Poison Ivy Removal

Yesterday, the poison ivy rash on my fingers went away. Today, I tried my luck again and pulled out all that nasty poison ivy, including the patch in the neighbour's yard.

There are several things to know when trying to kill poison ivy. I've heard of three ways to do it, and none of them work very well. It is, after all, a native plant, and thus very hardy and well adapted. Also remember - never burn it. This could kill you. The best time of year to remove it is mid-summer. This is after the period of new growth in the spring, and before the seeds form and make an all new headache in the fall.

You also need to recognize poison ivy. I have a few plants it's growing between that could all be mistaken. Here are some pictures of my strawberry and raspberry leaves, as well as another ivy growing against the fence.

Random ivy with five leaves growing on the fence - Very similar roots to poison ivy!

Raspberry plant. The leaves are jagged, and not very glossy.

Strawberry plant. The leaves are too jagged.

Now here are a couple pictures of the poison ivy leaves (with very little damage from the weed killer).

The first method to remove the poison ivy is to spray it with a weed killer containing glyphosate. This will be absorbed and spread all through the plant, including the roots. It is available in RoundUp, which has passed the Ontario regulations for pesticide use. I used this spray two weeks ago with little success. I killed several leaves, but I did not spray enough of the plant to kill it all. I also found that it took almost the last two weeks to see the leaves die.

The second method is to cover the plant with a black tarp for about a year so it does not get any sun. I'll bet this would work, but I don't think my neighbour would go for it in his flower garden.

The third method is to dig up the plant, roots and all. For this, one needs to be covered up to prevent skin contact with the sticky poisonous sap. Rubber gloves, long sleeve shirt, long pants, and shoes you don't mind washing or hiding for a year are a must. Elastics can help to prevent the sleeves from riding up. A friend who can do things for you while you're covered in sap is a plus. Also, goggles and a hat are nice to have if it's a big patch that might accidentally rub against your face. A tee and shorts underneath is nice, too, so when you are done, you can strip down outside instead of wearing sap covered clothes inside. Have good soap and a scrubber ready in the shower. Keep in mind that despite all these precautions, you still risk getting a painful rash.

Okay. So all decked out in two layers of old clothes on this hot summer day. There's tools for digging that I will have to wash later. There's a big bag to throw the poison ivy as I pull. There's a bottle of weed killer, just in case. Looks like I'm ready to go.

Since the poison ivy is growing under the fence, I first have to move all the debris away. For the first time, I can see the roots. I think there is more volume of root than leaf! No wonder the weed killer didn't get it! The woody roots have been growing along the surface of the ground, with the occasional tuft of roots to secure it. The roots divide periodically, but remain thick in diameter. The roots break as you pull them, especially were they divide. In some places, the roots go deep. I found this was where lots of divisions occur in one place. I had about 3 of these deeply rooted connections between the fence and a garden retaining wall (neighbour's side) that I couldn't pull out. I've sprayed them well with weed killer. I'm going to keep an eye out for the next few weeks and keep spraying them if they grow... From what I've read, I'll have to take another stab at this next year.

I will keep posting with updates on new ivy sprouts, and just how bad a rash I get this time around...

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