Cherish the dandelions in their new season

Ray Mueller

Now that the new growing season has begun, many property owners will notice that dandelions have been among the first plants springing up in their lawns this month.

Not only are dandelions attention getters in providing color to the landscape early in the growing season but they also can serve as food for humans, bees, and some insect species.

The temptation of too many property owners and hired lawn caretakers is to try to exterminate those dandelions when they should be doing exactly the opposite. They fail to realize that the dandelions are a very nutritious food for humans along with being a vital early season nutrient for native bees.

Instead of trying to weed out the dandelions, or worst still, applying a herbicide to them, they could consider the far more beneficial alternatives.

To start, clip the fresh leaves and include them in salads. The best time to do this is before the dandelion plant's bud appears. That's because the leaves become somewhat bitter at the later growth stage.

What's so important for the bees is the opening (the blossoming) of the buds into their bright yellow display. That usually happens in late April and early May. Ambitious people could also collect a lot of blossoms to make wine or even cookies (check for instructions online).

Those blossoms persist for about two weeks. Unfortunately, that's when people who do not recognize the value of those blossoms to the bees are likely to cut them with the lawnmower.

Yes, there might be local ordinances about “rank growth” in one's yard. But this could be an opportunity to educate neighbors and municipal officials about why to give the blossoms a couple of weeks of glory.

Mow the dandelions once the blossoms turn white. At that time, the seeds won't be mature enough to spread to adjacent properties where dandelions, undeservedly, might not not welcome.