Lessons Learned from ivy removal

So, it's been five days since I pulled out the poison ivy. I have a few more lessons learned.
1) Eat before you dig, if there's a big patch. You can't eat while you dig.
2) Make sure your gloves are rubber and puncture resistant, or that you have rubber gloves under garden gloves. Either way, don't let the sap get through the glove.
3) Make sure your gloves protect your forearms, since sleeves can ride up.
4) Don't put your face near the plant or your clothes. Don't rest your chin on your knee. Don't wipe your face with your arms. Wash your face well, and be glad you remembered goggles.
5) If you like your clothes, wash them immediately or the sap will leave black marks.

As for the rash, I'm glad to say that since the end of the third day, no new itchy spots have appeared. I got a mild case, though it is in a few places, including the palm of my hand and my chin. By today (day 5), most of the itching has passed, but the blemishes remain.

As for the poison ivy, no new growth can be seen...

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...

Poison Ivy @ Home

Poison ivy is a plant that I firmly believe every person in North America should be able to identify. It can be deadly if eaten, and deadlier if you burn it. It also makes a mighty fine rash if touched.
There is a common adage that most people know: "Leaves of three, let it be". This is a pretty good description if you're in the forest and know better than to dig around, but what if you are digging in your own garden? Strawberries and raspberries both have three leaves of very similar shape to poison ivy. One difference is that strawberry and raspberry leaves are jagged, whereas poison ivy leaves are "lobed", similar to oak leaves, but to a much lesser degree. There is no specific number of lobes, so you might only get one or two, or there could be too many to count at first glance. There are many good websites that teach you to identify poison ivy, and plants that look similar. This site also shows various bad rashes.
If you aren't sure if a plant is poison ivy and you really want to identify it, break off a piece (without touching it directly!!!) and spread the sap that comes out onto a white sheet of paper. After a few hours, the spot you wiped will turn dark. By the next day, it should be almost black.
I should point out that poison ivy is far more common than people think. Almost every walk in the woods will involve passing large patches of this ivy. I doubt most people recognize the rash that develops from poison ivy, and thus don't recognize the result. I've seen these rashes on my brothers (hands and up forearms, around ankles), my father (feet and shins), my boyfriend (forearms - got infected!) and ex-boyfriend (patches all over including belly, back and neck!), and this week, I managed to get it, too (fingers). If you ever touch poison ivy, it is the sap which sticks to you (and turns the aformentioned paper black) that makes the rash. Fortunately, an unbroken leaf should not harm you.
If you are ever unfortunate enough to get the sap on you, scrub it off as soon as you can. Even though you can't see it, pretend it is stuck on very hard, like pine sap, and use lots of soap. Also, remember everything you've touched as well as all the clothes and tools you might have brushed against it, and make sure they are all cleaned before you touch them again. I've heard that you have upwards of an hour to get it off without getting a rash, but that didn't work for me this time.
The rash takes about a day before you get the first blisters. They are very tiny, and at first look like little bumpy bites. Over the next couple days, these blisters multiply and new areas with blisters will appear. Each and every blister itches like a mosquito bite. These areas will turn red. If you get a very bad case, the little blisters will join up and become big blisters. They can, unfortunately, pop and make quite a mess. This is a very unpleasant rash and the best thing to do is learn what to look for and not get it in the first place. If you do get this rash, my best advice is to get a prescription for cortisone (corticosteroid) from the doctor to help you fight it off faster. Also, get medical tape instead of a bandaid to cover it, as tape will prevent rubbing. And last, deal with it. This can be weeks of painful itching.
So, how the heck did I get poison ivy if I know what it looks like? Well, it was hiding in the last place I expected it - my garden, amongst the strawberry, raspberry, and vine that might be virginia creeper. It's been growing in my neighbour's yard for years. He didn't know what it was, and didn't know why he got such painful rashes every year. It finally grew onto my side of the fence. He has asked me to get rid of his when I get rid of mine. This will be interesting.
I tried to kill it using RoundUp, an all-purpose plant killer that claims it gets absorbed and kills the root, and recommended all over the internet. I guess some business managed to make it "green" enough to get around the new pesticide law. All it has done so far is wrinkle up a few leaves, but the plant still looks healthy. I considered vinegar, but I want to kill more than just the leaves. Lately, I figured even if I manage to kill it, I still have to remove the dead husk. So now, the plan is to dig it out. I'll post more as events progress...

The room mate

I think my roommate was a little jealous of my new flower that first year. She got a plant of her own, but made sure it was really easy to care for. She got an Aloe vera. She knew it was a desert plant, and thus it lived in sand and didn't need water. However, she didn't know why someone had planted it in soil.
After a month of watching her unfortunate aloe wither, I suggested maybe she water it, just once. She replied that it was a desert plant and, like a cactus, it needed sand, and that water was just not something a cactus needs. The only reason it was dying was because someone had planted it in soil, and she needed some sand so it would be in its native habitat.
Another month passed and half of the plant had dried out. She announced she would likely not be replacing the soil with sand. Despite that watering it would kill it, she explained, it was a goner anyways, so I could give it as much water as I wanted. A week later, when the surviving leaves had grown plump and green, she admitted that perhaps it had needed water all along.
With two plants that had survived my care by the end of the year, I went home proud, and pawned the multiple plantings of kalanchoe off on mom. They've lived there ever since, despite her more and more frequent pleas for me to stop filling her house with plants that always "followed me home".
The room mate took her aloe home. It's a tough plant, so it just might have survived.

How the seed was planted

I bought my first plant in first year university. I was living in residence, with 50 other girls on my floor. While I get along fine with most people, I found I preferred doing calculus homework than listening to the girls being girls. I always was a bit tomboyish. As all my highschool friends were scattered across the province, but none came with me to this new school, I was feeling lonely. It would seem that most dorms have a no-pet rule in effect. Early on that year, I decided I needed a plant care for.
To me, a poor starving student, anything that cost money was a big investment. I was a first year student paying for a place to live, food, tuition, and books. Mom and dad thought it would build character if I put myself through university, and so began adulthood.
I knew nothing about plants at this time, other than that they needed water and light. I knew you could kill them watering too much or too little. I also knew the basics we all learned in highschool biology. What type of plant did I want? One with flowers. That's all I knew.
I walked to the nearest store, the local Sobey's, and asked the lady at the flower counter for help. I explained that I had a big window but it was always in shade, and that I was more likely to over-water than underwater. What type of flower would she recommend? She grabbed the nearest one in bloom, and said that it was a perfect "low maintenance" plant. It was a pot of little pink blossoms and big glossy leaves, and it was labelled as "Kalanchoe".
I bought the plant and brought it to my home away from home. This was right at the time that internet was beginning to blossom, when Napster was new and All Your Base was funny. I opened my search engine (Excite), and looked up my new plant. And so opened the world of gardening.
A Kalanchoe is a succulent (like a cactus), as noted by the waxy leaves which do not allow a lot of water to transpire. It likes a lot of light, but not direct light. It turns out I had the right light levels in my western window with trees outside. I read that it's sometimes good to let the soil dry out between waterings, so while I didn't water every day, I was checking the soil for moisture every time I remembered.
This first flower also taught me a lot about plants such as dead heading and propagation, and also disappointment. After this first bloom, it became twiggy and - despite several attempts with different lighting conditions, watering schedules, and repottings - I've never managed to get it to bloom again. I am, after all, a noob gardener.