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How do I Deal with Creeping Charlie?

I answered this question today in our Ask a Question Section and it’s worth posting individually here:

Creeping Charlie, perennial, Glenchoma hederacea

Appearance: Low-growing aggressive creeping plant has thumbnail size scalloped leaves that look like tiny geraniums. In spring an abundance of tiny, lavender flowers appear on two- or three-inch spikes. The stems are square, with roots that dive into the soil at nodes. Minty scent
Reproduces: Seed, stolons

Creeping Charlie, with a range from the Northeastern U.S. to northern Florida, is one of the most pesky weeds in the lawn in much of the country. Proper diligence can get it out of the lawn, however.

Here is what the widespread presence of creeping Charlie generally says about the soil: Low nitrogen, high calcium, iron and sulfur, poor drainage, low bacteria. To create better soil condition, increase the overall fertility by adding compost and compost tea, as well as a liquid nitrogen fertilizer made from fish emulsion.

You can try to remove the plant with a mechanical dethatcher or bamboo rake and then overseed immediately so that the new grass seed outcompetes the creeping Charlie.

Some people just give up, however, with the rationale that this is an ideal lawn plant unless you’re trying to roll a golf ball. It’s low-growing and evergreen, and it’s even edible.

Many people apply boric acid (Borax from the laundry aisle) and this will slow the progression of the creeping Charlie, but you shouldn’t apply this to the soil more than once every couple of years. Here is the recipe from the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension:

Dissolve 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax in 4 oz. (½ cup) warm water.

Dilute in 2.5 gallons of water.

This will cover 1,000 square feet. If you have a smaller area to treat, cut the “recipe” accordingly.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Msquinting

    I’ve got a few patches of Creeping Charlie, as well as a few patches of wild strawberry, or at least that’s what I think it is. Can I deal with the strawberry in the same manner as the Charlie? Also, what can I do about clover? It’s driving us crazy! We’ve got extremely thick grass, yet some weeds still manage to take hold and then take over.

    • Paul Tukey

      Wild strawberry is usually indicative of poor, acidic soil, probably slightly compacted. Clover is the greatest lawn plant on the planet and the most common lawn plant prior to the advent of synthetic weed killers. It indicates that the soil is trying to manufacture more nitrogen, so you might want to add some liquid organic nitrogen fertilizer (fish is the most common) and get the clover to subside.

    • Scott Scholl

      In general weeds are an indication of soil deficiencies. There are a variety of liquid products to address the problem. Sufate of Potash with liquid kelp will lower the PH, liquid Lime will raise the PH, and others for nutrient deficiencies include blood meal, fish, bone meal, humates, sea minerals and molasses. In liquid form grass absorbs these products faster because in liquid form the particles are smaller. There is also no runoff or waste using a liquid organic fertilizer. Most granular products, organic and synthetic wash away before the plants and soil can utilize them. I you can get your PH at 6-7 your fertilizers are used more efficiently by the grass and the weeds will be taken over by your lush grass. Mowing frequently also helps along with returning any clippings back to the soil using a mulching mower. The important thing to remember is that soil has been depleted of trace minerals over the years and they eventually end up in the ocean. That is why products from the ocean are very good for your yard. We need to remineralize our environment and our bodies for better health.

      There are some good liquid products that I use you may be interested in using that are much cheaper than solid organic products.

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