growing dandelions
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11 Reasons to Love Growing Dandelions

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When I see pristine dark green lawns without growing dandelions, I admit that it satisfies that minimalist part of me that enjoys a simple calm environment to which I can relax. There’s so much chaos in this world that our minds can grapple to have control over our immediate environment. Sometimes, that includes our own backyard.

Why people hate growing dandelions?

I bought my first house in a Pennsylvania suburb in the 1990’s and I remember neighbors procuring their lawns in competition with each other on who can have a nicest green patch of land. We lived on a 1/4 of an acre.

Some outsourced to companies who sprayed chemicals while others took matters in their own hands. I had two Great Danes and that just didn’t sit well with me so we just mowed our lawn and “let go” the idea that our yard would make the Top 10 list of yards that were the nicest. That was before I learned about dandelion benefits.

How did the idea of treating lawns come about?

When it comes to peoples’ habits even in gardening, there’s always an emotion driving the behavior. When food was scarce during the Great Depression, resourceful people ate dandelion greens to supplement their low food supply.

After World War II, people were determined to move away from that scarcity mindset and feel prosperous again.

The psychology of the “perfect lawn” stems back to the 1950’s where the image of the perfect, happy family became very important. The advertising during that time focused on cleaning tools and products to keep the house looking neat and perfect. The outside was even more important to look good because that’s what most people saw. The demand of lawn treatments was born. The memory of the role that dandelions played was associated to being poor so dandelions became a target to eradicate.

Now that we are feeling the negative effects of chemicals in our environment, more people are open to challenging the idea of having the perfect lawn. We also have more access to understanding why growing dandelions can help us in many ways.

What are dandelions good for?

Dandelions benefits people, animals and the soil. I think the rise in popularity of dandelions is stemming from the economic inflation of our food supply. It’s also becoming more important because more people are focusing on improving their health and dandelions growing in organic conditions offer nutrients. Our younger generations don’t have the negative association of eating dandelions as being poor like their grandparents or great-grandparents did.

My guinea pig Gigi loved dandelions and she lived to be 9 years old.

1. Supplement cost of food for pets and livestock

As long as the area isn’t treated with any type of chemicals, growing dandelions are a great supplement to cutting down the cost of feed for livestock but for pets too. The Guinea Pig pictured above lived to be 9 years old! Her name was Gigi and I always fed her dandelions, clover and parsley from my garden.

Domestic pets that need greens in their diets like rabbits, guinea pigs, pet rats and pet mice can benefit from the vitamins in dandelions. Keep in mind that dandelions were only part of my guinea pigs diet. Be sure to watch for diarrhea or soft stools because you may be giving them too much.

If you have a homestead, chickens adore dandelions and it helps darken their yolk to that gorgeous orange color. Sheep, horses, goats, ducks, cows and turkeys will gobble dandelions up.

Pet food and livestock food has gone up in price so if you have dandelions in your property, it takes a few minutes out of your day to pick some for your pet and they will love you more for it. Livestock will find it on their own while they are grazing.

The seeds are also a food source of song birds like goldfinches and indigo buntings. Click here to if you’re interested in creating a natural bird feeder. Wild turkeys, rabbits, white-tailed deer and chipmunks eat the plant.

Dandelions bloom earlier than most plants and serve as a food source when food is scarce.

2. Critical bloom for pollinators in early spring

Pollinator gardens are often a goal for gardeners to supply much needed food for butterflies and bees. Flowering perennials, trees and shrubs often have a specific blooming time. Some have a shorter window than others.

If you want to support pollinators in general, growing dandelions in your yard is an essential plant for a pollinator garden. Dandelions have a very long window of blooming time. They are one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring and one of the last until the first hard frost.

3. You might find them in your salad

Dandelions grown as a food source for people in the Great Depression helped people consume some much needed nutrients. This is before vitamin supplements were available for people to balance their nutrition needs.

In some high end grocery stores, you can find dandelion leaves in salads so the stigma has changed from being a “poor man’s” food to gourmet. They can be sold on their own or mixed in with a spring mixed salad.

When the leaves are young and tender, it has a less bitter taste and the texture is softer. The yellow flowers are edible too. Proceed with caution if you have an allergy to pollen. Check with your allergist before consuming dandelions especially flowers.

4. Dandelions are nutritious

We’ve covered dandelions being consumed by people and animals. They are high in Vitamin A, C and K. You can even find dandelion tea in stores that are marketed as a detox tea. Just like with anything else, research side effects and check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions with medications you’re taking.

One of dandelion’s benefits include being an indicator of the soil you are working with. This helps with knowing how to amend your soil for a garden or landscaping.

5. It’s a cover crop that prevents erosion

Cover crops are gaining in popularity among gardeners and homesteaders because we now understand how important it is to protect and replenish the soil that heavy feeding vegetables take.

Gardeners can do this by treating the soil, keep weeds down and improving the soil’s texture. If you don’t view a dandelion as a weed, you can argue that it’s resilience, despite hard winters, make it a good cover crop to prevent soil erosion. Their long thick taproot keep them in place not matter what is happening above ground.

A downside to dandelions is their leaves spread out to make it hard for things like grass to grow. If you’re planting grass seed, you may want to dig them out before wasting time and money seeding your lawn.

If you’ve ever had hard compacted soil like clay, not too many plants can grow in it. You need some serious strength to pull a dandelion with it’s root without a tool. That root can break up hard soil. If there’s a lot of them growing together, they can aerate the soil.

Did you know that one seed head of a dandelion can have 172 seeds?
And each plant can create as much as 5,000 seeds in one year.

West Coast seeds.com

6. Growing dandelions create a kid friendly yard

For generations, dandelions are a safe source of entertainment for children. Their long stem make it easy for little hands to grab and pluck from the ground then blow the little seeds away.

Can you imagine how many wishes came true from blowing a puffy dandelion? Dandelions add free entertainment for child friendly backyards.

7. Looks beautiful in a meadow

The above photo is my own backyard which is mostly an open field. The puffy little balls of seeds add texture to my property. I have plenty of food for my chickens even when it’s cold. Dandelion are the only greens available in early spring and my girls can’t wait to eat the tender leaves.

A plain green lawn may be picturesque to some but as an artist, I see how much more interest they add to this photo.

8. Dandelions encourages us to be organic

When you embrace what dandelions are good for, you aren’t triggered with the need to use pesticides and herbicides. Dandelion benefits far outweigh any downsides.

The above picture shows a more detailed view of the plants growing in my field from violets, dandelions white clover and grass. I have many more native plants growing close by. When you pan the photo out, they all blend together.

9. It’s a supplement for bees in lean times of the season

Research has shown that dandelion pollen isn’t nearly as nutritious as tree pollen for bees. Click here to get a list of trees that feed bees pollen.

Because dandelions have a long bloom time and spread so fast, they are often the only flowers available in colder times of the year. Bees can rely on this food supply when better food sources are more scarce.

10. Save money and use them as fertilizer

If you have a tight budget, want to stay organic and don’t have access to manure, dandelions can be used as free fertilizer for your garden. It’s the same process I use with Comfrey. Pick the whole plant including the root, don’t stress if you aren’t able to get the roots. Put in a 5 gallon bucket about halfway. Fill with water and cover it with a lid. Wait about a month and dilute with water when you water your garden.

For more detailed instructions, click here.

You can simply throw them on a compost and let nature do her job in breaking them down into nutritious compost.

11. Dandelions can alert you to problems in your soil

If there are a lot of dandelions growing in a specific area, it can tell you a lot about the soil. Since dandelions can grow in hard compact soil, you may have to spend time amending the soil with compost to make it less hard and add nutrients. Speaking of nutrients, dandelions also can indicate a lack of calcium in the soil. Click here to find out what weeds are telling you about your soil.

This sounds a bit crazy, right?

As you can see by my dandelion riddled field, I have found the above to be true. It took us 2 years of amending the soil to get it soft enough so our vegetables can thrive. I also had blossom end rot with my tomato and pepper plants so adding eggshells dissolved in white vinegar was a must in preventing this issue.

Summary

It’s like anything in lifeā€¦there’s good and bad sides to it. When we understand what dandelions are good for, we can reimagine their role in our world.

With dandelions being a nutritious food source for people and animals, it’s a way to save money and use them as a low cost supplement. Dandelions can also tell you a lot about your soil quality and what is needed to improve it. Growing dandelions can also be used as a low cost fertilize or a cover crop to decrease soil erosion.

Turning a negative into a positive requires us to reframe our thinking about dandelions and utilize them in a way that makes sense for us to leverage it’s benefits.