Charlie, Please Go Away

Have you ever walked by that lawn that has no weeds, is lush and thick, and is a deep, dark green?  Every time I see one, I’m tempted to knock on the homeowner’s door and ask how they get their lawn to be so beautiful.  I really don’t need to knock because I already know the answer.  They hire a lawn service to spray their lawn.  I just gaze longingly at their yard, hoping that someday our grass will be just as lovely.

Our lawn isn’t terrible.  Steve does a great job keeping the weed problem under control.  We usually deal with some dandelions in the front yard.  The property across the street has lots of them.  The wind blows the seeds to our yard resulting in a front lawn dotted with dandelions.  Steve’s preferred solution is physically removing them.  How I hate that.   It takes several days.  We are out there with our weed pullers and buckets slowly filling them with dandelions down to their roots.  Our bigger issue is Creeping Charlie.   Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie is a nasty weed.  It builds a huge underground root system that results in the weed spreading all over the lawn.  It infiltrates flower beds and gardens.  It just grows and grows.   Every Spring, it makes it presence known by its purple flower.   It’s shocking how it has spread throughout our lawn in the past 3 years.  This year, we are really going to attack it and, hopefully, win.

I’m not even going to get into the debate of to use weed killers or not.  I know that the most environmentally friendly approach would be to opt for organic treatment of our lawn or none at all.  I’m not there yet.  I want Charlie gone, and those methods will not get rid of him.  Google taught me a lot about this oppressive weed, mostly that it’s hard to get rid of.  Last year, I did talk to a lawn service.  They wanted me to charge me $750 for 5 lawn treatments.   All I wanted was for them to get rid of my Creeping Charlie.  Apparently, that’s not how they operate.  They like to give your lawn the works.  I was able to get them down to only 3 lawn treatments, but it was still pricey.  With a price tag like that, I think that we’ll try another year of trying to get rid of it ourselves. After some discussion with the lawn care company, I did learn that it takes multiple treatments to kill the weed.  That was lesson 1.

Lesson 1: You can’t just try to kill it once.  It won’t work.  You need to attack it again and again. 

Lesson 2:  The best time to attack Charlie and win is the Fall.  Apparently, the weed is getting ready for winter and trying to absorb the most nutrients possible.  Blasting it with weed killer then will be the most effective.  Unfortunately, we missed the Fall offensive, but we’ll be ready this Autumn. 

Lesson 3: Use a product containing Dicamba or Triclopyr, otherwise known as nasty chemicals.  While at Lowe’s on Saturday, we picked up weed killer to be spread on the lawn and a weed spot spray.  Both contain Dicamba, but the spray is much stronger.  Steve spread it in the backyard this morning and will apply it in the front yard in a couple of days.  We can’t do the entire yard at once because we need to give Rusty a safe area for his potty breaks.  I’m sure we’ll start the spot treatment soon too.

Lesson 4:  Creeping Charlie grows well in an acidic soil.  Spread lime to raise the pH of your soil, thus creating a hostile growth environment for the weed.  I’m not so sure about this one.  Grass grows best in soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0.  If you raise the pH too much, your grass will suffer also.   If your grass can’t grow, then you have a bigger problem.  Lots more weeds can come in and fill the areas where there isn’t any grass.  My plan here is to buy a soil tester and find out what the actual pH of our soil is.  If it’s below 6.5, I think that we’ll try the lime approach.

Lesson 5:  Find the originating root system of the plan and remove it.  I did this with a ground cover that was planted in our back flower beds, and it wasn’t easy.  It required a lot of digging up the soil to find the thread of roots.  I was extremely successful, but I don’t want to dig up our yard too much.  I am going to try this approach this and see how well I do, but there is a lot of Charlie out there.  I will definitely try this method in my flower beds. 

Lesson 6:  The best way to combat weeds in your lawn is thick grass.  The grass chokes out the weeds.  We’ve tried this approach.  It must only work when the weeds are gone, but we will still try again.  We have grass seed waiting to be spread as soon as the weed killer has started working its magic.

I’m sorry to all of you who are disappointed in my chemical attack on my problematic yard dweller.  I want a lawn without Charlie, and weed killer is my only hope.  When I feel a little bit of guilt creeping in about my lawn care choices, I just remind myself that applying it ourselves has got to be more environmentally friendly than the concentrated stuff that lawn care companies use.

Next battle will be with the Nettles uglying up my flowerbeds.


3 responses to this post.

  1. hi…just googled creeping charlie..and lime together and found this entry!…i am fighting the battle right now…(i know sounds overly dramatic..but…i’ve spend a lot of time out there!)….in ontario canada they have outlawed the really strong weed killer products…i’m going to buy lime today…i’m seriously at a loss…


  2. Posted by Jen on August 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I have just started looking at the backyard…60% is full of this Creeping Charlie. I had my dad look at it as he’s been an avid gardener his whole adult life, not really interested in grass. However his comment to me before he even had a chance to see the weed he said it was most likely the slack of lime in the soil. Lime kills weeds.
    Anyways back to CC… Yes, I do live in Ontario and we are unable to use the variety of weed killers that others can. I’ve been reading a lot on the web and ‘Borax’ is not the solution since it stays in the soil for X number of years and you are unable to grow anything thing after the fact and as most of us we will over medicate our soil chances are will not follow the recipe as suggested.
    If I weed by hand my neighbours will think that I’m more crazy than I already am for spending too much time in the garden, and Yes I do have friends that are humans.

    First I’ll try the lime then I’ll have my boys from the sod farm come by and ripe out the backyard entirely, after that I should be able to manage it by hand. Sod, seed mud whatever as long as CC is out of my life forever, like a bad boyfriend.


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