Our delightfully early spring has produced an unusually early crop of dandelions. There they were last week, sunny yellow polka-dots popping up on lawns all over.

I have a love-hate relationship with dandelions. When I was a kid, I thought they were beautiful, and couldn't understand why people called them "weeds." I picked a fresh bunch for my playhouse every morning.

When I bought my first grown-up house, it came with a lawn and a few dandelions. But there was so much shade that the dandelions never got carried away. And my Minneapolis neighbors were tolerant.

Then we moved to suburbia. The  yards are big, sunny and covered with turf grass. Dandelions love 'em. And my new neighbors clearly did not love dandelions. (One even sent us a toxic two-page letter, berating us for our failures at weed control.)

My husband I did not want to use chemicals (we had two little kids and two dogs), so we tried to dig our dandelions. All of them. After spending six hours (on Mother's Day, no less) digging dandelions and still having our back yard look like a meadow, we broke down and hired a lawn service.

That took care of the dandelions. But I was afraid to grow vegetables in my own yard, which I hated. We switched to a gentler, more organic lawn service. Our lawn is far from perfect, but it's within the acceptable norm for our neighborhood. The area around our shrubs is a constant battle, however. The ground is covered with river rocks, making it difficult to dig the dandelions that sprout there.

Last year, I tried corn gluten meal, an Earth-friendly alternative to weed control. I did it in early spring, right after the dandelions reared their heads. But corn gluten meal is supposed to be used as a pre-emergent, and apparently I was too late. The dandelions flourished. This year, I tried again, spreading corn gluten meal before the dandelions could surface. They came up anyway.

Meanwhile, one of my dogs has developed a taste for corn gluten meal. I was a little alarmed until I read that it's actually used as a filler in some dog foods. It's not the most nutritious chow around but it won't kill her. Or the dandelions, apparently.

What about you? How do you deal with dandelions? And have you had any better success with corn gluten meal than I have?