Q Most of my grass looks pretty good this year, but patches of creeping Charlie are taking over in a few shady areas. What's the best way to get rid of it?
A You have two problems -- creeping Charlie and dense shade.
Let's tackle the weed first. Despite what you might have heard, there are ways to kill creeping Charlie. Where there's more creeping Charlie than grass, the non-selective herbicide glyphosate (sold as Roundup) can be used to wipe out existing vegetation prior to replanting with something else.
Where there's more grass visible than creeping Charlie, a broad-leaf herbicide applied twice in fall will kill the weeds without harming the grass. (Choose a product labeled for killing creeping Charlie.)
If you don't want to use herbicides, you can remove some of the creeping Charlie with a de-thatching rake when the ground is soft after a rain. You'll need to do this several times. You also can try spraying the area with borax laundry product, but you can only apply borax once or twice. (For directions, go to www.extension.umn.edu and type "control creeping Charlie" in the search box.)
Your real problem might be too much shade. Lawn grasses -- even those that are most shade-tolerant -- are far less suited to shady growing conditions than is creeping Charlie. In fact, creeping Charlie was brought to this country by early settlers from Great Britain to use as a shade-tolerant ground cover. Unfortunately, it has done well -- too well.
Trying to maintain turf grass in dense shade will be a constant headache. A better solution might be to convert the area into a shady garden, using a combination of shade-tolerant perennials, ground covers and wildflowers. Put a comfortable garden bench in among some shade- loving plants and you could turn a problem area into a great-looking refuge from the summer heat.
Deb Brown is a garden writer and former extension horticulturist with the University of Minnesota. To ask her a gardening question, call 612-673-7793 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.