Anyone who has had a run-in with poison ivy knows what a painful plant it can be. Close contact can lead to swelling, rashes, and worse.
It’s important to remove and dispose of any poison ivy that you see creeping onto your property. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to tackle your poison ivy problem.
Read on to learn more about how to remove poison ivy from your garden safely.
The Dangers of Poison Ivy
Poison ivy can be a challenge to identify despite its famous three-leaf appearance.
Leaves can be green or red with either a smooth or a jagged edge, and they may or may not appear glossy.
It can be easy to pass over a poison ivy plant until it’s too late. You should try to familiarize yourself with local species to help you identify problems in your garden.
Poison ivy contains an oil known as urushiol that can irritate skin and mucous membranes upon contact.
If you fail to notice poison ivy, you may accidentally make direct contact with a plant. When the urushiol hits your skin, it triggers an allergic dermatitis reaction.
For most people, contact with poison ivy results in blistering or rashes that may appear immediately or within several days.
Rashing and discomfort may last for as long as two to three weeks after contact.
Eating poison ivy causes internal swelling and damage that may affect digestion. In some cases, eating poison ivy can even be fatal.
It’s important to remove poison ivy plants from anywhere that children or pets can easily access.
Where to Find Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is prevalent throughout the continental United States, particularly in Eastern and Midwestern states.
While poison ivy sometimes grows as a climbing vine, you can most often find it as a shrub or spreading across the ground.
Poison ivy grows best in dam conditions. You can most often find plants around river banks, beaches, and lakefronts.
If you get a lot of rain collecting around your property, you may be at an increased risk of a poison ivy infestation. It’s a good idea to perform regular checks in problem areas.
Removing Poison Ivy
If you notice poison ivy growing on your property, you should remove it as soon as possible to avoid any accidental contact or ingestion.
It’s best to work with poison ivy during colder months, as the plant loses its leaves in the wintertime. However, keep in mind that there are irritants in the branches and stems.
Always wear proper protection when handling poison ivy plants. Make sure to cover all exposed skin to protect it from accidental contact.
You should wear long sleeves and pants as well as ankle-high boots and heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands and feet.
If the cuffs of your clothing are loose, you may want to seal them to prevent any leaves from slipping inside. You can tuck fabric inside gloves and boots or use duct tape.
Once you’re ready to work safely, there are several tried and true methods that you can use to remove poison ivy plants from your property.
Pull From the Roots
Manually pulling out poison ivy plants is a popular removal method, as all you need is a pair of shears and some heavy-duty gloves.
Before pulling plants from the ground, it’s best to chop off stems and leaves with pruning shears. Doing this reduces your risk of coming into contact with irritants.
Always use shears or scissors to slice through stems when removing them. Tearing plant tissue could release urushiol into the air, causing respiratory irritation.
Once you have removed all the stems and leaves, you should dig plants out by the root system to prevent them from growing back the following season.
Poison ivy tends to have a shallow but complex root system. You should aim to dig about eight inches below the bottom roots to ensure complete removal.
Use an Herbicide
Herbicides offer a quick and efficient way of killing unwanted plants such as poison ivy. Products containing glyphosate are particularly good at tackling poison ivy problems.
Herbicidal chemicals sprayed on the leaves penetrate the plant and kill it from the top down. Eventually, herbicides will reach the root system to eradicate the plant.
Herbicides aren’t always the most environmentally conscious poison ivy removal option, as chemicals can seep into the soil and kill important pollinators.
You may also risk herbicides reaching other healthy plants in your garden.
When working with herbicides, always follow the instructions on the label. Try to avoid spraying when it’s wet or windy, as this can carry chemicals through your garden.
If you don’t want to use commercial herbicides, you can try making your own using common household products. DIY herbicides are often safer and cheaper than commercial options.
You can try combining salt, vinegar, and water into an all-natural solution that is toxic for poison ivy plants.
Smother Growing Plants
All plants need plenty of sunlight to grow, and poison ivy is no exception. Blocking out the light for a new patch of ivy can stunt its growth, eventually killing it.
If you notice fresh ivy in your garden, you can cover it with a tarp, plastic bag, or even recycled cardboard to block light from getting to the leaves.
It can take a couple of months for smothered poison ivy plants to die off completely. Even if the leaves are dead, the root system may still be viable.
You may want to keep problem areas covered for a year or longer to ensure that no living matter remains underneath.
The smothering method doesn’t work as well for mature, established poison ivy infestations. Instead, it’s best used to control and limit the spread of new growth.
Enlist the Help of Goats
For centuries, people have been using the help of farm animals such as goats to clear brambles, brush, and other tough wildlife.
Goats can also clear large patches of poison ivy without suffering any negative consequences. Goats don’t have to worry about allergic dermatitis from contact with poison ivy.
While goats can safely eat poison ivy, keep in mind that urushiol oil can still get onto their fur. You may suffer from a rash if you come into direct contact with working goats.
If you don’t have a barnyard of your own, goat rental companies are quickly becoming a popular way to clear dangerous plants such as poison ivy.
You can hire out goats to eat their fill over the course of a few days, clearing unwanted shrubs from your yard quickly, efficiently, and safely.
Keep in mind that goats will only trim the top portion of the plant. You may still have to come in after treatment to remove the roots and prevent regrowth.
Disposing of Poison Ivy Safely
After you’ve removed all of the poison ivy plants from your property, you might be wondering what to do with the leftover organic waste.
Don’t Burn Waste
Many people get rid of plant waste by burning it, but you should keep poison ivy plants out of the bonfire pile.
Burning the leaves and stems of freshly cut poison ivy can release urushiol oil into the air, causing potentially severe respiratory irritation.
While you should avoid burning poison ivy waste, the same doesn’t apply to boiling.
When pulling out plants by the root system, it’s often a good idea to boil roots to kill them. Otherwise, any that you miss may find their way into the ground and produce fresh growth.
Instead of burning, you should seal all poison ivy waste in heavy-duty plastic bags.
You can dispose of plant matter in your trash bin or, in certain areas, you can use specially marked bins for organic waste.
Always make sure that trash bags are completely sealed and with no rips or tears. Otherwise, you may risk causing harm to your local sanitation workers.
Wash Your Tools
After handling poison ivy, you should thoroughly wash anything that may have come into contact with urushiol oil.
Use rubbing alcohol or vinegar to clean gardening tools as shears or scissors. You also need to clean any clothes or protective gear that you were wearing while working.
Try to avoid touching the exterior of clothing items as you remove them. It’s best to turn them inside-out to avoid any accidental contact when washing.
Clean contaminated clothing separately from another laundry with detergent and hot water. You may want to run the load through more than once to remove all urushiol oil.
Don’t forget to wash any gloves or boots that you wore as well. You can use warm, soapy water to remove most urushiol residue.
Once you’ve cleaned your equipment, it’s a good idea to shower off with soap and cool water. Doing this will ensure that any traces of irritant left on your skin get removed immediately.
Poison ivy can pose a threat to people and pets on your property. If you see signs of poison ivy in your yard, it’s important to take immediate action.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can remove poison ivy, from pulling plants manually to killing them with herbicides.
With proper disposal and cleanup techniques, you can safely and effectively keep your yard free of poison ivy.
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