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Knowledge to Grow by Gail Daniels - Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is a broadleaf lawn and garden weed that was brought to North America by early settlers with the best of intentions. The settlers thought it would be a good ground cover crop. In today's lawns and gardens, it very often becomes aggressive, invasive and very difficult to control.

Creeping Charlie is a perennial weed. If you look at it very closely, you will see that it has square green vines, making it a member of the mint family. It has blue or lavender flowers and leaves that are round with scalloped edges. It will grow in shady or sunny areas and prefers heavy, rich soil and moisture.

The vines have nodes that will form at each of the places where leaves grow; these nodes will form roots if they come in contact with soil. Left to alone, Creeping Charlie forms a dense mat that quickly crowds out other plants. This is part of the reason this weed is so hard to control.

Getting control in your lawn is not simply a matter of getting rid of the Cheeping Charlie. You also need to maintain a healthy lawn by doing the following:

1. Mow at cutting height of 2.5 to 3 inches. The taller height allows the grass to shade out germinating weed seeds.

2. Try not to remove more than one-third of the grass blade at one time. This allows the grass to maintain a healthy reserve of carbohydrates.

3. Have your soil tested and follow the recommendations for limestone to raise soil PH. and fertilizer applications.

 Two garden control methods to consider are using a dethatching rake to remove the thatch layer or, if you are really desperate, killing off an area and starting over.

You also can try pulling Creeping Charlie – not in the fall but after the plant flowers in the spring. At this time, the roots just seem to hunker down and settle in for the long haul. Pulling roots the week while it is flowering is quite easy. In the spring, the plant is using its energy on flowers, not the roots,

 You may read or hear of a home remedy of using Borax, which contains boron. This is not recommended because there is a very fine line between enough boron to kill Creeping Charlie and enough boron to kill everything else around it. Also, boron doesn't break down or otherwise "disappear" from the soil so you could have a long-term "situation"!

Creeping Charlie is a particularly problematic weed because of the fact that it is resistant to a number of herbicides. Check with your local Purdue Extension Office or Home and Garden Center for advice on possible, correct sprays you might use.

Creeping Charlie seems to be an attractive groundcover if you don't let it get too aggressive. Controlling it takes a lot of work and may not be totally successful. Some gardeners learn to accept Creeping Charlie and give up on controlling it.

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.