Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Smothering English ivy

English ivy is a thug, basically.  It starts out as a hardy groundcover, low-maintenance, and evergreen.  But then it starts creeping up trees, becomes reproductive, and bam!

I remember English ivy from my graduate school days in the SF Bay Area (where it was rampant on campus).  As a traveler, I've seen it in its 'native' habitat in Tuscany (also looking quite weedy, probably after centuries of disturbance), climbing up every tree in the woodlands that we were driving by.

In the Eastern U.S, it's a total pest (and has been designated as such, officially, in the Pacific NW states of Washington and Oregon).

Hand-pulling is effective, but requires labor and time.  Herbicide-spraying (if you're willing to go that route) requires extra (commercial-grade) surfactants added to the herbicide, to overcome the waxy cuticle on the leaves.

But smothering with cardboard, mulch, and leaves is a longer-term solution, too.
ready to smother ivy
ready for leaves

My gardening companion, on a mission to recover the ravine forest below our mountain house, spent some time 'smothering' ivy and pulling it up, too, over the last couple of days.

Final result: leaves over cardboard


  1. Looks like my yard last year-- the cardboard is pretty effective, at least it was on grass and creeping charlie (another pest).

    I am thinking of planting the native Virginia Creeper (the stuff that covers many college campuses in NE and is often mistaken for Ivy) in a shady area where I need a vine and fall color. I know I'll have to manage it very carefully. At least I've got a few months to think about it.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. We found the cardboard/mulch to be very effective on grass and creeping charlie- hope it works on the ivy.

    I am, perhaps stupidly, thinking of planting Parthenocissus quinquefolia (VA Creeper-- the stuff that covers many NE college campuses that is confused with ivy) in a shady area where I want a vine and fall color.
    At least I've got a few months to investigate the pros and cons. I know I'd have to manage it carefully.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. CEN-
    I really like Virginia creeper on walls and up trees. It doesn't have the weedy look that ivy and honeysuckle have -- maybe because I know it belongs here...

    We're hoping that the cardboard works well -- it's great to make the ivy disappear, to be sure.


I enjoy hearing from fellow nature lovers and gardeners. Let me know your thoughts.

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