acts as the repellent. I have seen signs of the aphids moving on to other locales after an applicatio­n. In fact, the University of Oregon, referring to potential harm to bees when using permethrin, says, “When used properly, permethrin has a strong repellent effect in the environmen­t and should pose little risk to bees.”

 ?? John Lucas/Edmonton Journal ?? Dandelions sprout on Connors Hill in Edmonton. The key to eliminatin­g them is to dig out the plants, taproot and all.
John Lucas/Edmonton Journal Dandelions sprout on Connors Hill in Edmonton. The key to eliminatin­g them is to dig out the plants, taproot and all.
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