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Polish Off Your Poison Ivy Without Personal Peril
WithTheseSeven Secrets of Successful PI Pullers!

Q.Lastyear, we started having problems with poison ivy around our vegetablegarden. Ican't go near the stuff, so my father-in-law kindly mowed it down andcoveredthe area with weed block and wood chips. The poison ivy simply grew uparoundit, and instead of being behind my garden, is now starting toencroachit. Do you have any organic suggestions for getting rid of it? Thanksfor yourhelp.
                                     ---Laurel DWG; Billerica, Massachusetts

Oneof our mulberry trees has a 4" thick poison ivy vine clinging to thebark and climbing the entire tree. It has beautiful foliage in theFall,but my spouse is very allergic and I need to kill it off. Anysuggestions?

                                     ---TerryMartin; Southeastern Michigan

Mike,it'sthat time of year again!  I'm getting over my first poison ivyrash and afriend has a bad case just starting. Can you go over the details ofyour poisonivy plan?  
                                     ---Elaine Wolf;

A.Yes,Elaine, it is indeed time for my annual lesson on rash-free removal! Laurel: Make sure yourkind-but-somewhat-foolish Father-in-Law washes his lawn mower well; itslikelystill covered with the stuff! (Yes, that would explain why hegets arash every time he mows the lawn!) Clean all the parts that touched thepoisonvine really well with cold water. Then stop foolin' around andtry

MikeMcGrath's Patented Poison Ivy Purging Plan!

     1. Apply  "Ivy Block" lotion to your hands, face,ankles, wrists, etc. This clay-based product forms a protective barrieragainstthe plant's dreaded allergenic oil. Available at drug stores and directfromthe manufacturer at good basic poison ivy info at that site too) or toll free1-800-421-1223.

     2. Wait until right after (oreven better, DURING) a heavy rain. Or soak the area THOROUGHLYwith a hose or sprinkler. Weeds in wet soil pull out mucheasier.

     3. Puton heavy boots, protectivegoggles, long pants and shirt. Then get a helper who will work atyourside, and do The Plastic Bag Dance…

     4. The PBD:Gather up lots of big, heavy plastic mall shoppingbags; not thethinner supermarket varieties—we want bags from real classy storeshere. Slip abag over each hand, locate where a vine enters the soil and pulls-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y with one of your bagged hands; the vine should comeright upfor you.  If it resists, have your helper soak the soilaround thebase of the vine with a garden hose. Don't YOU (the puller)touchANYTHING—especially your face! When you get the root (or thevinefinally snaps), fold the bag in your other hand back over the ivy, andthendrop the vine and both the bags that are now around it into a trashcan.Don'tre-use your 'hand bags'; start with fresh ones every time.

     5. When you're finished, haveyour helper open all doors for you. Then go straight to thewasher,strip, and put all your clothes in the wash (by themselves) and runthem thru acold water cycle. Then you get right in the shower and washwith coolwater. No soap; no washcloth. Waterdissolves theallergenic oil; soap and cloth can spread it to other, perhaps more sensitive,areas. Yes, exactly the areas you're thinking about now—sodon't cheat!THEN take a regular shower.

     6. Next day, go back to whereany roots escaped and either:

 A. Suit up, bagup, excavate the area with a shovel and get them(perhaps GIANT) roots out of the ground; or

 B. 'Mulch' thosespotswith heavycarpet, metal sheeting, or something equally impenetrable

     7. Then pay closeattention to theareas you've eliminated. Immediately pull any new sprouts(again, usingbags—NEVER gloves!) or spray them with herbicidalsoap or avinegar-based organic herbicide; or soak the spot with straight whitevinegar.Then keep an eye out for new plants sprouting up—thanks to thebirdsthat love to eat those pretty berries, there will always be fresh vinesfor youto pull.

OK—Now aboutthose tree-climbing vines (thought I forgot about you, didn't you,Terry?).These beasts are super-dangerous. Many hikers have pushed aside whatthey thoughtwere tree branches, but were really poison ivy vines that had run upthe trunkand were now hanging down in their face. So be careful pushing leavesaway—always check trees for those distinctive hairy vines and touch noleavesif you see one.

Toremoveone from your trees, suit up and use a bow saw to cut through the vineabout afoot above the soil line.  Workcarefully; you want to completely sever the vine, but cause the leastdamage tothe tree trunk. When you're done, wash your blade in cold water. Andthen bepatient.  In a week or so, the leaves ofthe vine up in the tree should turn brown. If you can do it safely,makeanother cut as high up as possible on the tree vine. Wait some more. Then, on a rainy day, suit upwith heavy plastic bags and slooowllly pull the dead vine out of thetree. Makesure you're covered with Ivy-Block and clothing; these vines canreallywhip around and catch you by surprise. (If you DO get nailed, stop andimmediately soak that spot with cold water for a good ten minutes.)Wrestle thevine into big plastic bags and put out with the trash. NEVERBURN POISONIVY! The smoke will keeeel you!  

Donotattempt to remove the part of the vine still attached to the tree. Ifyou thinkpeople might touch it, cover the vine with a clay spray, like GardensAlive"Surroundat Home". Over time the vine will decay; but beware—the trunkwill stay 'active' where that vine was attached for years. Sprayvinegar oranother organicherbicide on any new growth that tries to come up out of theground.

And,finally, if you're not sure what it looks like, go to poison dash ivydot org ( greatphotos of the nasty stuff in all of its guises!

You Bet Your Garden  ©2004 Mike McGrath

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