The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is commonly thought of as an aggressive weed that spreads across lawns and flower beds each spring. Although this is true in several circumstances, planting dandelions as a food crop has a rich heritage.
Dandelions, which are indigenous to Europe and Asia, have been used as herbal remedies for thousands of years and are a mainstay in some cuisines for nearly as long. They can be cultivated outside in Sunset’s Climate Zones 1 through 24 using most of the same techniques as garden lettuce.
The plant’s greens are abundant in calcium, iron, potassium, and Vitamins A, K, and C, which also include a considerable quantity of fiber and iron. They’re also low in calories, so they’re great in salads. The blossoms can also be used to make wine, eaten raw in salads, or deep-fried in butter, and the immature buds contain a lot of protein.
Delicate and yummy, sealed flower buds add crunch to green salads. They’re easy to propagate and can be used in all parts of the plant. Dandelions grow swiftly and germinate in roughly 10 days, so they’re ideally planted in the early spring to late summer.
Dandelion Growing Conditions
Prepare the Soil
Compost or an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer can be added to the soil to help your dandelions germinate. Dandelions thrive in rich soil, yet they can develop in poor soil as well.
In the mid-to-late spring, sow dandelion seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in a seedbed, spreading them 2 to 3 inches apart. Because dandelion seeds need a lot of sunshine to grow, they should not be covered with soil.
Dandelion plants like direct sunlight, although they may thrive in almost any light. They will, however, grow more quickly if they receive at least eight to ten hours of daily sunlight.
Keep the top inch of soil damp but not soggy while watering your dandelion seeds. When dandelions are well-watered, they grow fast, so it’s essential to keep an eye on how much water they receive.
Humidity and Temperature
Dandelions may survive in soil temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but they flourish at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This illustrates why they don’t usually appear as “weeds” on your grass until the middle of the summer.
Furthermore, dandelions do not require a high level of humidity and can survive in both humid and relatively dry conditions.
Dandelions can profit from certain organic matter in the soil, but they don’t require any special fertilizer, though they won’t be harmed if they get any from nearby plant treatments. To avoid chemical contamination, always use organic fertilizer on surrounding crops if you plan to consume and prepare with your dandelion plants.
Once the seedlings develop their first genuine leaves, thin them out. Pinch off the tiny seedlings and leave enough larger seedlings to space them 10 to 12 inches apart.
Development of the Leaf
Wait a few weeks for your dandelions to develop until they yield broad green leaves. Depending on the cultivar you use, the leaves of your dandelion plants may look different. At this stage, when they are at their gentlest, they can be harvested and eaten as “baby greens.”
Harvesting Mature Crowns
Trim the leaves off underneath the crown with a serrated knife in the late summer or fall to harvest your dandelion leaves. Before the plant flowers, the leaves should be plucked while they are just under 10 inches in length, or they will become sour.
Harvesting Dandelion Roots
If you want to harvest the roots from your dandelions, dig them up with a needle-nose spade. The optimal time to harvest the roots of dandelion plants is in the fall of the first year or early spring of the second.
Overwintering Dandelion Plants
Dandelion plants that haven’t been harvested can be saved for the next year. You may use a cold box to protect your dandelion plants over the winter.
Important Tips About Dandelions
If you begin your dandelion seeds indoors, you’ll have a better chance of getting them to mature outside. Grow your seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost, then transfer the seedlings in mid-to-late spring.
Split the seedlings into different pots when they attain a length of around 1 inch to prevent dandelions from spreading across your garden.