I know that many of you may think heís a creep, but hear me out: I may convince you to appreciate this guy before you finish readingÖ
This almost universal aversion to Creeping Charlie baffles me. I understand that it spreads and can invade garden beds, but Charlie is green and lush while filling in bare areas in the lawn. Charlie tolerates shade, and blooms with tiny lavender flowers that attract bees and other pollinators in the spring. When mowing it, I smell a fresh, minty scent.
If I were to be given the choice of either grass or Charlie invading a garden bed, I would always choose Charlie: one tug, and zip! Heís gone! Grass has to be dug out, and itís difficult to get it all. Charlie is much more friendly and cooperative. In fact, I have searched for a source of Creeping Charlie seeds (I kid you not) to plant under my backyard pergola so that there is a thick, green mat under the teak furniture that I use there. Unfortunately, I couldnít find a source, so Iíll continue to transplant from other shady areas in the yard.
So, here are some fun facts about Creeping Charlie: Charlie is a perennial that belongs to the mint family which spreads via underground rhizomes. Its botanical name is Glechoma hederacea, and common names include ground ivy, gil-over-the-ground, alehoof, or tunhoof. Charlie likes a moist environment, and so it wonít spread as exuberantly in dry areas. Some people eat it in salads (Iíll pass), and it has been used as a medicinal tonic for a variety of ailments.
So now you understand that Iím not hung up on lawns; perfection has never been one of my lifetime goals. Attractive yards are important, however, and I strive for that aesthetic, which includes my friend Charlie and a variety of other plants in my vegetable and flower beds. I often think we are under so much pressure to conform to arbitrary standards. I concede that noxious weeds like thistle or toxic plants have no place in our lawns, but Iíll tolerate some dandelions. What I donít tolerate are chemical fertilizers or herbicides. I live close to Lake Winona and runoff from my yard would drain into the storm sewer that drains into the lake. I want to protect the wildlife that depends upon the lake as a source for food. I also save money by not applying these chemicals.
Think about it: why spend a lot of money in order to make grass grow in order to have to mow the grass frequently? I value some lawn, but does it have to look like a golf course? Think of the money you would also save by not watering so much! In drought periods, grass will become dormant until a good soaking rain, and then green up again and grow. In severe drought, you may need to water about one inch a week.
If you must apply a weed and feed try this: our local feed store carries a natural product called corn gluten meal. It is non-toxic and acts as a pre-emergent herbicide on broadleaf weed seeds. It wonít eliminate weeds that already exist, however. This product also supplies your lawn with nitrogen that will encourage grass to grow. Pour it into your spreader in spring and apply when the lawn dries out a bit and isnít so spongy. Reapply in the fall.
Leaving grass clippings on your lawn will help fertilize since grass is full of nitrogen. I also recommend mixing some white clover with your grass seed in order to fix nitrogen in the soil. By making a few small changes, you can save some money and also protect our lakes and local wildlife.
And now that Iíve introduced you to Charlie, would you like to meet my lawn violets?