Maybe it’s because I don’t worry very much about my lawn, but it would never cross my mind to weed or spray dandelions. They come, they go and I just mow them down. But dandelions were one of the first phenology clues I learned; the arrival of dandelions means it’s time to plant potatoes.
Penology is the study of regular occurring cycles in nature (like the blooming of dandelions) and their relationships with each other. You can learn more about phenology in general at the National Phenology Network. My interest has mainly been in signs of when to plant what and when to prepare for pest problems. For instance, squash vine borers lay their eggs about the same time that chicory blooms. Some of the readers of my other blog have clued me into more phenological clues. And if you’d like, you can even help the scientists at Project BudBurst track changes,
So dandelions are actually good new, if you love potatoes – and who doesn’t. Potatoes are super easy to grow, but they require a bit of faith since you never know what’s going on underground while you wait to harvest. I’ve found the easiest way to grow potatoes is to use a large container like a half whiskey barrel or a clean garbage can with drainage holes. Simply put a few inches of soil in the container, add the potato pieces and cover with a few more inches of soil. Water well and as the vines grow, keep covering them with soil so that only 2–4 inches remains about ground. You’ll get potatoes all along the covered stems. Harvest the whole batch when the stems start to die back. Cornell Cooperative Extension has more tips for growing potatoes at home.
Potatoes store very well, so don’t be afraid you’ll grow too many to use. And you can grow varieties that aren’t available locally, like creamy ‘German Butterball’ or the heirloom ‘Peruvian Purple’ potatoes shown here. They hold their blue color, even when cooked. So forget about dandelions in your lawn and get yourself a barrel to grow some potatoes. One word of caution, they can carry the spores for late blight, so always plant certified disease free seed potatoes.