August 26, 2010 at 9:17 a.m.

Creeping Charlie is major problem this year

Creeping Charlie is major problem this year
Creeping Charlie is major problem this year

The Almelund Threshing Show got off to a wet and muddy start but it didn't stop gardeners from coming to our building and asking over 300 questions. Although we expected many questions about tomatoes, we never thought that one-third of them would be about tomato diseases, deformed, and low or no yield at all.

We learned that the seeds of foxtail can hurt the gums in horses mouths, and we were asked what to do with extra okra. Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy and Creeping Jenny was by far the second most popular subject.

Creeping Charlie was brought to this country from Great Britain to use as a shade-tolerant ground cover. It is a low growing perennial weed that thrives in moist, shady areas of the lawn and garden, but will also invade sunny areas. This is particularly true with the heat and moisture this summer. The four-sided stems grow to lengths of 15 to 30 inches with roots forming at the nodes where the leaves join the stem. Its leaves resemble those of the common geranium, but are smaller in size.

The best control is to maintain a healthy lawn by regular and proper mowing, watering, fertilizing, and reducing shade when possible in very shady areas. These steps will encourage thicker grass and keep the Creeping Charlie in check. If you catch it early, you may be able to control Creeping Charlie by pulling it out. If it becomes thick, you can use a special tool called a dethatching rake. This helps to comb through the grass, pulling much of the vine weed out.

Many of those who talked to us at the threshing show had tried regular controls and are ready for chemicals. Creeping Charlie can be controlled by applying an herbicide containing 2, 4-D and MCPP as the active ingredients. The herbicide will damage or possibly kill any woody or broad-leafed vegetation that comes in contact with the spray, so it must be used with care.

The best time to spray is in the fall once the temperatures have cooled to the 60's or 70's, with no rain forecast for forty-eight hours. This spray may be repeated every 10 to 14 days as long as the weather is cooperative. Always follow the label directions carefully.

If you have areas with more Creeping Charlie than lawn, you may wish to start over. Strip it off with a sod lifter (a hand tool), a sod cutter (a power tool), or apply glyphosate (a non-selective herbicide, sold as Roundup) to kill the entire area. Then you can seed or sod. Where Creeping Charlie persists after years of repeated attempts to control it, you may want to consider killing it and replacing it with shade-tolerant ground cover plants or decorative mulch.


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