The Q&A Archives: It's taking over my lawn!

Question: I have a wed that is fast taking over my lawn. I have applied Scotts weed killer and it doesn't seem to be helping. It has a scalloped leaf, trails, and has small purple floers on it. What is it and how do I get rid of it?

Answer: The weed you describe is probably creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea), also known as ground ivy, creeping jenny and gill-over-the-ground. There are two different ways to control this weed:

1)You may control creeping charlie chemically by applying a herbicide containing 2,4-D and MCPP as its 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 caution.

The best time to spray is in autumn, once temperatures have cooled to the 60's or 70's, with no rain forecast for 48 hours. This spray program may be repeated every ten to fourteen days as long as the weather is cooperative. Do not spray during hot or windy weather, to avoid herbicide drift onto desirable plants. Always follow the label directions carefully.

OR -

2)Borax (sodium tetraborate, a white, crystalline mineral salt) has been found to be an effective herbicide for creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea, also known as ground ivy, creeping jenny and gill-over-the-ground). Creeping charlie is an invasive perennial weed that vines throughout lawns and chokes out grass. Since the 1920s, borax detergent has been used as an herbicide to eradicate weeds, but it has only recently been tested scientifically for effectiveness on creeping charlie.

Borax contains boron which is an essential micronutrient that aids in sugar transportation in plants. However, in minute excess amounts, boron has a toxic effect on creeping charlie.

Borax must be applied with great caution because boron remains immobile in the soil and can accumulate to form a "hot spot" in the lawn. Boron toxicity results in yellow and brown spots around edges of leaves. Stems wilt and eventually the weed dies. Established grass appears to withstand the minute excess of boron needed to kill creeping charlie, though it may show brown discoloration temporarily. If the borax solution is applied in too high a concentration, or repeatedly, it will then be toxic to grass and many other plants.

This treatment can be applied only once each year for two years. If you still have creeping charlie problems, then switch to a standard herbicide.

Before applying borax as a herbicide be sure to test your spraying technique and the rate at which liquid sprays from the nozzle. Fill the sprayer with water and walk at a constant pace, passing back and forth over an area the same size as the one to be sprayed with borax. Your goal is to walk fast enough to empty the sprayer tank, spreading its contents evenly over the entire area.

Apply borax when creeping charlie is actively growing in the spring, when no rain is expected for 48 hours. The borax treatment appears to be most effective during warm summers when soil moisture is ample.

Borax Solution for Creeping Charlie Control:
Dissolve 10 oz. Twenty Mule Team Borax in 4 oz. (? 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.

Best wishes with your lawn.

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