We have ground ivy (creeping charlie) that is trying to take over our back yard. We are against using pesticides, as we have a young son. Are there natural/organic ways of beating it (other than just painstakingly pulling it all out)?

  • Did you get rid of the unwanted ground ivy? If yes, can you please explain how you went about doing so...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 21:56
  • @MikePerry: no I haven't gotten rid of it yet. Also, there was a pretty big die-off in our front yard. Must have been some sort of disease? Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:47
  • What kind of "die-off" ie What died off, what were the symptoms & what does it look like now?
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 18:49
  • Just the ground ivy died. One time I went out to mow, all the ground ivy was brown and dried looking. The grass, clover, and other weeds looked fine. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 0:06
  • So you're mad, crazy, gardening skills took care of the ground ivy :) Do you need to get rid of any other unwanted plants or are you now good with what you've got there?
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 1:34

9 Answers 9


You could kill it by suffocating it from light and heating it naturally. Put a dark tarp over it, and anchor it so it doesn't blow away. The heat from the sun and lack of light will burn that and anything else growing under there in several days to a couple of weeks.

  • Hmm. That would do the trick, although I bet that would kill our grass, too: right? This is in our yard, and I'd rather not kill everything and need to reseed if I don't have to. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 18:32
  • Yes, it will kill the grass and all weed seed. You would start a new lawn after solarizing and it would be remarkably weed-free. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 19:38
  • Would this approach work for English ivy or bamboo? We have a section of our yard being invaded by these where we'd like to plant a garden.
    – Eli Lansey
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 18:08
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    clear plastic heats the ground more than opaque "dark" plastic Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 5:45
  • They way creeping charlie/ground ivy spreads, that would usually mean covering the entire yard with tarp and killing all living ground plants, including the lawn. Only kudzu is more evil, IMO. Commented May 8, 2017 at 20:31

You need to keep your grass healthy to help combat ground ivy. Water deeply and infrequently and fertilize properly. Have a soil test done at your local cooperative extension to see if there are any issues you need to correct and how much fertilizer you need to add. Ground ivy thrives in damp and insufficiently fertilized soils.

There have been university studies done on using Borax to kill ground ivy with some positive results but some tests didn't show any improvement.

On my blog, I show how the best way I found to remove ground ivy is with a thatch rake. In the fall I use a manual thatch rake to dethatch my lawn. If necessary I follow up by overseeding with a good grass seed and spreading about 1/3" layer of compost on top then water as directed for the seed. The way ground ivy grows and roots makes this very effective. It pulls up some other weeds too but not your grass as long as it's healthy. First time I tried it I was in shock how well it worked.

  • I will have to try this - thanks for the tip. (I'll accept the answer if it works) Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 13:20

I severely disabled some ground ivy by letting it grow a foot tall and mowing it off at one inch. The grass really jumped and thickened, though it was a shock at first. The grass thickening crowded out the ivy and the ivy has been stunted all year.

  • Hmm, I'll have to try this. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:48
  • 2
    This didn't really work too well. Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 13:20

You can kill ivy with storm windows/glass. I got rid of a big patch after all else failed with several 4'x6' storm windows. I laid the glass out on the ivy and it fried it in a couple hours. I moved the windows around for a week and killed a 30 foot x 45 foot area of ivy. Cook it and kill it.

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    Did it stay gone? Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 12:30

I've effectively killed it with a 20% horticultural vinegar using a pump sprayer. The grass around it will look like it died but actually goes dormant like it does in a drought. If you water it the day after you spray the vinegar, it will turn green. With the ground ivy, you have to be vigilant because if you leave one runner...the problem comes back. A week after a spray, I'll look for more and do it again. Also, look to see from where it's coming. If your neighbors have it and don't do anything about it, the problem will be endless. I recommend attacking the problem together if possible. Raising the pH with lime, spraying with a bacterial based compost tea and adding calcium and magnesium will help. Sweetening your soil will also help keep out dandelions.


You could just hire someone else to painstakingly pull it all out, like maybe a neighborhood kid in need of odd jobs. That might be cheaper and less effort than finding the perfect way to kill it. Plus, being social and offering jobs can be a good thing.

Remember, a tool to help pull weeds goes a long way, even if it is just a regular knife. With a tool, the plant doesn't break off at the roots, generally. Just stick it in the ground by the roots and pull back to loosen them; then pull it up. Granted, I haven't tried using a tool with creeping charlie (we don't have that around here, although we have something that looks exactly like it), but it worked great for our weeds this summer (I think we mostly had bind weed or something similar). Anyway, tools make weed pulling more enjoyable for me. Too bad I didn't know about that trick as a child. We had monster weeds, then, and grasshoppers to match.


I agree with the above comment about the structure of your lawn - I live in New Hampshire and typically have acidic soil - creeping Charlie likes damp acidic soil - typically in mulched areas, and it spreads to the lawn area. I've been putting down heavy amounts of lime to raise the alkaline level, but will try thatching this fall and borax in the spring!! (it takes a bit if time for the lime to break down into the soil).

  • 2
    -1, because using borax is a very bad idea.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 14:54
  • Borax, properly applied is a time honored organic approach to creeping Charlie control:google.com/… You just have to be careful how you use the stuff. Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 17:05
  • @WayfaringStranger Seems quite risky to me, though. I've seen a lot of stuff online about how too much boron can make the soil barren, and how it doesn't take very much. I first learned about this while studying boron deficiency, which can happen, but it's perhaps pretty rare. This would probably take care of the creeping charlie, but it would probably wipe everything else out, too (and if you're not careful, maybe forever). Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 5:36

I've heard of a chemical called "Milky White" that is supposed to work awesome without killing the grass. Old housemates used it on their yard with success.

  • 2
    Hi Wendy, the question was about a natural/organic solution to unwanted (weeds) plants. I searched and could not find a "Milky White" chemical/herbicide. Can you provide any additional information or a link to this product?
    – Debbie M.
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 19:50
  • I think milky white is a organic pesticide used to kill japanese beetle large. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 17:32
  • Looks like Milky Spore is the term for the chemical.
    – Ashleigh
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 13:48
  • @Ashleigh Milky Spore is used for control of Japanese beetle larvae; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_spore. It's not used as an herbicide.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 16:21

It's all over our community gardens. It goes to seed really easily :( It's easy to pull out but as you said, it keeps coming back. I like some of your solutions!

  • I've tried putting thick layers of mulch over it, and that seems to work, but it comes out of the ends that aren't mulched. And it does go to seed easily, I agree. The runners root easily. What a nuisance. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 2:08

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