Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ivy Itch

Happy Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is a squatter, an invader, an oportunist.

It is rife along the edges of ourwoods. It climbs to the very tops of tall trees. It marches into grassy fields. It sneaks into nooks and crannies. Pops up beneath the elder bushes, or amidst the garden plants beneath the shade of the hedge tree.

Poison Ivy is bold. Audacious. Robust.

Not happy after just one spraying.
And that is before you get to the part where it makes you itch like mad -- if you are sensitive to the chemical it exudes when damaged. Which I am not. I think. I am almost certain. But I am not going to test the theory. My dad was immune for nearly 80 years, then got his first itchy blisters one winter from poison ivy residue on firewood.

Because it is so rampant in places on our property, I have in the past resorted to using synthetic chemical herbicides on it. This "chemical which shall remain nameless" has done only minimal damage to the poison ivy population. Recently, someone pointed to a link with a less toxic solution (thanks Kris B.).

One gallon of plain old white vinegar heated; dissolve into it one cup of ordinary salt. Cool. Pour into sprayer and add 8 drops of liquid detergent. Wet the poison ivy thoroughly on the morning of a day that will be hot and sunny.

A small bit dead after just one spraying.
It works as well as the-chemical-which-shall-remain-nameless. And I don't have to dress in a HAZMAT suit, with goggles and mask and rubber gloves, then shower, and launder my clothes afterward. My hands were bare when I sprayed the vinegar solution. I didn't even change my clothes when I was done.

Results of the spray are not immediately apparent, but by the end of a hot day, the edges of the leaves are crispy brown. It works most efficiently on small poison ivy plants. The larger ones will take several sprayings.

Autumn poison ivy
Because of the salt in the concoction, one must be cautious about applying this in large quantities over a large area. Enough salt will make the soil sterile. But spot spraying small areas should cause no concern, as the rains will dilute the small quantity of salt that gets into the soil.

I have no hope of eradicating poison ivy from our woods and meadows. However, I do want to push it back from the edges, away from where human contact is most likely. If I can do that much, I will consider it success. We also are considering using a large tarp to smother the poison ivy where it grows in large patches in one of the orchard areas. When I find one or two relatively small bits of poison ivy in an otherwise clean area, I take a plastic back, insert my hand, pull the ivy out with the bag-covered hand and turn the bag inside out so that it enclosed the ivy, then put it in the trash.

If only poison ivy would play well with others. Without its toxin, it can be a rather attractive plant. It is especially so in the autumn, when its orange and red leaves set the woods aflame. Everything has its beauty.


Only in Louisiana ~ documenting the adventures we call Life! said...

FYI - If you do come in contact with it, bathe in Dawn dishwashing washes the oils off your skin and your reaction will be much less. We always keep Dawn in the shower and just bathe with it after we go in the daughter even did a science project on this and proved her hypothesis by infecting herself and washing it with several different things...Dawn was by far the best! I just found out about killing weeds with vinegar...I never knew it!

Meggie said...

I'm very sensitive to poison ivy..I try to keep it under control around the farm.