Creeping Charlie control

Eradicate, annihilate and destroy- these words are often used in conjunction with discussions on the persistent weed problem of Creeping Charlie. I have always said, if we could only come up with a sure-fire way to rid lawns of this menace, we would be millionaires.

This weed, also called ground ivy or creeping Jenny, is especially tricky to control, as it spreads aggressively by stolons or rhizomes. Each individual leaf node can take root. So when hand weeding, if one does not pull out the entire plant structure, it can re-grow from remaining pieces left in the soil.

There are many suggested formulas for home-made weed controls to be found on the internet. Be aware that some of these so called remedies, such as a Borax mixture, can actually be harmful to your soil. When perusing the internet for gardening advice, always make sure to use only that advice which is research-based, from extension and universities.

What to do? Keeping your lawn healthy and raising mowing height to about three inches is the first step to controlling Creeping Charlie. Fall is a good time to apply fertilizer to maintain healthy turf. Over-seeding in the fall may also help to thicken your lawn to help choke out weeds. And remember as bluegrass does not grow well in shade, you may need to try a more shade tolerant grass in problem areas.

As a cool-season perennial broadleaf weed, Creeping Charlie is best controlled by the use of a post-emergence broadleaf herbicide applied in the fall. This time of year plants are actively growing and receive nutrients from their leaves, called translocation. Translocation will also move a chemical application into the plant system more effectively. Be sure to read and follow label directions when using any chemical controls. Check with your local Extension Office for further ISU recommendations on chemical controls.

Did you know? Creeping Charlie was actually imported from Europe and introduced to the public by the commercial nursery trade for use as a hanging basket type plant. Some folks even thought it would be a good ground cover for shade. But once this plant escaped into the landscape, it has been a persistent weed problem in home lawns and gardens ever since.

Gardening Questions? Contact Yvonne McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu with your questions or for information on attending Iowa Master Gardener training to begin Sept 16.