Creeping Charlie, Glechoma Hederacea, is a persistent, perennial weed in the mint family that can be extremely difficult to control in any environment, including the vegetable garden. Native to Europe, it was introduced to North America centuries ago by well-meaning settlers who thought it would make a great groundcover in shady conditions. It’s attractive but very difficult to get rid of.
It’s not easy, but there are a number of methods that you can use to kill Creeping Charlie or get rid of it. Methods combine physical and chemical methods from hand pulling to herbicides. Mulching and dense planting can also help to keep Creeping Charlie out of your vegetable garden.
Different methods to get rid of creeping charlie
Also known as Creeping Jenny, ground ivy, and gill-on-the-ground, Creeping Charlie has pretty blue-purple flowers. When the bright-green leaves are crushed, they smell very minty.
That sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? The problem is that it’s become such a nuisance weed everywhere, from lawns to vegetable gardens, that gardeners are struggling to get rid of it.
Susan Mahr from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Division of Extension, has some excellent advice for controlling Creeping Charlie. For example, because it thrives under trees in shady, moist areas, she suggests altering these conditions.
Instead of reaching for herbicides, you can try cultural controls by improving soil drainage, watering less often, or pruning your trees so that the ground gets more light. If it’s taking over your lawn, work on improving the health of your turf.
Another possible solution is to grow plants that will compete with and smother this much-hated weed. Her suggestions are English ivy, hosta, pachysandra, or vinca.
Otherwise, you can try pulling Creeping Charlie out by hand. Or you can resort to a herbicide.
Ironically, the simplest way to remove Creeping Charlie by hand-pulling is also the most difficult. As Susan Mahr points out, it’s extremely difficult to remove the extensive creeping stem system 100%.
If the area you want to clear isn’t too heavily infested, you may be able to do it manually. But be sure to remove as much of the roots as possible to prevent regrowth.
A power rake, which is also called a vertical mower or dethatching tool, makes small cuts so you can literally comb the weed out. But if you don’t do it properly, you might help to spread the ground ivy nodes.
In any case, the best time for manual pulling is when the soil is moist, as the roots will be easier to pull.
By using herbicide
If physical removal and cultural controls don’t get rid of Creeping Charlie, you may need to use a herbicide to get rid of it. Some people say that the most effective herbicides are those that contain the active ingredient glyphosate, such as Roundup.
But, unfortunately, Roundup isn’t a good option as it can be harmful to the environment and your vegetables. If you choose to use it, be sure to follow the instructions on the label carefully, and be aware of the potential dangers.
Others suggest that we Borax Creeping Charlie. The reasoning is that this would be an organic control rather than something toxic. But if you use too much borax, it will also be toxic.
In any case, research at Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin has found that it is not very effective. Rather, it tends to stunt and yellow other plants, which won’t help your vegetable garden.
Susan Mahr recommends a broadleaf herbicide like Trimec that contains triclopyr. But she warns that while it’s regarded as a good application for lawns, it cannot be used in flower or vegetable gardens.
Smothering is a type of cultural control. Apart from planting something that will compete with, and keep Creeping Charlie out, you can try mulching.
By covering the soil surface with a layer of mulch, you can help to prevent the growth of Creeping Charlie. Choose a mulch that is thick enough to prevent light from reaching the soil surface, such as bark chips, straw, or leaves.
Dense planting is also a way to smother and get rid of Creeping Charlie. The idea is to plant your vegetables close together, helping to shade out Creeping Charlie.
Essentially, what it does is prevent the weed from receiving the light it needs to grow.
How to prevent creeping charlie from your garden
To prevent Creeping Charlie from creeping into your garden, you need to know something about it. First of all, it is spread in several ways, by seeds, creeping stems, and rhizomes.
The creeping stems root at the nodes and spread rapidly over the ground. It doesn’t take long for it to become totally uncontrollable, continuing to creep as far as it can until it is stopped (if ever).
We’ve talked about the methods that you can try to keep Creeping Charlie out of your vegetable garden. Whatever you do try, it’s important to repeat the treatment as often as necessary to ensure that Creeping Charlie doesn’t return.
This may require several treatments over several years, especially if the weed has been present for a long time.
What kills creeping Charlie the best?
Herbicides may kill Creeping Charlie, but they are not always 100% successful and usually kill other plants too. Cultural controls can work well, but you may need professional advice for the best options.
Hand-pulling and mechanical digging can kill Creeping Charlie. But it will only be 100% effective if you are able to get the entire, very extensive, creeping stem system out of the ground.
There are several ways that you can try to get rid of Creeping Charlie and keep it out of a vegetable garden. It may require a combination of physical removal, cultural controls, and herbicides.
Whatever approach you take, be aware that repeat treatment may be necessary. But with persistence and patience, you may be able to successfully control and kill Creeping Charlie.