Sometimes writing means searching around for inspiration. This time the inspiration has come up and hit me over the head.
Several people have inquired to the Johnson County Purdue Extension office about controlling broadleaf weeds — specifically ground ivy (a.k.a. Creeping Charlie). Ground ivy spreads by seed and stolons (above-ground horizontal stems). It is a perennial found in much of the United States.
Ground ivy has roundish leaves with round, scalloped edges. The stem of the plant is square (roll it around between your fingertips to feel this). Ground ivy has purplish, funnel shaped flowers and is often confused with common mallow.
These broadleaf weeds fall into the category of “pests” for a reason. Complete eradication is not practical, but here are some cultural methods to minimize lawn weeds:
Mow at 3 to 3.5 inches
Apply 60 to 100 percent of nitrogen fertilizer in two applications (September and November)
Selectively prune tree branches to maximize the amount of sun reaching your lawn
Irrigate only when the grass is turning greyish brown
In areas that are lightly to moderately infested with broadleaf weeds, herbicide can help to control patches. If the area is heavily infested and very little grass remains, you might want to clear out everything with a non-selective
herbicide like glyphosate and re-establish the grass completely. Once a healthy grass stand is re-established, use the good lawn practices mentioned above to maintain a dense grass.
Herbicides recommended for broadleaf weeds will have a mixture of active ingredients such as dicamba, 2,4-D, and MCPP. Be sure that you read, understand and follow all directions on the label. Keep in mind that several applications may be needed, as weeds in the ivy family are difficult to control. In general, whether you have Creeping Charlie or dandelions, these are considered broadleaf (as opposed to grassy) and you’ll look for a product labeled for such. These herbicides should not harm your lawn because they
One more option exists, which would be to accept the plants for what they are and just deal with them. Plants are only weeds if you don’t want them.
Co-existing with weeds means you will save yourself the time and money that would otherwise be spent trying to control them. Improving your lawn’s health helps to discourage future invasion from aggressive weeds. A combination of cultural and herbicide control methods will significantly minimize the number of lawn weeds.
Sarah Hanson is the agricultural natural resources extension educator through the Johnson County Purdue Extension. She has a master’s degree in animals and public policy from Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Purdue University. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.