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How to get rid of poison ivy plants

Posted by mandyf on May 21, 2012

Removing poison ivy can be tough to do without catching it. After a series of mistakes, a little research, and way too much money spent paying professionals to remove it, most people start seeking some helpful advice to learn what does and does not work. The important thing to remember when removing poison ivy is that like all jobs if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. It’s not a fun job, but this article will provide a clear process for eradicating this unwanted visitor in your yard as well as the best ways to protect yourself while removing it.

Poison ivy is a single stem plant that creeps along the ground unless it has something like a tree or post to wrap around. In some cases it will cling to walls on houses or sheds as well. You will be able to easily identify it by its distinctive three leave pattern. Do not handle the leave, vine, or any part of the plant with your bare hands. Should it come in contact with your skin wash the area as quickly as possible.

The first thing you need to do is protect yourself. Even a mild dose of poison ivy is too much. Wear gloves as well as long sleeves and pants. It may sound like overkill but latex gloves under your gardening gloves provides the maximum protection. Keep your skin covered as best as possible. A breathing mask and goggles are good ides as well. It is too easy to accidentally brush against or come in contact with the plant and the last place you want a rash is on your face.

Do not do the job on a windy day as a decent gust of wind can transport unseen seeds to other areas and start the spread all over again. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you burn poison ivy. Burning can cause allergic reactions in the mouth, nose, lungs and throat. You will need Thick plastic lawn and leaf bags, a long handled shovel, and garden snips. Once you are outfitted correctly it is time for step two.

Once you have located the poison ivy it is time to get dirty. Pull out your long handle shovel and dig the plant up being sure to get the entire root system. Chopping the root system will not kill it. Simply removing the above ground portion is not going to do the trick either, in less than two weeks it will be right back. Once you have the root system out of the ground use the shovel to separate the root system from the vine and put it in a thick lawn and leave plastic garbage bag. You can fill the hole with fresh loam later.

Once that portion is out of the way you need to remove the vine portion of the plant.

If you are lucky it has not attached to anything and you can pick it up with your gloved hands and place it in the same bag you used for the roots. If it has attached to a pole use your snips to cut the vine in three or four areas and carefully remove them for disposal starting at the top and working your way down. Never dump poison ivy clippings in a compost pile, it will return worse than before.

If this method isn’t your cup of tea you can smother the plant if it is in an open enough area. The most effective thing is a rubber mat, but thick plastic bags, newspapers, cardboard, or anything of that nature can be used to accomplish this. This will kill the plant above ground, but you will still have to remove the root system afterwards or it will find it’s way back to life. It is important to remember the plant and roots will still have urushiol oil on them which can cause you to break out in a rash so you will still need to wear gloves and treat it as detailed above.

Herbicides are another option but not everyone is crazy about using such potent chemicals especially if they have children or outdoor pets. Herbicides like Roundup will like smothering kill the above ground portion of the plant but not always the root, so again you will need to dig it up. Herbicides should generally be your last option unless you need to kill the above ground portion very quickly and want to make absolutely no physical contact with the plant.

The only other methods are to constantly mow over the ivy, which requires bagging the clipping separately and disposing of them in a plastic lawn leaf bag, or the old farmers method of dousing it with salt and soap mixture. While I have not tried this some people I do trust have told me that a mixture of salt and soapy water sprayed over the plant will kill the above ground portion without the hassle of chemicals. You will still have to go through the removal process however as it will not kill the roots believe it or not. The good thing however is you are not introducing chemicals to your property.

Removing poison ivy isn’t most peoples idea of a dream job on the weekend, but it has to be done. Follow the simple steps as outlined and you will be well on your way to ending the problem. Whether you go for total immediate eradication, smother, or spray the weed, be sure to get the root system. Without doing that you will be doing this job every two weeks all summer long.


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