Thursday, July 15, 2010

Landscaping Project: Eliminating English Ivy

The big home improvement project for us in 2010 is exterior-focused. We've lived here for almost 7 years without touching anything on the outside, partially because we were busy taking care of small children, but also because we weren't really sure what to do with our relatively small yard. As a result, our yard has had a relatively 'natural' look; my husband has diligently cared for all the plants present, whether or not they were weeds (we didn't really know what was a weed and what wasn't!)
One thing you won't see in the foliage pictured above is English Ivy. I spent an entire Saturday last year pulling up all the English Ivy in our front yard. In our area it's an invasive plant that takes over and prevent native species from flourishing. Not everyone see it this way; to counter the volunteer groups who gather at local parks once a month to pull ivy, Home Depot sells little pots of it in their landscaping section! One of our main goals in updating our landscaping was to take the yard back from the English Ivy and other invasive plants, and make our yard a friendly place for native species.

Recently my husband attacked the English Ivy in the back yard, which looked like this:

He pulled it all out, so now this area looks like this:

It's been so hot around here, the weeds don't even grow! We have a plan to install landscaping here sometime soon.

In addition to overtaking the ground, English Ivy likes to grow up trees and choke the life right out of them. We have a large black walnut tree in the back yard, and while we were inside having babies for the past 6 years, the English Ivy was slowly taking over. My son and I spent some enjoyable afternoons sawing and hacking at the English Ivy vines (some of them thicker than my arm) growing sneakily up the back of the tree. Now the vines up above have died out, and I've already noticed that the tree is flourishing more this year than last year.
I am determined to remain vigilant and stay on top of the English Ivy invasion from now on!

Some things we learned while pulling English Ivy:

  • When pulling ivy out of the ground, it was best to wait until a day or two after it rained. The roots are mostly shallowly buried under the soil, and they came up quite easily when the soil was still a bit damp. Wear garden gloves and gently keep pulling to uncover more of the vine and roots without breaking it so that you pull up as much as possible.

  • When pulling ivy off bricks or trees, it's best to cut the vines at or near ground level. For thick woody vines, you have to actually remove a segment of the vine several inches long. If you just make a cut, it will grow right back together. (Ask me how I know this!) You should leave the vines on the wall/tree until they turn brown and die; then they will be much easier to remove, and will be less likely to damage the bark on your tree.
  • When pulling out a carper/ground covering of ivy, it helps to just roll it up like a big carpet. You will end up with a very large pile of yard waste! We had ours hauled away by the county rather than putting it out with the garbage.

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