ivy poison

Here is a photograph-heavy post about ivy.

When I put an offer on my house, it came with a lovely crumbling brick wall in the lovely back yard. The wall separates my property from that of the house next door, which happens to be vacant. In the selling contract, we asked the sellers of my home to fix the brick wall. When they couldn't do that, their solution was to put up a white aluminum fence on my side of the property, keeping the bricks from continuing to disintegrate into my yard. Well, ok. Not optimal or pretty, but it'll do.

Since I moved in, the pretty, non-threatening ivy that lined the top of the crumbling wall (and most of my next door neighbor's back yard) has turned into a monster. It crept along the wall, covering everything in sight, including my other neighbor's house directly behind my own.

Photo taken June 27th, 2011
Same house, photo taken August 16th, 2011

When it started creeping up my house walls, it was on. I Round-Upped that shiz like nobody's business. Now, Round-Up is created by/owned by Monsanto. If you know me or my foodie housemate, or you read Michael Pollan, or know anything about modern industrialized agriculture, you probably don't need to tell you why Monsanto is highly controversial. But if you need a 37-minute refresher, try here. Or, here for Pollan's long, but informative read from the NYT. Or something a little more sensationalized here. (Grumble grumble, fist shake!)

I would like to say that I took more time to think about friendly ways to kill the ivy. After all, I agonized over my decision to carpet bomb my aphids last year. This year, though, I'm a homeowner. A homeowner with certifiably "permeable" stucco on the back of my house. There would be no messing around. My ethical and personal problems with Monsanto will have to wait for another time.

Let's take a look.

Here is where the brick wall touches my house, the gray stucco. Note the sharp contrast between the dead ivy remains on the left and the living portion on the right. The area that I agent-oranged has been continuously clear for almost two months without retreatment. That's both awesome and deeply disturbing.

Now let's zoom in to see what is really going on:

 See those little nubs that look like (dead) holly berries? Those are actually (dead) ivy legs - apparently the technical term is holdfasts. Those little buggers will bore into anything they can, including solid brick, stone, and especially stucco.

Ivy is prolific, fast-growing, destructive, and nearly impossible to kill. When we started tearing up the back yard, I encountered an ivy root that was the diameter of a half-dollar. Silly me for thinking that a nice slice-through with the reciprocating saw might kill the whole beast. Instead, within a week or two, each end of the cut had essentially scabbed over and then sent out 6-8 small runners in its place.

I have watched the ivy consume my neighbor's back wall all summer. A part of me likes the look of it - lush evergreen is much prettier than a beige stucco wall. But the longer this goes on, the more I realize how much it sucks for the owner - whom I have never met - and the fact that I will have to continue dealing with the plant's tendrils as it tries to take over my yard from multiple angles. It would take many many gallons of Round-Up to contain the whole system - most of which is not on my property. Furthermore, without knowing where the roots are to dig up, it will continue to grow back year after year. The best I can do right now is maintain a perimeter just beyond my own walls and garden, and try to appreciate a little more green in my life.

P.S. Ivy is also pretty rough on ecosystems outside of the city. But have you driven around the South anywhere recently? Because ivy is not nearly as big of a problem as kudzu. And yes, the video on that page is probably worth watching.


  1. Sometimes you have to fight evil with evil.

    We have this weird ivy-esque plant that grows on our fence. I hate it with a firey passion, but Adam loves it. But maybe I will accidentally spill a ton of Roundup by it's little trunk...

  2. I wonder if it's a grape vine? Those things can grow like crazy, too.

    What kind of evil do you use to deter your squirrels?