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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Creeping Charlie - Killer Recipes

Creeping Charlie, or ground ivy, is one of those weeds that just won't quit.  It was brought over from Europe by settlers that thought it would make a nice ground cover for shaded areas.  And that it does well, thriving in moist and shady locations!  

However, Creeping Charlie also grows well in sunny locations and can be an unwelcome invader to grass lawns.  It spreads by both seed and vining stems which root about anywhere it comes in contact with the ground. These vining stems can even hitch a ride under lawn mower decks that move from yard to yard.

Creeping Charlie running stem with roots

The leaves are rounded with scalloped edges and have a somewhat strong smell when cut or crushed.  Many people think it smells minty and pleasant.  It can be used to make teas, added to salads or cooked in soups.  Although I will likely pass, I don't like it much.  I do sort of wish I had saved and potted a little bit when I removed it from our yard.

Unlike a lot of my posts about plants, this recipe is for controlling them in your lawn, specifically Creeping Charlie!

     More foraging info for those interested can be found here- 

Creeping Charlie blooming with its small, bluish funnel-shaped blossoms

Enter Boron

Boron is a necessary micronutrient for plant growth, helping with sugar transport, cell division and seed development. Without enough boron in the soil, plants may appear healthy but will not flower or fruit.  The balance of too little or too much between plants and boron is a delicate one, and heavy boron soil concentration can be toxic to plants.  Luckily for those who have a this weed problem in their lawn

Creeping Charlie is very susceptible to too much Boron.

This recipe for controlling it originally came from Iowa State university.  They removed the article initially, as many people were killing their lawns permanently.  It has been republished here, with plenty of warnings.

Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

I've added some steps to help increase effectiveness, and reduce the risk of killing your grass with Boron toxicity. First you'll need to rake out as much creeping charlie as you can. Aggressively go after the running stems as they will try to regrow.  A stiff tined garden rake works very well for this part.

Next, I recommend starting with just half strength (5oz Borax) of ISU's recipe below

Recipe for Borax control of ground ivy on bluegrass
     (Caution: apply over recommended area to avoid toxicity symptoms)
Treats 1,000 sq. feet:
Dissolve in 4 oz. warm water to help dissolve the borax
Dilute this premix in 2.5 gal. water


If the Creeping Charlie returns to your lawn, you'll need to rake the rhizomes out again.  It should definitely be less this time, and then use a 2nd half strength application.

If it happens to come back again, it should at least be in sporadic patches and way more manageable with patience and a bit of maintenance raking.

Recent articles claim long term control with Borax is limited, but my anecdotal experience says it really helps get ahead of it and you can keep it under control with a little diligence.

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