More than ever lately the world seems to divide itself into diverse and widely separated groups over almost every topic. Red or blue. Apple or Android. Dog or cat. Dandelion sprayer or dandelion tolerator. Whatever you’re for, it’s a guarantee someone else is adamantly against it.
I’m not sure when the dandelion became public enemy No. 1, but during the months of May and June it certainly gives the FBI’s Top 10 a run for their money.
Dandelions probably wouldn’t have such a bad reputation if there weren’t so many of them and if they didn’t spread quite so easily. Still, are they really that bad?
I like a nice green lawn as much as the next person, but not when that nice green lawn comes with a little sign saying, “Chemically treated. Keep children and pets off until dry.” If children and pets are supposed to stay away from something, it might behoove the rest of us to follow that same advice.
I blame Hollywood for America’s fixation with perfectly groomed dandelion-free lawns. Film homes always have yards that look like the lawns at a country club, and the only people who have weedy backyards are inevitably drug dealers or other lowbrows with a big jug of moonshine at their side.
When I was growing up, I desperately wanted my family to be normal, like the Brady Bunch. In my quest for normalcy, I thought our lawn should look like the Bradys’ — emerald green and weed free instead of how our lawn actually looked — green but loaded with dandelions.
For my 10th birthday, I asked my parents to have the lawn sprayed as my present, so we’d blend in more with the rest of the neighborhood. My father didn’t mince words in his response.
“Forget it. When you put chemicals on the grass to kill dandelions, those chemicals go down into the ground and end up in the water we drink. Do you want to drink chemicals just so you don’t have to look at dandelions?”
“But the Bradys don’t have any dandelions,” I said.
“Who are the Bradys?”
“‘The Brady Bunch.’”
My father smacked his head. “The Bradys’ backyard is Astroturf, dummy, and that show is moronic. Now think of something else you want for your birthday.”
Slowly, I came around to my father’s way of thinking — about dandelions, not “The Brady Bunch” — especially after realizing being a conformist wasn’t nearly as much fun as I thought it would be and that in all likelihood no one was ever going to consider me normal.
Plus, the more I thought about Dad’s comments about chemicals going into the groundwater, the less important a perfectly green, weed-free lawn became. Mark and I have plucked and pulled dandelions over the years, but we’ve never sprayed them. Which means right now we have a yard that looks about as far from a Hollywood lawn as is imaginable.
In defense of dandelions, they play an important ecological role. They are a food source for bees, butterflies, moths and some birds.
They are entirely edible and can even be made into wine.
But I realize those benefits don’t make them any more attractive. Dandelions are like everyone’s annoying relative who has some good points but never knows when to leave and spreads his belongings everywhere.
Chemicals, on the other hand, are like everyone’s least favorite teacher who gets the job done but very possibly leaves unseen long-lasting trauma in her wake.
This is definitely a hot topic. People who spray heartily resent those who don’t and vice versa. My personal problem with spraying is that it’s a lot like smoking — just because someone wants to light up doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to inhale their secondhand smoke. But I suppose people in favor of spraying could say the same thing — just because I don’t mind dandelions doesn’t mean it’s fair for my dandelions to spread their seeds up and down the block.
Let’s face it; there’s no solution to the spray versus no spray problem that will make everyone happy.
The best we can do is keep on pulling if that’s our method of weed control, spraying if you want to, and remembering each of us is entitled to our own opinions, even if we believe “The Brady Bunch” was great television and that the humble dandelion has its place in the world — although not on any lawn in La La Land.
Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in Mankato with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at email@example.com.