In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Top Ten Bee-Friendly Tips: #2-Tolerate Dandelions and Other Useful "Weeds"

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: April 29, 2014 - 12:58 PM

With such a long, long winter and the spring that hasn't sprung, this year, of all years, many people may actually find it cheerful when those first dandelions show their sunny faces. I know I will. 

More than just a cure for this dismal weather, dandelions are a key to bee survival.

The tide is turning against huge swaths of perfect and purposeless lawns. But many still feel that need to get out the weed and feed, hastening the demise of the innocent dandelions the minute they pop up. 

Dandelions and lots of the other "plants out of place" are actually not always the evil invasives we've been led to believe. In fact, even Creeping Charlie has a benevolent side when it comes to bees. Mind you not every weed, especially ones designated "noxious" belong in our home landscapes, but there are quite a few that benefit wildlife. 

Bees and other wildlife count on these "first responders to spring" for survival. Maybe we should start thinking of the dandelion as not a weed but a wildflower? And who goes around killing wildflowers.

Three Reasons to Love Dandelions:

1. Dandelions are an important first source of nectar for bees and other beneficial insects. Their blooms act as a bridge to survival for bees and other bugs that have managed to make it through winter until more plentiful blooms of spring appear.

2. Dandelions' stubborn and seemingly endless taproots help to break up soil and actually draw vitamins and nutrients closer to the soil surface.

3. As long as they haven’t been sprayed with herbicide they are one of many foragers' favorite early herbs. Added to salads and stir-fries they impart a bright and bitter flavor. Then of course there’s dandelion wine. I ate them on ravioli at a local food-centric café last year and they were delicious.

And don’t forget to make wishes on their fuzzy heads!

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