Hardiness Zone: 6a
Trisha from Ontario Canada
This is never the popular answer, but my personal recommendation is to try to control Creeping Charlie by pulling it out. You probably won't completely eliminate it this way, but you can certainly keep it under control, and your yard and garden will be healthier for it. Pulling can be done by hand or you can use a spading fork or dethatching rake. The best time to jump start this project is late summer or early fall. Pre-moistening the soil will make it easy to lift the plants out.
Many well-intentioned folks (including some nurseries) may suggest using Borax to get rid of Creeping Charlie. I don't recommend it, and here's why. The University of Minnesota and Iowa State University have both conducted studies on using boron, a chemical contained in household Borax, to control Creeping Charlie. As a micronutrient, boron helps plants transport sugars. Studies have found that giving small amounts of excess boron to Creeping Charlie has a toxic effect on the plants. The problem is that applying it is a total crapshoot.
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Borax has been touted as an organic control for Creeping Charlie, but research at both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University has shown that borax is typically not very effective and can injure turf and other plants as well, causing stunting and yellowing. Borax contains boron, which is necessary in very small amounts for plant growth, but is toxic in larger doses. Creeping Charlie happens to be extremely sensitive to boron, so supplying more boron should be detrimental to it more than other plants, such as grass, that aren't as sensitive. However, since boron availability in the soil depends on soil type and pH, it's difficult to determine just how much boron should be applied in any one place. And there's little room for error: too little results in poor control and too much injures surrounding plants. Also, boron doesn't break down or dissipate in the soil, so repeated or excessive applications can result in bare areas where no vegetation can grow.
The best means of controlling Creeping Charlie is with a postemergence broadleaf herbicide. As with any pesticide, always read and follow label directions. The best choice for homeowners is a weed killer containing salt of dicamba (3, 6-dichloro-o-anisic acid). This active ingredient is often found in combination products, such as Trimec or Three Way Lawn Weed Killer, so check the ingredient list on the label to see if it contains dicamba. The other chemicals in these combinations are generally 2,4-D (2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and mecoprop or MCPP (2-(2-methly-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid). Products containing triclopyr or 2,4-DP may also provide decent control. These products are good for applications on lawns, but can't be used in vegetable or flower gardens as many broadleaf plants are very susceptible to these herbicides and even minimal amounts of the herbicide will cause severe injury. In those areas it's best to hand pull or hoe the invaders. If there's more Creeping Charlie than grass in your lawn, it may be easier to start over by killing all the vegetation and reseeding the lawn. (09/15/2006)
True happening: I threw borax soap full strength on the Charlie, because it was going to rain. Okay, I had a huge brown dead spot, however, I raked up the dead grass and Charlie and now it's the best spot I have in the yard. (06/06/2008)
I've had two major weeds: wild violets and creeping charlie. I had it so bad that that's all my yard was in the back. I still deal a little with it today a few plants, but really nothing especially with what I started out with. I started using Weed Be Gone about 4 years ago and would put two applications on a year, spring and fall. It killed a lot, but what I did this year helped so much. I applied Weed Be Gone at first, then 4 days later I applied Bayer weed killer, not lawn killer. Then after that I waited 1 1/2 weeks and applied Bayer again. It worked well very well. You will lose a little green to your lawn, but it didn't kill any. I just applied fertilizer 2 weeks later and it greened right up. (10/29/2008)
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