Charlie is creeping!

Creeping Charlie in the garden

I celebrate the warm temperatures and spring rains that persuade bulbs to present their flowery gifts and turn lawn grass from winter brown to emerald green. Unfortunately. along with the beauty and color I celebrate comes weeds. Early spring weeds seem to spring up overnight. I photographed a charming purple crocus one day and the next, a weed is obstructing the shot.

In this first edition of the Weed Chronicles is creeping Charlie, botanically known as Glechoma hederacea. Also commonly called ground ivy, it spreads by long stems that root at leaf nodes. It also spreads by seeds and rhizomatous roots. Creeping Charlie is a perennial weed identified by its kidney-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. Small, purplish-blue, funnel-shaped flowers bloom in spring. A member of the mint family, it has square stems and smells minty if crushed.

There are chemical herbicides available to spray on creeping Charlie, but organic controls are worth considering.

Creeping Charlie in the lawn

Start by examining the reasons it has crept into your landscape. Creeping Charlie prefers areas with moist shade and fertile soil. If it is growing in the lawn, there are options:

  • Prune lower branches of trees or thin canopies to increase sunlight.
  • Practice proper lawn care. Mow turf to a height of two to three inches, fertilize and water properly, and over-seed in the fall.
  • If creeping Charlie is limited to a small area, pull it by hand.
  • If the area is too shady to grow thick and healthy grass, consider removing turf altogether and planting shade-loving ground covers like pachysandra, English ivy or vinca.

Creeping Charlie in the garden

If creeping Charlie is growing in flower beds or borders:

  • Prune lower branches of trees or thin canopies to increase sunlight.
  • Smother it. Cover with several sheets of newspaper and then a thick layer of mulch.
  • Pull it by hand. Water the area first or wait until after a rain, and the roots will release from the soil easier.

Creeping Charlie is rarely eliminated completely on the first, or even second, try. Keep a close eye on the area and pull any new plants that pop up from roots left behind.

It is not advisable to use borax to control creeping Charlie. Use too little and there is inadequate results; use too much and harm surrounding plants. Borax does not break down in the soil so repeated applications may cause areas where no plants can grow.

I waged war on the creeping Charlie in my yard a couple years ago and am making progress toward eradication.

How is your battle going? If you are losing the fight, you might consider making lemonade from lemons. Think of creeping Charlie as a lovely ground cover and let it do what it does best – cover the ground. Garden with me!

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