Let's say you HAD to use some kind of herbicide.....

pbl_ge(5/6)June 1, 2012


I posted some time back about my entire yard of invasive species. We're in a slow battle with it, right now focusing on the 350 sq ft of ivy in the front yard. We've been digging up the dirt, sorting out the roots, replacing the dirt, amending with compost, and putting in new plants. Here's a picture of the scene:

We've been at this for weeks. The neighbors think we're insane. Good times.

Anyway, here's my question: I'm sure some of this ivy is going to continue coming up, as well as encroach from the sides where we haven't cleared it yet. We'll be able to pull some, but we're thinking it would be good to have some sort of herbicide spray in case we can't get at the roots. We're adamantly anti-Monsanto, therefore anti-Roundup. If you HAD to use something, what would you use?

Thanks in advance!

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Monsanto's patent on glyphosate expired a while back. Get a generic version, like Walmart's Weed and grass killer. Read the label: all you want is glyphosate as the active ingredient.

You have a problem with using an herbicide at this stage of the project. They work best when applied to the leaves of actively growing plants, and you have already cleared all the visible growth.

I don't know how aggressive ivy is at sprouting from root fragments ... let your experience with this first round of clearing guide you.

1 - Establish a defense at the borders of the ivy patch and do not let it get any larger. Keep cutting anything that comes over the line.

2- Pull the sprouts as soon as you see them in the new landscaping.

3 - When you get to the next phase of removing ivy, do it when the ivy is actively putting out new shoots. If you prune it severely (as in cut it to the ground) in the fall, it should really sprout the following spring.

When it's covered with tender new leaves, make up the glyphosate solution, with the addition of a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent (whatever you have) per gallon. That helps cut through the waxy leaf coating on the ivy.

Spray it thoroughly with a fairly coarse spray, covering all the new leaves with the glyphosate. Wait a couple of weeks and if it sprouts again (or if the leaves aren't reacting) spray it again.

It took me three rounds of glyphosate to kill off some myrtle ... waxy leaves and an extensive root system.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 10:57AM
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What type of ivy are you speaking of?

Ground ivy or the woody type?

For creeping charlie and generic weed killer will work although you will have to wait till your new lawn is established.

I finally got tired of it last fall and sprayed kill ninety nine percent of it.

Use a paint brush to kill any growing near plants the herbicide could affect by spraying.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 2:47PM
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We have both ground and woody ivy, but the woody is much nastier (which is saying something). What did you spray? Broadleaf killer?

I had posted a response to lazygardens before, but it got deleted, probably because I also referenced a troller, whose posts here have also been deleted (yay!). To repeat: we plan to dig it all by hand, but there are some places we can't get to (e.g., the roots of that peony are harboring some ivy), and spot applications of an herbicide seem like they could be helpful. About half of this area will be planted with perennials, shrubs, and trees, and the other half will be grass.

Perhaps my original question was unclear, so allow me to rephrase: if you really wanted to use an herbicide VERY sparingly, which one do you feel least guilty about using?


    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 4:34PM
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Find a herbicide, preferably sytemic that list on the container that is kills creeping charlie and other such items.
Brand does not matter as a cheapy I bought worked far better than Bayers
It it is a sytemic killer you can try as I did on Canada Thistles dig, and quack grass, dig down and paint the roots.
Nothing is a sure bet but if you keep at it in a year or so it goes bye-bye.
For wood items, this will kill sucker trees and bushes also there are products just for this that you brush on.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 5:44PM
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lazygardens is right, this is how I am dealing with bahia grass in my organic garden.
We use round up where I work to keep weeds out of the crush rock around the building,the grass comes though the layer of heavy weed barrier, then 4 inches of crush rock. When it is sprayed, the top died, but the main root sends up another spout a few inches away.
If the 4 items do not work, I would go with the paint brush.
But I have not found Ivy that hard to control.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Glyphosate in any form, by any manufacturer or retailer, is still glyphosate and is unacceptable to an organic gardener.
If hand removal does not work vinegar might be somewhat useful if you can find stronger, more acidic, types then that sold for normal household use. Applied during the hottest part of the day the 20 percent acetic acid vinegars will kill top growth, and if that is done often enough the roots will die of starvation. Due care in application is needed sinbce the vinegar is a broad spectrum killer of plants and can kill anything it is sprayed on.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 6:45AM
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msbumble(z6 NJ)

I sympathize. I think you've gotten some good advice already (which I needed myself - thanks!), but I would like to comment on the ivy issue. I have ivy on the sides and back of my house. It is an ecosystem that's home for lots of black spiders. Before I understood this I ripped the ivy out on one side to plant other things, and a succession of problems followed over the next few years - ants coming in the basement windows, ground bees making their home in the soil and under the porch and swarming in the driveway, and weeds I never knew existed. Turned out the ivy was relatively easy to maintain, and eliminated the need for pesticides & chemicals of any kind. Now that I'm an ivy devotee I don't even think about the foundation areas, and I'm free to fight the(many)battles that come up elsewhere in the yard.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Why don't you just keep your grass. Reseed every now and then. Let it grow high until you mow. Let it go to seed every now and then. Try throwing on pre emergent in the early season.

If that fails just replace it with a garden and mulch heavily to smother out the weeds. It'll be more ecologically useful than a lawn anyways.

What a futile pain in the butt you're doing over there. So much work. And you want to now go through the hassle of spraying? What a waste of time and money. Let nature do the work for you. Put it to work, not yourself. Man that looks like a terrible time.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. It sounds like you're suggesting either the glyphosate (Roundup sytemic) or Triclopyr (Brush B Gone sytemic). Does anyone know if either of those are less evil than the other? Were there others you thought we should consider?

We've tried both concentrated vinegar and boiling water. Ivy seems almost wholly unperturbed by both (sometimes will brown/wilt, but comes right back). Again, I'm not looking to apply any sprays *now*. If we were a little more daring, we probably would have just set fire to the whole damn yard. Or maybe gotten the goat someone suggested a while back.

Msbumble, I hear you--keeping the ivy would definitely be the path of least resistance. But I do think it's a serious problem plant. Several trees around here are dying a slow death as the ivy brings them down, and it is definitely making efforts to damage the house, outdoor fixtures (e.g., we found it growing extensively in the generator when we moved in), and of course it wants to kill all other plants in the yard. I can't speak to the insect ecology you theorize, but I do know that in this area it harbors rodents and spiders that can be harmful to small children. A couple of states (OR, WA at least) are trying to outlaw it as an ornamental. This is why we're digging it out, doing the least amount of ecological harm we can.

Gribble, I think you're not following the conversation. At least, your response doesn't make much sense to me, given my situation and my questions. I have no idea what you're trying to say, but what you've written just comes across as really unhelpful and critical, but maybe I'm misreading it.

Thanks so much!

Here is a link that might be useful: Invasive.org

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 5:10PM
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All you have to do is smother and plant until you choke out the ivy. If it's a garden you just keep it mulched and let your good plants take over to shade out the weed. Mulch to keep the rest down. If it's a lawn just plant/seed/mow high til the weeds are choked out. Before doing all this you can tear out the ivy if you need to.

Spraying is a waste of time and money. You'll spend just as much time and effort as you would doing the above suggestions and your patch of whatever will be a lot happier in the long run.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 8:15PM
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art_1(10 CA)

What is this nonsense discussing herbicide in the organic gardening forum?

I agree with the above - just keep pulling the ivy out and let your lawn or garden continue to grow. If you want to keep the ivy out it is going to take effort either way. Mixing and spraying herbicide periodically, and then you need to pull out or rake up the dead plants, right? Might as well just periodically pull out the ivy.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:40AM
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Either several of you have never had ground ivy, creeping charlie, or had such small infestation you have no idea what it is like to deal with.

NOTHING smothers out creeping charlie, creeping charlie can smother out dandelions.

I have dealt with it for decades, she knows what she is doing and to critcize her is arrogant ignorance.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:50AM
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Yeah, the idea of using mulch or letting "good plants" take over to kill ivy is pretty hilarious. And suggesting that I'm afraid of the effort of pulling when hubby and I have spent the past month digging and sorting out roots is...well, let's just say you got that one way wrong.

Have either of you tried asking Bashar al-Assad to play nice and stop killing his own people? Maybe we're all just making things harder on ourselves!

(Thanks, RpR.)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 8:15AM
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No, what's hlarious is that you're succumbing to spraying poison on your lawn in hopes that it will actually do something to lower your efforts in this battle. Whether you spray or whatever it will come back. You're always going to be fighting this with that weed, don't expect it to let down. So you may as well do it right and just use conventional practices rather than go buy poison at a store.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Gribble, in that last post you seem to be saying, "I don't think herbicides will help you much. You'll do just as well to keep pulling, and that way you'll avoid having to use poisons."

Has that been your opinion on this the whole time? If so, I think you could have written that a lot less confrontationally and insultingly, and therefore avoided everyone a lot of ire. That seems like a perfectly reasonable position to take, but what you've been writing has been communicating something a lot less reasonable and polite.

I also think you misunderstood my situation from the beginning: I did NOT have ivy in the grass. The previous owners had ivy INSTEAD OF grass in about half the front yard. It had been there for about 25 years (to the best recollection of the neighbors), so it was VERY thick, deeply rooted, and neither hell nor cardboard nor mulch nor "good plants" nor high water could have smothered it out. You can sneer at that reality all you want, but it doesn't change the facts of the situation.

I would also like to point out that we have not used a single drop of chemical so far. We're just contemplating it, which is the whole purpose of this post.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:31AM
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    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:54AM
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What are you trying to convert the patch into? Lawn or garden?

I think the easiest solution would be to till by shovel, or if you're not able to physically, a tiller. Pull the roots out, plant lawn, let it smother the ivy. Pull ivy whenever you see it to help.

If a garden, plant your plants, and mulch heavily while pulling whatever comes up.

Herbicides are so unnecessary. All you need is patience and persistence along with letting nature do the work for you (mulching, plants choking out weeds).

I wasn't trying to be rude, just felt sorry that you were considering wasting your time with spraying. I won't understand how people can be more satisfied with bending over and painstakingly spraying liquid on individual plants vs the satisfaction of large scale tilling/sorting clumps of roots quickly and efficiently with your hands or screen, and then smothering by easily tossing large volumes of cardboard/leaves/grass clippings to cover up things in a garden setting (or, by cultivating a lawn and letting it grow to choke out weeds while easily walking by to pluck a few roots out of the ground every now and then while the lawn develops).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 12:33PM
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Of the two that CAN kill ivy, glyphosate is the lesser of evils. It breaks down faster, and is less toxic to mammals (like me).

And yes, discussing herbicides in the forum for organic gardening can and does happen ... like avoiding antibiotics on an organic farm, there will be times when selective use of the dreaded chemical will be more effective and less dangerous to the surroundings and the gardener than repeatedly throwing "organic" solutions at it.

20% acetic acid? Have you read the MSDS on that? It's nasty stuff.

And here's a controlled study:
Although all of the acetic acid treatments did a good job of initially controlling quackgrass (which has a very aggressive root system), it re-grew by the nine week observation date for many treatments. By 13 weeks, the percentage of quackgrass for many treatments actually increased beyond what was initially seen in the plots.

People like vinegar because it has fast knockdown ... gratifying but not long term effective.

Here is a link that might be useful: Using acetic acid as herbicide

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:30PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I do understand the need to use herbicides to control invasive plants, since I have been battling many very aggressive woody plants like Buckthorn and Oriental Bittersweet for years. However, I am guessing that ivy could be controlled by smothering with cardboard.

Although I don't have ivy, I have successfully killed off Vinca minor and other aggressive weeds to prepare a garden bed by 1) mowing them down as low as possible to weaken the plants; 2) lay down double or triple layers of cardboard and overlap well; and 3) top cardboard with a couple inches of wood chips or mulch. Ignore for a couple months.

Do this on Spring or summer when plants are actively growing and especially during hot and dry weather, and they will die off relatively quickly. So easy.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:35PM
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I find this whole organic thing to smack of hypocrisy. Let's take acetic acid as an example. Most commercial acetic acid is manufactured from methanol, which in turn is produced using natural gas. Aren't chemical ferts. hated by the organic gardeners because ammonia is produced from natural gas as well? Or if you're going to go out of your way to find acetic acid that was only produced naturally (through the fermentation of alcohol), can you guarantee that the grapes or corn used to produce that alcohol were grown organically? I could go on and on...

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 9:58PM
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So true^

Not to mention the burning of soil with acid..yeah, that's natural.

When are people going to stop dousing the ground with chemicals, regardless? So ridiculous, and sad.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Yeah pbl I'm kind of right there with you. We purchased a foreclosure property last year that sat empty for 3 years and I'm guessing that even before that the previous owners did very little to the yard. The back was nothing but weeds so I just started to cardboard up as much as possible why I try to take back control of the yard a few feet at a time. I can keep the areas that I've "concurred" all but weed free with just daily pullings but as I working on one area another is just going gangbusters with weeds. Creeping Charlie, some vine with white flowers and this evil thing with huge leaves and 8 to 12 inch roots to match are my 3 worst. I can't cardboard up the entire yard because I also have cracking sidewalks and a wall made with retaining blocks that the weeds just LOVE. It's been dry this year so I guess that's kind of kept everyone in check but we just had our 1st really good rain in a month & while my plants really loved it so did the weeds. All I can do is pickax the big areas up and just keep making new beds but somethings it seems HOPELESS. I feel like I should of just Agent Oranged the whole thing and started over in the very beginning.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:15AM
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I hope you found something to work for you.
I do not know if solarization will work for you.
It will not work on my Poison ivy/oak, because it is all in the shade.
However, the solarization worked well on 12' X 12' Bahia grass, that I am planting in now.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:42PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

pbl....how is the landscaping coming along? Any recent pictures?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 12:27PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

There is a special RU (or other brand) that is specifically for woody vines (if you have woody ivy). The label says Poison Ivy or something like that. I am using it to hopefully eradicate some PI and PO in my yard. I'd love to be totally organic, but I've had two bouts of PI or PO and it's not fun.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 8:04AM
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pbl, y'all are doing a great job. The hard work will be behind you soon. A month ago I got rid of a much smaller area of ivy, 12' or so circle. Happy to report that I've only had about 4 new sprigs appear - those I dug out. Did use a brush killer on area hugging trunk of tree, a drop or two per woody stem. Dug those out this a.m., probably will have some regrowth because roots broke before I could get entire system.

Don't waste your time, energy, etc. on the dissenters. Kinda fascinating, imagining them yelling at the keyboard while they spew. Poor souls.

p.s. I am so glad my ivy is gone. What was I thinking?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Hi All!

Sorry for the slow response here--I'm on the road for a few consecutive weeks, and internet access has been spotty. We took a couple of quick pictures, but the light was terrible, so they're hard to look at.

Here's the update: We got EVERY bit of ivy root out of the areas destined to be flower gardens by the means described above. We then heavily amended the soil, put up plastic edging where the bed abutted ivy, and planted the trees and perennials. During this time, which lasted about 6-8 weeks, we'd been keeping the other half of the ivy patch assiduously mowed. So we decided to risk it. DH pulled up every accessible bit of ivy he could from that area. We then evened out the area with extra top soil and planted grass seed. (Late June is a terrible time to plant a lawn, but hey--that's when we were ready.)

And so far, so good! He'll be monitoring the ivy situation more closely than I will for a while. We might need to take other measures, but it at least looks decent now, and we were tired of having the yard look like a construction zone. Grass seed is cheap, so if we need to take other steps in a few weeks/months, it won't be too much of a loss.

Pics soon. Thanks for all the input!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 3:57PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Strouper, your "evil thing with huge leaves and 8 to 12 inch roots to match" sounds like it could be Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). Does it make purple berries that the birds love? Very aggressive and weedy native.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 12:58AM
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