Garden Log 4/24/22: Lo, the Dandelion!

The only time our over-4500-member garden club FB group almost descended into a real flamewar in all the years of its existence, was when someone spoke disaparagingly about his neighbors’ not eradicating their dandelions. Don’t do that, folks. Would you walk into someone’s living room and comment on how dusty you found it?

Dandelions are the delight of children, bring a blaze of sunny yellow to the spring garden, are edible and can be made into wine and ice cream (I’ve done the latter, and it’s surprisingly tasty) and soap, feed the pollinators heartily as well, and are actually good for your soil. Dandelions spring up in areas typically where the soil is not in good shape, dry and cracking, and if you let them decompose there, they’ll slowly improve it over time.

However, you can improve the soil a lot faster if you want to spend some money on digging in some compost, and if your neighbors like a pristine green lawn, they may be less than enthused by your children blowing dandelion seeds hither and yon. So for the sake of community harmony, if you do want to let the dandelions run free, you might want to at least check in with your immediate neighbors and get them on board with your plan.

As for me, I garden in large part for aesthetics, painting with flowers, and I have a cool-tone palette in spring & summer in the front garden, so I’m afraid dandelions are not allowed. (I tolerate them a little longer in the backyard, at least long enough to harvest some blooms for cooking and occasional soap-making).

I wouldn’t mind if my neighbors let theirs go, though. I fully acknowledge that my aesthetics don’t trump their own preferences, and I’m fine with digging out the dandelions that show up. We live in community, in both directions. If I wanted complete control of my garden, I’d live out in some rural area, with no neighbors for miles…

If you do plan to remove dandelions, remember that they have a long taproot, and the more of it you get up, the less likely they are to return. A stand-up weed puller will make it easier (and easier on your back) — I like this 4-claw style from Fiskar’s, which is easy enough to use that my 10-year-old could be set to hunting dandelions, and quickly amassed a giant pile. It will leave big holes in your lawn, which can be unsightly, so you’ll either want to refill them with soil or compost, plant something there, or just wait for the ground to settle a bit.

If you live locally, we have an Oak Park Area TOOL SHARE group, which is a good place to go to borrow such things if you don’t want to buy something you’re only going to use for a few days a year. Oak Park Area Neighbors is a group I run that I’d love to see people using for this kind of community sharing too.

When I was on the library board, we talked extensively about trying to add a tool library, but the problem is that tools, especially gardening tools, take up a lot of space, and since Oak Park is land-locked and space is at a premium here, it would cost quite a lot to get the kind of warehouse space we’d need to really host a tool library, which is a real shame.

I feel like there ought to be some better way to facilitate tool-sharing in our community — I’m thinking maybe a shared Google doc in the files of the FB group, where people can list items they have that they’re willing to share out? I don’t have the time to organize such a thing, but if someone would, it would be a real boon to the community, I think! I’m picturing something like this:

Item: stand-up weed puller (Fiskar’s 4-claw)
Owner: Mary Anne Mohanraj & Kevin Whyte
Address for pick-up: list if comfortable, or note rough area (i.e., near the Y)
How long loan-out? Same day borrow & return (or one week, etc.)
Contact preference?: e-mail [address] to arrange (or PM, or phone, etc.)

Final pic: Current front garden walk, with white Thalia daffodils, blue vinca minor (periwinkle), and no spots of yellow. 🙂

I admit, the cat is not actually in cool tones, but Arya rules the garden and goes where he will.

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