Ask a Question forum→Can planting/growing grass help reduce or eliminate poison ivy?

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Name: Ken
Hot Springs, NC
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keng223
Jul 15, 2019 6:32 PM CST
I bought a wonderful piece of property where I'm tearing down existing structures and building anew - going to be a little bit of a dream. But it's flush with poison ivy. Everywhere. I came up with an idea of weedwacking as close to the ground as I can and planting grass seed. I'm not expecting a miracle beautiful lawn. But will "more" grass help reduce the weed population and most important - the poison ivy?

Please say yes.

Here are a couple photos. One was taking in winter with no growth. The 2nd looks about the same but believe me, the weeds grow 10+ feet in places. It's in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we're in a temperate rain forest so it's always wet and always green. Either way I'm going to have to weed wack/trim. I'd RATHER it be grass and not have to deal with poison ivy for months at a time. Killing me.

Thank you!
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Jul 15, 2019 9:15 PM CST
IF you are going to trim/whack it short, I guess throwing grass seed is better than nothing- nothing means everything that's been dropping seed there will be what grows. You might have to rough up the soil for the grass to take. I'm not sure how well it will grow, and when it is just starting out it might be thin enough for poison ivy to pop up- especially if it has roots there, mine often has a ground hugging stem or creeping vine.
I don't have poison ivy emerging in mown grass. I am not sure if it would still pop up if you cannot mow those slopes. I do have poison ivy pop up once in a while in the leafy layer under my trees and shrubs.
Be careful whacking, you know that's going to spray ivy oil all over your pant legs, shoes, and equipment.
Cool place though!
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Jul 16, 2019 1:42 AM CST
I don't think that you can get rid of poison ivy by mowing. When I ran a Nature preserve on Long Island from 78-2008, it was very invasive.
In small areas of the property where people seldom travelled by foot, I would let it establish poison ivy thickets. It is such a good wildlife plant!
But where people travel, I had to remove it. We used a spray that was poison ivy specific to attempt to eradicate it. It did a pretty good job but in areas where it was really established, spraying would keep it under control for a few years. It would grow back.
Mowing it would naturally keep it smaller in stature but it would sprout like crazy! It would become a thicket of little sprouts rather then a few larger vines. But there was a tremendous problem with mowing or weed whacking it. Due to the speed of the blade, it would send thousands of little poison ivy pieces spraying everywhere. That does not take into account that the juice of the plant would fly everywhere.
As my doctor explained to me, "there is no such thing as an immunity to poison ivy!" Exposure builds up over time in your body until one day an innocent exposure puts you over the top. You might get a little on a finger or arm but with subsequent exposures it became worse and worse!! I think that mowing it is the last thing that you want to do.
So at my preserve, in places where children hung out on tours and things, we used sprays and gloves to kill it, control it and eventually we would remove it.
When you grow orchids, it is all about the ROOTS!!!
[Last edited by BigBill - Jul 16, 2019 1:45 AM (+)]
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Name: Ken
Hot Springs, NC
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keng223
Jul 16, 2019 7:42 AM CST
oh good grief! Sighing!

These were not really the answers I wanted! Grumbling This is going to be a rental property (as well as my getaway) and I want to create a landscape where people can walk to various points of the creek. So many waterfalls from medium to small to hang out. So I've weed whacked three times already as in this area, things grow FAST because of all the rain and wetness. I have a strong feeling that the oil will pass thru clothing, especially when rained upon b/c I now have it all over my arms and legs and I had boots, long pants, t-shirt and button down long sleeved shirt buttoned all the way too. I just read soap can spread the oil, and I say, yikes! (maybe the other reason I'm now covered?) Well, this isn't a thread on how to deal with the itch and pain, but on how to stop me and my guests from getting it in the first place.

So am I right when I hear you guys think that weed whacking will only make the ivy problem WORSE with time? And that the more I expose myself the worse it'll be even with slight exposure? oh gosh, please no. I figured if I could introduce grass, maybe over time and years it'll be thick enough where at least in the non-forested areas I can keep this stuff more at bay. And, the weeds, in general, won't grow as high and block the view.

I need a 2nd opinion lol. Someone kindly give me an answer. I'm flaring with itch all over right now. It's almost impossible to sleep. Can't be having this!

hoping and praying.

Ken Crossing Fingers!
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Jul 16, 2019 7:59 AM CST
Your problem lies in the fact that poison ivy is a vine. It has a pretty good growth rate. It grows in all light conditions. It grows slower in deep shade but in light shade to sun, it grows quicker.
Grass is not going to smother it or slow it's growth at all!
You are going to have to pick your battles. Control it here and there where it isn't as thick. The irritation is caused by contact with the oil of the plant. It takes some time for the oil to dry. It can be on your hands, your gloves, a pet, or a tool. Do you could reinfect yourself again and again.

You can't burn it either. The oil gets caught in the smoke, inhaled and people have died due to irritated lungs!!
When you grow orchids, it is all about the ROOTS!!!
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Jul 16, 2019 8:30 AM CST
I would suggest you let it grow until there are ample leaves on which a brush killer can work, then spray it carefully and maybe repeatedly until it subsides. Add an agricultural dye to the spray so that you can see where you've sprayed. It will be a continual project. Always take a tepid shower right after you deal with it and you may wash off the nasty oil before it affects you.
Porkpal
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 16, 2019 10:31 AM CST
Unfortunately, PI can also spread via seed. Thank the birds for that when they eat the berries. I live next to a wooded wetlands/creek and it's a virtual PI forest beyond my yard. I pull up some of the plants if manageable and am always on the lookout for seedlings in late spring. Needless to say, I always wear shoes, long pants and gloves when I garden.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Ken
Hot Springs, NC
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keng223
Jul 16, 2019 10:38 AM CST
I just downloaded this book from Amazon and I'll be an expert on the topic in no time. I haven't had a day in the last six weeks without the annoyance and sleep loss, at times. I'm going to be building hiking trails as there are about 50 mountainous acres behind me. But on the front and sides? I have no idea how to identify this stuff YET but give me a month or a year and I'll be fluent. Weed whacking is the name of the game this Summer and I'm afraid I'm just always gonna have this rash.

Thanks for ALL of your input. And please keep it coming. I bet I'm not the only one suffering.
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Name: Dr. Demento Jr.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jul 16, 2019 10:48 AM CST
EIther you use a brush killer repeatedly till it is gone or it is never leaving and if a guest is very allergic to it and it gets on him your haven will be hell.
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
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BigBill
Jul 16, 2019 10:56 AM CST
Listen keng.
You need to go and run this by a doctor. You are intending to expose yourself to poison ivy on purpose. I am not at all comfortable with that.
I have had numerous run-ins with poison ivy over the years and with each one my reaction was a little worse. I am afraid that you will do yourself a serious disservice.
Please see a doctor!!
When you grow orchids, it is all about the ROOTS!!!
[Last edited by BigBill - Jul 16, 2019 10:58 AM (+)]
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Name: Ken
Hot Springs, NC
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keng223
Jul 16, 2019 11:13 AM CST
BigBill - thank you for your concern I do appreciate it. I may have been ignorant, but I'm not self-destructive or desire this one bit. Can we say bane of one's existence? This last time I covered nicely. But half way thru the rains came and drenched me. I learned that the oil MUST have the ability to penetrate clothing when soaked through. So, in all three cases I got it to varying degrees, the only area on my body that wasn't covered were my wrists where the glove meets the shirt. I suspect I had exposed myself when I would take off my gloves and put them on again at varying times. Maybe tying shoe laces? touching fabric without realizing it? I was falsely under the impression if I washed off within a few hours after exposure I'd be fine. In fact, I recently began using mean green but before and also until now I'd use soap with one of those scrunchies (abrasive) to wash it off periodically during each day of work at the creek. THEN I'd take a full, long scrubbing shower at home. I THOUGHT I was protecting myself well enough. Not so much.

I definitely need a bigger boat.

If I have to wear a hazmat suit, I'll wear it. What do people do when they need to weed whack where there's poison ivy? Is the correct answer, "they don't?"
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
American Orchid Society Judge
Region: United States of America Critters Allowed Growing under artificial light Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan
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BigBill
Jul 16, 2019 11:37 AM CST
I can't answer what most people do.
But I was more then happy to provide you with any insight that I could.
One time I had 2 blisters on my right instep that were like two golf ball halves united at the center. When my doctor whipped out what looked
Like a "turkey baster" with a needle so darn big and he said he was draining the fluid!!!! I nearly died!!
Boy did that hurt. It was bandages and a special cream for a week before I could walk easily again.
Even when I thought that I had killed it at work, 18-24 months later it was back!!
When you grow orchids, it is all about the ROOTS!!!
[Last edited by BigBill - Jul 16, 2019 11:39 AM (+)]
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 16, 2019 11:45 AM CST
Ken - perhaps you can start with making trails through the property and work on keeping those clear and then progress into non-trail areas? Have seen that done on local woodland paths. If your skin is exposed, rinse with cold water for at least 20 seconds. Will minimize the amount of oil on your skin and close the skin pores so that the oil isn't absorbed as much.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Dr. Demento Jr.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jul 16, 2019 12:16 PM CST
The poison Ivy substance is an oil, you have to use some designed to cut oil to wash it off.
Dawn and gasoline are two good ones.
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Jul 16, 2019 12:26 PM CST
I'm sorry you have that problem. I don't have any advice because I've never lived where it grows.

Your land is so beautiful that I hope you can solve the problem. If you cleared trails and warned people to stay on the trail, that might work. If they went off trail, it would be on their heads.
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
East TN
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pdermer1x
Jul 16, 2019 1:08 PM CST
Keng - there are barrier creams that you can apply before exposure, and poison ivy removers that you can use to wash off exposed (or other) areas. Also, I think Dawn is one of the better general oil removers (other than the PI removers) Always make sure that your clothes are totally clean before wearing them again, as the oil can remain on through washes. If you're removing gloves and putting on again, you should use barrier cream and two sets of non-adsorbant gloves - one for outside and removal, and one for inside the other glove that you don't remove when tying shoes. When taking a break, remove both and reglove with new pairs (at least the inner one). Make sure the outer gloves are washed well before wearing again, and use disposable (strong, not the flimsy medical disposables that rip) inner gloves. Once you get areas of trail under control, you can lessen your precautions. But in a natural area like yours, you'll need to remain vigilant. BigBill is right - pick your battles. And keep those trails clean. Make sure your guests are schooled on what PI looks like before setting out.
The good news is that PI is probably better to have than fire ants! (and for serious exposures, steroids - oral or injectable - may be needed, but only under MD supervision, and usually only short-term is needed unless someone starts burning the stuff.)
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
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sallyg
Jul 16, 2019 3:50 PM CST
All good advice
Here's a good site
https://www.poison-ivy.org/
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
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ctcarol
Jul 16, 2019 3:56 PM CST
Try to find some Tyvec coveralls. They are disposable, so can be worn over your clothes then thrown away. We had to wear them when spraying herbicides, as well as rubber boots and gloves.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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stone
Jul 16, 2019 4:12 PM CST
I have had very good experience with lye soap... the trick is to bathe immediately...

While jewel weed does work to reduce the itch, it can be kind of subtle.

I hate the idea of you tearing up that beautiful landscape and wasting it on useless turf!

If I had my druthers, I woulda stopped you before you took any of that heavy equipment in there... or any of the mowers weedwhackers, and other weapons of destruction and had a discussion about ultimate goals and appreciation of the natural vegetation...

In my experience... poison ivy is no big deal... if you dig it out and stop...
going all out as you have done... seems like a sure way to encourage it... clear out the competing plants... expect a growth spurt.

I did have a nice patch of poison ivy come up in one area after clearing...

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It was no big deal...

Took after it with a mattock... you can see the pile of dead vines in above picture... cleared up the rest of it the same way.
[Last edited by stone - Jul 16, 2019 4:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Ken
Hot Springs, NC
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keng223
Jul 17, 2019 5:14 AM CST
Thanks to all... the advice coming from all the angles above is great and please keep it going. And now I have something to add, myself. I watched this youtube video last night and it's already been saved in my bookmarks/favorites bar. So much is valuable on here despite the sometimes shoddy audio. The clothing protection portion is utterly priceless to me. And, btw, for 10 bucks I did buy 3 of those hazmat suits from amazon as well b/c it may be the easiest and most complete way to go. I'm grateful for all those who've added their own experience from above and I hope people continue to chime in b/c I bet everyone who's battled PI may have a trick and some other valuable info.

**I'd like to post the link for the video here, but the site prohibits me from doing it b/c I'm new. If you're interested, just go to youtube and do a search for "poison ivy documentary" (its title) and it should be the first to come up. It's 58.42 in length.


[Last edited by keng223 - Jul 17, 2019 5:14 AM (+)]
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