Keep Creeping Charlie out of the vegetable garden?


creeping charlie on blue background

Creeping Charlie, or ground ivy, is a harmless-looking weed that can quickly take over your garden or lawn with little to no warning.

Creeping charlie is a low-growing ivy plant that, if left unchecked, is a weed that can suck up all the nutrients in your soil and starve your vegetables for what they need. Keeping Creeping Charlie out of your garden is a must for keeping your garden’s soil balanced and your vegetables protected.

You will know this plant by its 0.4-1.2 inch roundish cupped leaves with scalloped edges and small lavender flowers that droop down along the main stem. It is a low-growing perennial, evergreen ivy originally intended as a living ground cover for shaded areas.

Five ways to keep Creeping Charlie out of my vegetable garden

These are the methods I use to treat small patches of Creeping Charlie or large dense mats.

They will not only work to kill the plant but also damage the dense root system below. This will ensure that each treatment is more effective and lasts longer, and will also keep your vegetables safe from dangerous chemicals while helping your soil keep a natural balance of nutrients.

As such, it will lead to the soil not being worn out in the process.

1. A Mulch Moat can help Keep Creeping Charlie out of the vegetable garden

I keep Creeping Charlie out of my garden by surrounding that garden with wood chips or mulch.

The mulch will block the spread of the Creeping Charlie roots and keep them from taking hold in the soil.

Any propagation will slow down and help you catch it before it multiplies in your garden soil.

Benefits of doing a mulch barrier to keep Creeping Charlie at bay in your vegetable garden

wood chips on the garden

One benefit of using a mulch barrier is that any Creeping Charlie that comes in will be easier to pull out by hand. Because the plant will be rooted in mulch instead of soil, you will be able to pull out the roots. This will reduce the amount of hand weeding you have to do in the future.

Tend your own garden: savor the blossoms, trim the weeds.

Ron Kaufman

If it does enter your garden without your knowledge, you will have time to catch it before it does much damage.

How to make a mulch barrier to keep Creeping Charlie at bay in your vegetable garden

You can accomplish this by setting a two-three ft wide barrier of mulch around your vegetable garden.

The layer needs to be is at least three-four inches deep for the Creeping Charlie roots don’t pass the mulch and anchor into the soil.

If there is an infestation of Creeping Charley in a lawn close to your garden, be sure to replace the mulch every three-four months. This way, the mulch will stay strong and not get broken down or worn out.

2. Borax Solution can be used against Creeping Charlie in your vegetable garden

Another way I keep Creeping Charlie out of my garden is to spray a DIY Borax solution onto any weeds around or in my vegetable garden.

This method is a cheap, less toxic, and eco-friendly way to prevent the weed from entering and stop an existing infestation.

How Borax keeps Creeping Charlie away in your vegetable garden

Because Boron is a necessary nutrient for plants, it can help your plants while killing the weeds. Creeping Charlie is one of many weeds with a boron sensitivity, and spraying Borax on them will throw them out of balance.

Spraying Borax near your vegetables can help fix common symptoms of Boron deficiency such as dying leaf tips, spots on root vegetables, and cracked and hollow stems.

Also, Boron can be found at almost any home improvement store or grocery store for a low price.

How to make the DIY Borax spray eliminate Creeping Charlie in your vegetable garden

The formula for this solution is 10 ounces of Borax to 2.5 gallons of water. Put this mixture into a pump sprayer and spray only on the plants you want to get rid of. Try to use a fine mist head if possible.

Also, do not overspray the Creeping Charlie, so the solution does not run into the soil too much.

Because Boron can be toxic to plants in high amounts, spray carefully!

When using the DIY Borax spray against the Creeping Charlie in your garden, do this

man spraying the garden with pesticides

When using Boron, make sure that you wear gloves and a dust mask.

Try to keep children and pets away from the garden for at least 30 min-1 hour so the solution can sink into the weeds fully. Avoid using it within 36 hours of rain to avoid it running off into the soil.

3. Keep Creeping Charlie at bay in your vegetable garden by using Selective Broadleaf Herbicides for the surrounding lawns

The third way I keep Creeping Charlie out of my vegetable garden is to spray systemic, selective broadleaf herbicides in the surrounding area or bordering lawns.

Examples of the selective broadleaf herbicides that I utilize are 2,4-D Dicamba, Tenacity, and T-Zone.

These products will kill the Creeping Charlie root system in the surrounding or bordering lawn and make it hard for them to infiltrate your vegetable garden.

Benefits of using these herbicides in your vegetable garden against Creeping Charlie

A benefit of using these herbicides on the lawns close to your garden is that they generally do not harm plants other than weeds. This is because these herbicides are specially formulated to only target weeds.

Unlike other methods, using these herbicides also kill the entire weed from root to flower.

Killing the root system will stop it from hiding under the soil and returning every few months. Another benefit of these herbicides is that they only need to be sprayed 2-3 times a year, depending on proper use and timing.

Process and making of the herbicide mix against Creeping Charlie in the vegetable garden

When mixing these up in your sprayer, use 3.16 pints per acre or 1.1 fluid ounces per 1000 sq ft. In the sprayer, you also want to use a Surfactant to ensure that the herbicide actually sticks to the weeds and doesn’t just roll off.

The general rule is 0.5 fluid ounces of Surfactant per 1 gallon of spray solution.

Always remember that these are powerful herbicides and should not be sprayed too close to your vegetables. Put it just on the surrounding lawns to prevent Creeping Charley infiltration.

When best to apply the herbicide mix in your vegetable garden to rid of Creeping Charlie

organic garden spray

It is best to use this solution in early fall, usually September, just before the Creeping Charley hits its biggest growing season. Try to choose a day to spray when the temperature is higher, so the weeds are more open and receptive.

Make sure there is no rain forecast for the next 48 hours. Also, make sure wind speeds are lower to fly off and contaminate any other nearby plants.

4. You can rid Creeping Charlie from your vegetable garden by improving Air circulation and Aeration

The fourth way I get Creeping Charlie out of my garden is to improve my garden’s air circulation and water evaporation. This works because Creeping Charley loves moist soil and wet areas.

Doing this will create a less favorable environment for the weeds to anchor and spread, making it easier to keep out of your garden.

When you do this in your vegetable garden, your vegetables will be less prone to root fungi and other diseases due to more soil aeration.

Benefits of soil aeration to ward Creeping Charlie from your vegetable gardens

More soil aeration will encourage healthy root systems for vegetables because there will be more oxygen within the soil.

Higher concentrations of oxygen will allow the plants to absorb water better, and you will help the healthy microbes and organisms that also like in the soil.

How to improve soil and overall aeration in your vegetable garden to get rid of Creeping Charlie

raking leaves with metal rake

You can start doing this by raking or picking up fallen debris and frequent leaves to not accumulate underneath them. If possible, trim any unnecessary overhanging trees to reduce shade and allow the sun to dry up the soil more.

Another way to aerate your soil is to create little holes with something small like chopsticks.

When you do this, make sure you are gentle not to upset the root system of the plants or disturb the microbes in the soil.

5. Suffocate the Creeping Charlie patches in your vegetable garden

I also keep Creeping Charley out of my garden by suffocating any patches from sunlight with cardboard. Doing this will stop the leaves and roots from absorbing nutrients and cause the plant to die as a whole very fast.

The benefit of using cardboard to suffocate Creeping Charlie in your vegetable garden

This way, a benefit of doing it is that it’s very localized and targeted to specific patches, and it is super cheap and economical. By using cardboard instead of plastic, as some gardeners recommend, you are also more eco-friendly because cardboard is semipermeable and biodegradable.

That means that even if it does break down, it will not harm your soil in any way.

How to use the suffocation method against Creeping Charlie in your vegetable garden

The first thing to do is to pull up as many weeds as you can by hand. After that, lay down cardboard over your worst infested areas and put mulch on top of it.

Laying down the cardboard will suffocate it from the sunlight but will still allow airflow so the soil can remain aerated as the Creeping Charlie dies off.

Put down a stone or stake to make sure the cardboard does not move and leave it for about a week. After a week, check to see if the Creeping Charlie has died and if not, leave the cardboard on for one to two more weeks.

You will know it has died when the leaves are withered, shriveled, white, or losing their green color. When the Creeping Charlie dies, you have to gather up all of its plant matter, including roots, and throw it away.

More tips on dealing with Creeping Charlie in the garden

woman pulling weeds from path

Here are some additional tips when dealing with Creeping Charley:

  • Do not put it in your compost bin because it will overrun it and cause nutritional balances.
  • When hand-pulling creeping Charlie, do not be forceful with the plant so that you can gently pull up the root system.
  • The herbicides best for killing Creeping Charlie contain Triclopyr.
  • Every time you spray use a surfactant, or some cheap dish soap, to make it stick to the plant’s leaves.
  • Keep the lawn surrounding your garden three-four inches thick to prevent weeds.

With the hand-pulling of the Creeping Charlie tip, it is highly suggested not to do this step alone. Maybe consider this as a last resort, as there are times that not all of the root system is pulled, which defeats the whole purpose. More about this is covered in my recent article on pulling weeds as a time-waster, as it recounts pulling weeds and effectively eradicating them with other methods. It’s very many considerations and how to do it right.

Conclusion on keeping Creeping Charlie at bay in your vegetable garden

Creeping Charlie has been deemed by many gardeners as one of the hardest weeds to get rid of. Its resistance and adaptability will allow it to enter your garden, spread quickly, and do massive damage to your vegetables.

Keeping them running and out of hand could result in the infestation returning every two to three weeks, especially when its root system is not eradicated.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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