The Q&A Archives: How do I get ivy out of my lawn?

Question: I mistakenly planted ivy (I didn't know it was an invasive)in an old stump about 5 years ago and the ivy has now taken over the lower half of my yard and is growing up the trunks of the nearby cedars. How do I get rid of it once and for all?

Answer: The first step is to cut and pull all climbing strands that have infiltrated trees. Removal of the bottom three feet or so will kill ivy vines fairly quickly. Depending on the texture of a tree's bark, long sections of vine may be pulled off a tree from the ground (the deeper the bark grooves, the harder to remove the ivy).

However, to totally remove the highest strands, you'll need to be patient or hire an arborist. If you choose the former, cut ivy -- as a rule -- takes a year to turn brown, two years to defoliate and about three years to fall off the trees by itself.

Next comes the ground removal program. It's a program because ivy eradication takes vigilance and repeated efforts. It goes like this: Cut. Pull. Cut. Pull. Cut. Pull.
Ivy removal is excellent exercise -- gentle, steady and exhilarating. Though it is a generally wholesome practice, there are a few precautions to keep in mind.

Be sure to wear gloves, because ivy leaves can cause a painful rash for those with sensitive skin.

If you have any kind of breathing difficulty, wear a respirator as well. Exposure to ivy dust can trigger asthma or a bronchial attack for those with sensitivities.
The easiest way to clear the ground of ivy is to start at an edge and pull the ivy back like a sheet. Now dig out and cut away all the roots you see, rolling the ivy blanket back on itself like a jelly roll. This works best with two people. One person pulls and rolls the ivy mat while the other uses a sharp shovel or half-moon edger to chop away the roots.

There is no easier way to get ivy out. Ivy has waxy foliage that is impervious to most herbicides. Roundup does have a limited effect when spot-applied directly to freshly cut root stems. However, recent studies show that Roundup can persist in soil and near water for far longer than reported (up to several years), so it is not recommended for use near water or in woodlands where wildlife might feed on treated plants.

Never add ivy to the compost pile; that just makes more plants. Where home green-waste recycling service is available, ivy can be bagged or packed into your own cans or the disposal service's pick-up totes.

If no recycling service is offered, there are two good ways to recycle ivy at home.

Pack ivy into black plastic bags and seal them tightly. Put them in a sunny spot such as the driveway and turn the bags occasionally to promote even drying/frying. The black plastic intensifies the sun's heat and eventually cooks the ivy.

Where covered storage space is available, you can dry ivy clippings on tarps under cover. Without sun or moisture, the ivy stems will dessicate.

Clearly, both of these processes are more efficient in summer heat than in the chilly winter months.

Good luck with your project!

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