Monday, July 19, 2010

Dandy Lion Weeder

Life would be a lot simpler if we learned to love the humble dandelion. To those garden scholars its fancy name is Taraxacum, a large genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Asteraceae. For the rest of us it is that pesky yellow weed that grows everywhere.

As the cost of fresh vegetables rise for the gasoline used to fuel the delivery trucks, we should be considering the many uses for this handy little plant. The leaves are chock full of vitamins and can be used in a salad. Try some hard boiled eggs as an accompaniment.

You have your own free trade coffee when you dry the roots for some home brew. If you need something with a little more fortitude, then try gathering the yellow flowers and become a dandy vintner of dandelion wine.

In spite of all its virtues the majority of gardeners are still opposed to dandelions of their back yard. We all have spent time on our hands and knees with some kind of pointed digger, doing more damage to our backs then the dandelion population.

Over the past few years we have used a Fiskars weeder that keeps the gardener standing up. Each time we have loaned them out, the neighbours try them once and go buy their own. The concept is simple. On the ground end of a three foot handle is a four tine dandelion grabber. Perpendicular to that is a small foot lever. Place the tines over the dandelion and push down. Step on the foot lever and pull the handle towards you. The level action closes the sharp tines and pulls out the dandelion with a good chunk of root. Best used after a rain when the ground is soft, the more root removed the better.

My neighbours think that this is the best invention since sliced bread. What is interesting to note is that this tool concept dates to 1913. Manufactured for a few decades, production was ceased during World War Two when metal foundries converted to making items for the war effort.

Fiskars has made a few versions, each one better than the previous, but all do a great job.

Gardeners of a century ago were just as obsessed with weeds as we are. The text, Agriculture for Beginners, published in 1914, admonished the home agriculturist to nip weeds in the bud as “the best time to kill any weed is when it is very small.” In Muskoka that means that we should try and kill our garden weeds at the beginning of garden season. The trick is to get it done before the black flies and mosquitoes kill us.

One street over is a home with a great lawn. Each spring the owner walks along with his stand up weeder and pulls out the little yellow flower. In addition to removing the weed, the lawn is aerated with the little holes made by the weed puller. Now as the years go on and your dandelion population decreases, you may need to find another way to aerate your lawn, but that would still be a good indication in your success in the dandelion wars.

There are a myriad of hand weeders that dig deep and cut the tap root of the offending Taraxacum. If you like spending hours time your hands and knees getting the close up view of your lawn then by all means give them a try. My neighbours will have some that they will likely be happy to give away now that they do their weeding standing up.

With the weeder in position, this dandelion’s time has come.

This dandelion is plucked and ready for the garbage bin.

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