Dandelions – 2010/05/17

At this time of year, I don’t get into town very often. My weekly bank deposit is pretty much it. Driving into town, I’m noticing that a lot of people have decided to naturalize their lawns with dandelions. I think it’s very pretty, all those swaths of yellow. I know, however, that I am in the minority on this one. I’ve surely offended most of you, especially the men – not to be sexist. Now that we’re going through the first full year of the pesticide ban, the dandelions are rejoicing and spreading whereever they like and people have been asking me if there is anything thay can do.

To the rescue comes a new product called Sarritor. It’s a naturally occuring fungus that grows into the dandelion and absorbs the plant tissue. It was discovered by Dr. Alan Watson at McGill University. Go Canada! When I was first told about it last year, I decided to do some research. Nobody wants another incident like the carnivorous lady bugs that were introduced a few years ago.

The fungus is called Sclerotinia minor. A quick Google search revealed that this fungus is a problem for corn farmers as well as a number of vegetables. It can live in the soil for up to 4 years and produces spores that can become airborne. I sent an Email to the people at Sarritor because this sounded very alarming. Once I got past the more sales-oriented responses, I got a response from someone more into the workings of the product. “[It] has been genetically altered to only absorb the broadleaf weeds and completely die after their food source is gone. In addition, it has no spores and will not be airborne.” He also told me that it has been extensively researched, is non-toxic and is even safe for your pets. Being a dog owner this is a concern for me. My yellow lab, Latte, recently discovered a bag of corn gluten in the garden centre. After much panic, and many phone calls (Thanks Bruce) I found out that this particular brand of corn gluten doesn’t add nitrates to raise the Nitrogen level. Whew! Unfortunately for Latte, this information came after we tried to induce vomitting by making her drink peroxide. I know what you’re thinking and you’ve never owned a lab – she did not learn her lesson from this and has tried to revisit the corn gluten many times.

The fungus is a dry granule that you apply directly to the dandelion when daytime highs are less than 24 degrees Celcius (that’s 75 Fahrenheit for those of you that never embraced Metric – I still weigh myself in pounds and know my height in feet and inches, but I do prefer Celcius to Fahrenheit). It also needs to be watered in afterwards for about 15 minutes. If rain isn’t in the forecast, expect to be watering the next couple of days. One thing they’ve done that is nice is that the applicator lid dispenses the correct dose for one dandelion. No math required. After 7 days, the weed should be dead. They say it’s 5 to 7 days, but that package you’re eagerly awaiting never arrives after 4 weeks, it’s always 6 weeks, so I’m not even considering the 5 days. You should also hold off on playing on the lawn or cutting it for the first 3 days to allow the product to really take hold. And you shouldn’t cut your lawn before 9:00 am. This isn’t for the product’s sake, it’s for your neighbours. If you’d like to know more about it, you can visit their website at Sarritor.ca.

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About johnsgarden

I have a garden centre which operates out of my home in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada I write columns for a local paper, which I will include here
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