The perfect lawn…soft, lush, green…a pleasure to walk and sit on. But that perfect green lawn takes a lot of water, fertilizer, and chemicals to maintain in that perfect state. According to Environmental and Human Health, Inc., there are 30 million acres of lawn in the United States and an estimated 80 million pounds of pesticides are used on them annually.
Often chemicals are aimed at killing dandelions. “As a weed, it’s one of the most unpopular of the bunch: dandelion tap roots are notoriously hard to dig out, the plants have an almost unrivaled knack of propagating themselves, including in walls and cracks in paving where nothing else would live, and – to add insult to injury – they are often the first flower we see in spring and the last in autumn. The dandelion is bold and brash and unrelenting. But that is why it is brilliant. It’s virtually everywhere and nearly always in flower; it’s the pollinator’s best friend.” (Kate Bradbury in The Guardian).
We wrote about the annual battle of the lawn that happens at my house each summer. Creative (and ecofriendly) songwriter, Dana Lyons, wrote a most clever song, “Ride the Lawn”, that makes me laugh out loud each time I hear it. If you have 4.48 minutes…I bet it makes you smile…even a little bit…
Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift. Ketzel Levine on Oregon Public Broadcasting: “Remind Me, Why Do We Hate Dandelions?”. Good question – given some important benefits we get from dandelions.
Here are 4 reasons to wage peace (not war) and embrace dandelions:
- Reduce chemicals (and save money and time). As mentioned above, an estimated 80 million pounds of pesticides are used on lawns annually. That includes “Weed & Feed” used by many homeowners.
- Food for pollinators and other wildlife. Dandelions provide food for a variety of insects and wildlife including bees, beetles, beetles, butterflies, and birds, such as goldfinches and sparrows.
- Source of healthy food for humans (if they aren’t sprayed with chemicals). Dandelions are chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Dandelion leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in some coffee substitutes and the flowers are used to make wines. (University of Maryland Medical School).
- Dandelions are actually good for your lawn! What? Well, according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: Their wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. The deep taproot pulls nutrients such as calcium from deep in the soil and makes them available to other plants. Dandelions actually fertilize the grass.
So maybe it’s time to redefine the American lawn into a more ecofriendly habitat for wildlife and for us. If nothing else, you’ll save money and time trying to kill dandelions. Pull up a chair, grab a drink (maybe dandelion wine…but make sure you leave flowers for pollinators and birds), sit back, and relax! One more step on our ecofriendly journey.