Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Gary Stephen
We love plants! We sure do. But, as any other gardener would agree, not all types give you that spark of magic. Some happen to be just not as appealing as others do. And then, there are also some that are rather too intrusive and somewhat destructive already. The former, my friend, is what most homeowners try to steer clear from over and over again. Invasive plants, particularly ground ivy, are one of those most dreaded weeds. This type of perennial plant sprawls to any space faster than you can imagine. So, how can you get rid of ground ivy?
There are actually plenty of ways to eradicate ground ivy both naturally and chemically. Nonetheless, we prefer to keep our methods clean and green. So, in this article, allow us to share with you effective yet still natural ways to get rid of ground ivy for good in your lawn and garden.
A Brief Background of Ground Ivy
Ground ivy is basically a perennial evergreen creeper. Thus, it is alternately referred to as creeping Charlie or gill-over-the-ground ivy. But, scientifically it is called Glechoma hederacea.
Ground ivy belongs to the Lamiaceae or the mint family. It originated in North America where it was well considered as an ornamental and medicinal plant way back in the early 1800s.
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However, the fast-growing nature of this plant was later on perceived as an ecological threat. The ground ivy can vigorously grow as long as 9 feet per year. Its growth pace seems to hasten more as it matures and becomes more established.
Ground ivy knows no boundaries! It just overruns anything that gets in its way, including your precious flower beds. Uggghhh, having ground ivy in your garden can be disastrous. Not to mention, laborious. Weeds like ground ivy tend to be very stubborn to eliminate.
Aside from its rapid growth, ground ivy tends to be toxic to most vertebrate animals too. This can well include dogs, cats, and horses. When ingested in large amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors. In severe cases, it can affect the heart, kidney, and respiratory systems of the animal.
How to Identify Ground Ivy?
Before delving into solutions, you should first be able to accurately determine what ground ivy really looks like. Correct identification is crucial as it allows you to properly address the problem as well. Different weeds require different approaches in terms of removal and treatment. Hence, it is important to identify the correct plant in order for the intervention to be successful.
So, what does ground ivy look like?
The leaves of a ground ivy essentially appear as kidney-shaped with scalloped edges in a dark green shade. The surface of the upper leaves is also covered with fine bristly hairs. On the undersides, you can find here the essential oil glands of the plant.
Belonging to the mint family, ground ivy naturally has a strong minty aroma especially when crushed. Apart from that, this plant similarly has a squared stem.
The ground ivy is also a flowering type of plant. It appears as a tubular flower about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch long. It comes with a slight shade of purple. Thus, it can be easily mistaken as purple dead nettle or henbit dead nettle. They are actually close relatives but not exactly the same species. The ground ivy typically blooms between late March up until July.
Reasons Why We Should Get Rid of Ground Ivy
With much respect to Mother Earth, there is no such thing as “bad” plants. Every plant, including weeds, are God’s gift to humanity. In fact, ground ivy was even used in the old days as alternative medicine. This herbaceous plant is often associated with the treatment of mild lung problems including cough and bronchitis. It is also used for stomach problems, bladder infections, kidney stones, and relieving pain caused by arthritis and dysmenorrhea.
The only pitfall of ground ivy is its vigorous growth pace. They grow so fast and so aggressive that it can overwhelmingly occupy any space. Here are some of the main reasons why most homeowners hate to keep this plant around their lawn and garden, and want to get rid of ground ivy:
Disrupts the ecosystem
Rapid growth requires considerable amounts of energy, water, nutrients, and space. And, having this weed around other plants means that it will likely be competing for such resources. It consumes them all up, barely leaving others enough water, food, sun, and space to grow. Basically, this weed thrives at the expense of smothering other plants.
By compromising the growth of others, it is also taking away the chance of animals to acquire food or seek shelter. This is another clear reason how weeds like ground ivy affect biodiversity which in return threatens the natural ecosystem.
Weakens the integrity of infrastructures
Ground ivy is a natural runner. It climbs onto anything it gets into contact with. Be it another plant, a tree, or even inanimate objects like fences and buildings, this weed will run over it like it’s nobody’s business.
If you are a homeowner, trust me, you don’t want this weed to come near your walls by any means. Ground ivy can easily creep up and cover your walls. Eventually, their roots will find their way penetrating into the concrete. Thus, weakening the integrity of the wall in no time. If left unattended, this may run the risk of collapsing. And worst, it might just cause untoward accidents.
Break down trees and other wooden structures
If ground ivy can weaken solid concrete, just imagine how much more damage it can bring to a tree or wood. Wooden structures like barn doors, fences, wall siding panels, and the like are put at great risk when invaded by ground ivy.
As it climbs onto trees, there is a good chance it will smother it from all the necessary nutrients and sunlight. Also, with dense ground ivy wrapping around it, excessive moisture can likely get trapped and saturate the tree. As always, a damp surface makes a good medium for fungal infections and other diseases. This totally sabotages the health and stability of the tree itself.
The same scenario applies to wooden structures. The issue with moisture retention instigates the wood to rot and decay fast. Not to mention, the rootlets of the ivy can impair and weaken the integrity of the structure too. When left uncontrolled, your door, fences, or wooden walls will no doubt break and fall apart in due time.
5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ground Ivy
Manual plucking of the roots
This is the most natural and primitive way to get rid of ground ivy. Nonetheless, I must also say that this is the most painstaking process of killing weeds.
For this method to work, you have to make sure to pluck out every single string of root. Definitely, not a trace be left behind. Otherwise, this unplucked tiny piece of root will eventually survive and re-establish itself. It’s only a matter of time this weed will start to invade your lawn once more.
Uprooting ground ivy may be labor-intensive. Nevertheless, it is quite fairly easy to do. This type of weed comes with a shallow root system. Hence, it is not too difficult to pluck from the soil.
When removing, make sure to grab the weed by its base. Slowly but surely pull the vine upwards. Keep its root system as intact as possible to ensure all the pieces are removed.
You can use gardening gloves to protect your hands from dirt and abrasions. It would also help to water the area first before attempting to weed out. The moisture softens the soil making it easier to tug the ground ivy.
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Use a black plastic tarp to smother the ground ivy
One effective way to kill ground ivy without using any form of chemicals is through the use of a black tarp. The main function of this opaque plastic sheet is to block the access of the ground ivy to sunlight and water. Make sure the tarp is in color black to ensure that light will be deflected and won’t be able to pass through the sheet.
By denying it the essential resources it needs to live, you are technically smothering it until it dies. It takes about 4 weeks or so of complete darkness and coverage to weaken and kill the weed.
As you can tell, this method is non-selective. Any plant that is covered within the tarp will also be deprived of light and water. And so, will likely die along with the ground ivy too. Hence, this technique is more suitable for areas with little or no living grasses.
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Through soil solarization
The process of soil solarization is pretty much similar to the black tarp technique in the sense that both use plastic sheets to cover the invaded area. But, rather than blocking the sunlight, this method actually takes advantage of the heat from the sun to “bake” the weeds off. That is the reason why this technique uses clear plastic sheets instead of a black opaque tarp.
The only challenge here is to ensure that you have access to full sun all day long. Of course, a half-baked ivy will not be effective enough to kill the weed through and through. It can take about 4 to 6 weeks long to see results.
The same with the black tarp technique, you need to lay the clear plastic sheet on top of the area with ground ivy invasion. You can use large rocks or cement blocks to weigh down the edges of the sheets and secure the coverage.
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Apply borax to the soil
Borax is a powdery white substance mainly made up of sodium tetraborate. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is basically a combination of boron, sodium, and oxygen. It does not contain phosphates and chlorine. Hence, you can well consider it a green product.
Borax is commonly used as an all-purpose household cleaner. It is also often added to laundry detergents to boost its cleaning power. Surprisingly, you can also apply it directly to the soil to help eliminate ground ivy.
Ground ivy is known to be sensitive to boron, one of the components of borax. A little amount of this powder is enough to send the weed into boron toxicity. It is effectively poisonous to ivy but as well as other plants and grasses too. Hence, you should be extra careful when using borax in your lawn and garden. Make sure to apply only within your target areas.
To prepare a borax solution, you need to dissolve 5 teaspoons of borax powder into 4 cups of boiling water. Mix thoroughly and allow the solution to cool down to room temperature before using. This preparation is enough to cover up to 25 square feet of ground area. Usually, a single application should suffice and keep weeds at bay for a few months or even years.
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Drench the weed with vinegar solution
White vinegar is not just for cooking. Many of us use this too as an all-around non-toxic household cleaner. White vinegar is essentially composed of about 5% to 10% acetic acid. This active component is highly acidic in that it can burn and dissolve the cell tissues of plants including weeds.
This very action is what can eventually lead to the death of the ground ivy. Nevertheless, the effect of white vinegar is non-selective. Meaning, it will affect any crop it touches. Hence, when opting to use white vinegar, make sure to isolate the application only to areas you wish to kill.
Another thing, when using vinegar, direct contact with the solution is important. That is why you have to ensure that you are not only applying it to the surface. Rather, you also have to include the coverage of its root systems way down underneath the soil.
Remember, even a tiny piece of root left is enough to keep the ivy alive and soon thrive again. So, it is crucial for the treatment to go beyond what your eyes can see from above. After spraying the surface, drench the soil with the same solution.
To prepare the solution, you must mix 20% white vinegar with 80% water. You can place it in a spray bottle for easier application.
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Wrapping Up of How to Get Rid of Ground Ivy
Ground ivy may have its own set of benefits. Nevertheless, too much of a good thing has repercussions as always. So yes, this plant can easily shift from oh so nice to oh so invasive. Good thing, there are natural and effective ways to control ground ivy. The 5 methods we presented above are environmental and budget-friendly. Hence, it’s definitely a win-win solution!