Like he does every day this time of year, Peter spent the morning cutting off dandelion flowers on a patch of Edmonton grass with a shovel.
Peter, who didn’t give his last name, is not tending to his lawn. Peter’s grass is weed-free. Instead, he’s working on a city boulevard at 75 Street and 98 Avenue.
“It is a lot of dandelions, especially this year. The weather must be nice in May,” he said. “I can get it a little bit under control. Bit by bit, I get it under control.”
Peter has been digging up dandelions on public land for about a decade now. He wages this war for a few reasons. In part, he’s thankful to be living in Canada, his adopted home. But mostly, he just hates dandelions.
“It’s ugly, very ugly when they get those white [seeds]. Very ugly. Those stems, all those unsightly stems,” Peter said.
Down the street, George Fleming mows his front lawn and watches Peter work on the city boulevard. Fleming says the dandelion problem on city land seems to be getting worse and that means the flowers are spreading. He doesn’t like it.
“Three weeks ago, I had two or three plants. Now, what have I got? A crop,” Fleming said.
The city has moved away from spraying dandelions.
Crews only spray some sports fields if the weed problem gets so bad that the dandelions pose a safety risk. Only 2.3 per cent of grass is treated with herbicide. In 1999, the city sprayed 51.4 per cent of green spaces. That amounts to a 96 per cent reduction.
Environmental and health concerns led the city to cut back on herbicides but crews changed how they tackled dandelions.
Parks were to be mowed more frequently. This year, during peak dandelion seasons, parks are supposed to be mowed every five to 10 days. The rationale is if the dandelion flowers are regularly cut, they won’t go to seed and won’t spread.
George Fleming understands the plan but says the weeds have been getting worse every year for the last few years.
“I’ve noticed that it isn’t helping,” he said. “I think they have to start spraying again.”
Mayor Don Iveson acknowledges that the dandelions are “a pain in the butt” but he adds city crews can only do so much.
This spring has been wet and then it recently became hot. Those are prime dandelion conditions.
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“We try to plan for a typical year,” Iveson said. “The problem is the weather never cooperates in providing a typical year. Overall, over the course of a year, it should even out but sometimes it starts dry. Sometimes it starts wet.”
Meanwhile, Peter vows to continue helping city crews try to keep up. However, he feels the dandelion problem is getting worse and his fight is a bit of a losing battle. On Monday, Peter cut off the flowers of every dandelion in the boulevard along 75 Street. By Tuesday, he was back, and so were the dandelions.
“I don’t think they got the resources,” said Peter of city crews tasked with mowing the weeds.
City crews maintain more than 4,000 hectares of parkland.
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