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Take extra precautions when removing poison ivy

June 28, 2005|by JEFF RUGG/Copley News Service

Q: What is the best way to remove poison ivy from a hedge?

A: Actually, it will be the same method no matter where it is growing. You will have three things you are trying to do at the same time:

1. Avoid contacting the poison ivy with your bare skin.

2. Put herbicide on the poison ivy.

3. Avoid getting herbicide on the hedge plants.

I would use Roundup or a similar complete plant-killing herbicide. It only works on green material, so if you spill it, it won't soak into the soil and kill more plants. Wear rubber gloves and long sleeves and if you have to reach deeply into the hedge to get the plant, wear eye protection and a hat. Use a rag or sponge soaked in the herbicide solution prepared according to directions. Wipe it in the ivy leaves, keeping it off the hedge plant as much as possible. Afterward, wash your clothes and gloves with soap and water. You will have to be very careful not to wipe away sweat or touch anything where the sap could stick and be picked up later.


It is the oil from the poison ivy plant that causes irritation and it is found in all parts of the plant. It must be washed away with a detergent. If it is just washed in water, the oil might float around and not rinse away. Anything the oil contacts in the future could transfer the oil to someone's skin. If you wash the skin with soap and water, the oil will go away, but the appearance of the irritated skin may become visible later. Skin drying agents like rubbing alcohol or baking soda can also stop the oil.

If the ivy is rampant in the hedge, you will want to cut it out first. Once you are properly protected, cut off the vine near the ground and unwrap it to the ends. After the ivy is cut out, it will sprout again. It will be easier to wipe with herbicide when it is small and you will use less herbicide, too. You can spray paint the spot so that when any new growth comes out, you know where it is and can spray it with weed killer or cut it off again. If you keep after the new growth on at least a weekly basis, you will eventually win.

It would be a good idea to remove dead ivy branches from the hedge because anyone cutting the hedge in the future, might get poison ivy oil on themselves from the old dead vines remaining in the hedge.

Poison oak and poison ivy can both grow as vines that grow on other plants and as free-standing shrubs. As a vine, they can grow up to the top of a large tree and have a stem 5 inches in diameter at the base. It could take a while to pull it all out of a hedge.

Throw the cuttings away in a sealed bag. Never burn these plants or even logs with the vine wrapped on it. The sap can evaporate into the smoke and coat other things that will give you a rash. Even worse, you could get the oily smoke on your skin or even breathe it in to your throat and lungs.

Q: What are the pea pod-looking things hanging from the redbud trees in my neighborhood? My tree is 2 years old but already 8 feet tall. I never noticed those hanging things on it before. One woman I know said her redbud doesn't have them. Can you help us figure out this mystery?

A: Believe it or not, the redbud tree is in the pea family (botanically, it is called the legume family) and those are the seed pods. Some trees seem to be more fertile than others and are either covered with them or not and, of course, some trees just get a few at a time. Some trees will alternate with heavy years and light years. Your tree is just a youngster and even though it may have had some flowers, it will produce more seeds as it gets older.

Q: I recently planted white petunias and placed them on my front steps where they get a good amount of sun each day. I have always placed them on my steps and never had a problem with them. I recently noticed that the new blooms quickly turn brown and die. I water them every other day. The leaves look healthy otherwise. What could be wrong?

A: Try watering them without getting any water on the flowers. Just water the soil around the base of the plant without getting water on the top of the plant. Some flowering plant varieties seem to be more susceptible to bacteria and fungal problems when they get wet too often. The variety you have this year might be one that needs to be drier. As the weather warms up and the plant dries off faster after each watering, it might go away.

Q: Our lawn has always been one of the prettiest on the block until several years ago when it started looking straw-like from the root and I was told that we have grubs. I want to know how to get rid of them because they are destroying our lawn. I bought a grub control from the local big box store, will it work?

A: If you follow the label directions on the package, you should get good results. You will get good results from all name-brand grub control products as long as you follow the directions for timing and dosages and grubs are the problem.

Grubs can turn the lawn brown as they eat the roots, but a more sure way of telling if they are there is to pull up the brown grass and look for them. If it pulls up easily, there are probably white grubs visible.

Grubs are very seasonal and if the problem has stayed for several years, it might not be grubs. If the grass is brown, but still solidly rooted, then there is a different problem. Such as a broken irrigation zone or irrigation head that is not working properly.

Adult beetles know that green, well-irrigated lawns have more tender roots in larger quantities, than brown, dry and not well-tended lawns. So unfortunately, all that good care you gave your lawn may have attracted the current problem. The female beetles lay their eggs in the greenest lawns so the grubs can have the most food. At the same time, a well-cared for lawn should recover faster.

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