How to Remove Dandelions and Other Deep-Rooted Weeds

Written by Hannah Miller. Fact Checked by Daniel Woodley. Published to Blog on the 8th of June 2022. Updated: August 2022.

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Hello, my name is Hannah Miller, and I’m the co-owner and contributor here at DIY Gardening.

To some, dandelions are beautiful wildflowers that should be left in the garden as they’re beneficial to bees and other pollinators. To others, they’re an annoying weed that ruins lawns and should be removed.

Dandelions are one of the more difficult weeds to remove as, according to myth, their roots grow over a foot into the ground.

In fact, very few dandelion roots grow this deep, and most reach a depth of between 4 and 6 inches.

On this page, I’ll show you how to remove dandelions and similar deep-rooted weeds without using nasty chemicals.

Use This Tool (Or Something Similar)

I’ve pulled out hundreds of these weeds and I’ve found the easiest way to remove dandelions and cat’s ear (false dandelion) is to use a manual weed puller such as this:

Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue

This tool has a long shank, a bend at 6″ and a “V” shaped notch at the tip for hooking onto the taproot – the thick part of the root that needs to be pulled out of the ground.

The metal is made from hardened steel and is coated with epoxy to prevent rust and damage from scuffs and scratches.

The handle is made from wood and lacquered for longevity.

I’m confident that you can yank out deep rooted weeds easily if you follow these instructions:

How to Remove Dandelions and Their Deep Roots

Just follow these steps:

1) Wait Until the Rain

You’re far more likely to snap the taproot if you try to pull out the weed when the ground is bone dry; this is because the soil shrinks and compacts around the root in dry weather. Wait until just after the rain, and the ground should be soft enough for you to loosen the soil so the weed can be eased out.

2) Snip Off Flowerheads

Deep-rooted weeds such as dandelions and cat’s ear produce seeds, and before you start pulling them out, you should snip off the flower heads and put them in a bag or bucket. If you miss this step, your actions will spread hundreds and possibly thousands of seeds over the lawn.

(There is an old saying; “forget the seeds, you’ll get 7 years of weeds”)

3) Loosen the Soil on 4 Sides

Use the tool to loosen the soil around all 4 sides of the weed.

Start by pressing the tool all the way into the ground at the 12 o’clock position and gently ease the weed up slightly. Repeat this process at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions.

Don’t be tempted to pull the weed up without first loosening the soil at all 4 positions as you may snap the taproot.

4) Ease The Weed Out

Once the soil has been softened on all 4 sides, hook the “V” notch under the taproot and use leverage to ease the weed out of the ground.

Typical cats ear weed - similar to a dandelion

Cat’s ear weed: It’s very similar to a dandelion

A taproot

The taproot: Leave any part of this in the ground and it will start growing

Watch Our Short Dandelion Removal Video

In this short video, Daniel, co-owner and content creator here at DIY Gardening, shows you how to remove a cat’s ear weed and as you can see, the 5″ taproot is also eased out:

Top Up With Grass Seed

I’ve found that dandelions and cat’s ear produce fairly thick taproots and bunches of roots that, when removed, will leave a small pothole in the garden.

This is easily remedied; I just fill in the golf ball-sized hole with topsoil and a sprinkling of grass seeds.

Can All The Taproots Be Removed Without Using Chemicals?

Dandelion and similar deep-rooted weeds aren’t easy to remove, and I’ve found that if I leave even the smallest part of the root in the soil, they grow back as a new weed.

Also, any seeds that fall onto the lawn may germinate and produce new weeds.

Over the years, I’ve found that it can take up to three seasons to remove a dandelion infestation from a lawn or garden if I only use manual methods. However, I’ve noticed that each year I see fewer of these weeds.

Keep The Lawn Cut Short

If you’re using the manual weed puller or any other weed removal tool, I suggest you keep the lawn cut short at all times.

If dandelions, cat’s ears or other weeds grow too tall, the flowers will bloom and then set seeds that will start the growth cycle again.

Keeping the lawn cut short won’t kill off any existing weeds, nor will it kill the taproot, but it will stop the seeds from forming.

Alternatives

The weed removal tool I use does require the gardener to get on their hands and knees, and not everyone wants to or can do that.

The best alternative tool is an upright weed puller, but it’s far from perfect:

The pedal on this tool allows the gardener to use their foot to press down on the tool so the claws can penetrate into the soil around the weed. Once tightened, the claws grip the weed, and the user can tilt the device backwards, easing the weed from the ground.

As with manual weed puller tools, this device will work best on soft, damp soil. If used on hard, compacted dirt or lawns, the taproot will likely snap.

Daniel from DIY Gardening tested the Fiskars weed puller, you can read his review here.

The only other alternative beyond manual tools is to use a lawn weedkiller that will target specific weeds and leave grass and other plants undamaged.

Depending on how severe the weed infestation is, it might be worth treating the lawn once with something like Weedol and then using the manual tools to pluck out any weeds as and when they appear. Not everyone is comfortable using weed killer chemicals in their garden, but a once-off treatment is often enough to keep the worst of the offenders from coming back for years.

Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Fiskars Xact Weed Puller, Length: 1 m, Stainless Steel Handle/Plastic Handle, Black/Orange, 1020126
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Fiskars Xact Weed Puller, Length: 1 m, Stainless Steel Handle/Plastic Handle, Black/Orange, 1020126
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Spear & Jackson 4059NB Elements Dandelion Weeder, 35 x 3.5 x 4 cm, Blue
Fiskars Xact Weed Puller, Length: 1 m, Stainless Steel Handle/Plastic Handle, Black/Orange, 1020126
Fiskars Xact Weed Puller, Length: 1 m, Stainless Steel Handle/Plastic Handle, Black/Orange, 1020126

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen gardener with a horticulture qualification who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.

She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.

This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.

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