Creeping Charlie: How natural lawn care providers control them

MPAC’s Ryan Anderson takes you straight to the experts for managing pesky Creeping Charlie naturally

I’ve hosted plenty of MGG Kickoff Events, presented at many community meetings, and attended numerous fairs to know that Creeping Charlie (or Ground Ivy) is a problem. Perhaps the most pervasive weed and the toughest to eradicate.

I could refer you to online resources for naturally controlling this resilient weed, but I thought taking you straight to the experts works best. I asked our natural lawn care providers how they manage Creeping Charlie. This is how they replied:

Alec McClennan, Good Nature Organic Lawn Care

Depending upon your perspective, Creeping Charlie is either a relatively difficult to control perennial weed or a nice minty smelling ground cover.  If you don’t like creeping charlie (ground ivy), you can control it by applying nutrients that it does not like such as the micronutrient Boron.  You can find Boron in the common laundry detergent 20 Mule Team Borax.  If you mix up the borax in water and spray it over the ground ivy area in the spring or fall, you’ll see a reduction in the amount of ground ivy.

Here is a recipe from Iowa State to treat 1,000 sq. feet:

  • 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax
  • dissolve in 4 oz. warm water
  • then dilute in 2.5 gal. water

Jeff Swano, Dig Right In Landscaping Inc.

In my experience, Creeping Charlie tends to “let go” of the soil when its leaves turn bronze in late fall to early winter.  During this time, you can use a hard rake to grab a strand or strands and easily pull complete strings out of the ground and in lawns.

It is a very persistent weed, even with chemical controls.

Michael Kormanik, Greenwise Organic Lawn Care

The key is to tip the balance underground in favor of the grass plant.

Start by addressing drainage issues through french drain system, swales, dry creek beds and other landscape techniques that redirect storm water and ground water to divert run off and help mitigate standing water.

Second, get more oxygen into the soil through annual core turf aeration. When aerating, use a soil amendment such as lime, gypsum, calcium, or a blend such as Greenwise’s PRIME Organic Soil Amendment. These are not fertilizers, they act as inert material to help keep the spacing in the soil and extend the effectiveness of the aeration.

For more information, please read about safe & effective ways to control weeds here:

Shay Lunseth, Organic Lawns by LUNSETH 

I would say that multiple applications of chelated iron (2-4 in a season) works.

You can, also, heavy metal rake it in the spring.  This helps reduce its aggressiveness all season.

Finally, seed with allelopathic grass varieties such as fine fescues that naturally suppresses weeds around them.  This puts you on a good foot moving forward.

Robert Boyce, Natural Environments

Creeping Charlie competes well in shade.  Raise mower height and allow other species including sedges and grasses to grow.  Overseed with a shade grass seed.

Image: Creeping Charlie by the New York State IPM at Cornell University

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