There should be a support group for people trying to remove massive amounts of ivy from their yards. It’s a miserable job. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this.
You Can Remove Out-of-Control Ivy
My English ivy spanned the entire width of the backyard, reaching all the way down the slope to the back fence.
Underneath the top layer of flimsy green vines, it was two feet tall with a mass of woody branches that couldn’t be cut with a weed trimmer.
This lawn cover-upper, staircase rotter and yard destroyer was choking out my trees and shrubs. Nothing was safe from the ivy.
Stopping it seemed impossible, but eventually I got rid of every last ivy root and vine in my yard. Here’s what you need to know to remove English ivy for good.
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3 Ways to Kill English Ivy
There are three main ivy removal methods people use, depending on how thick and serious the ivy is.
Option 1: Cutting and Pulling the Ivy
This will work if you only have those flimsy green vines I mentioned. You can cut the ivy with a weed trimmer and then pull or rake the roots out by hand.
But if you’re dealing with large amounts of thick ivy, it will take approximately one lifetime to cut it back.
I started with this method, and it was like giving a St. Bernard a haircut using nothing but a pair of nail clippers.
It took all my strength to cut and rip out the woody ivy roots, and after a hard day’s work I had barely made a dent. I’m pretty sure the next day it all grew back and then some.
This method works better for removing smaller patches of ivy. When ivy has been left to grow wild for a few decades, it stops being a plant and turns into something more like a low-growing evil tree.
Option 2: Spraying Herbicides
Some people swear by ivy-killing herbicides.
In my experience, herbicides did not work at all, at least not the natural ones. We tried the white vinegar trick as well as spraying soapy water.
Ivy leaves are very waxy and tough. They can take an herbicidal beating and just laugh in your face.
You could try a heavy duty weed killer. But I avoid using serious chemicals in my yard, so I found another solution.
Option 3: Solarization
This is my method of choice. It works on even the thickest ivy, it doesn’t strain your back, and it doesn’t require chemicals. All it takes is patience.
Plastic + Time = Bye, Ivy
After spending a summer getting nowhere with brute force, I turned to the solarization method. This involves letting the sun scorch the ivy under plastic.
How to Kill Ivy With Solarization
These are the easy steps:
- Completely cover your ivy with thick black plastic sheeting.
- Stake down the plastic or hold it in place with something heavy.
- Wait for 1-2 years while the sun cooks the ivy.
OK, I know having 1,000+ square feet of black plastic in your yard isn’t ideal, but it’s better than killing your back and getting nowhere.
With this method, the sun does the work for you.
Cook the Ivy Under Plastic
Under the plastic, the ivy is deprived of water. It cooks in the heat, permanently killing the ivy, the roots, and even the seeds so it can’t grow back.
Every few months, peek under the plastic and check if the ivy is dead. Once all the greenery is gone and there’s nothing but dry, brittle, brown vines, it’s time to remove it for good.
Remove the Dead Ivy
After solarizing, you can cut and pull the ivy with ease. Hack away at the vines and pile up the debris. There will be a lot.
You can also try mowing over the vines to break them apart and make them easier to pull up.
If you have any ivy growing up your trees, cut the ivy around the base of each tree and remove the roots below.
Your biggest problem now is disposing of all that woody ivy. My suggestions: s’more fuel and wreath materials. The twisty vines are especially fun for spooky Halloween wreaths.
Patch Up the Ground Underneath the Ivy
After being buried under thick ivy for many years, the ground may have some weird holes. Now’s a good time to fill them in.
My yard had random spots of unevenness, so we added dirt to smooth it out. Make sure your ground is fairly smooth before moving on to the next step.
Lay a Barrier to Prevent Rebound Ivy
Since your ivy died under the plastic it should be gone for good, but covering the ground is a nice safety precaution.
Here’s what I did to prepare for planting:
- Lay overlapping pieces of cardboard over the former ivy area. This can help block any roots from sprouting up as the cardboard decomposes.
- Cover the area with jute netting. I did this to help provide erosion control on my slope while waiting for the future plants to fill in.
- Cover the area with landscape fabric weed barrier. The dead ivy doesn’t stand a chance.
Use landscape staples to secure these layers as needed. Pound them in with your trusty mallet.
Note About Landscape Fabric: Depending on what you want to do with your new ivy-free yard, you might want to be cautious about using landscape fabric. It can make it difficult to maintain healthy soil. While the jute and cardboard break down in a year or so, the landscape fabric can last for many years. I kept my fabric in place for about six years, and then I finally decided to remove it to improve the soil in my garden. I’m glad I used landscape fabric to make extra sure that my ivy was gone for good, but just keep in mind that you might want to remove landscape fabric eventually.
Ivy Removal Kit
To sum up, here’s what I used to kill the ivy and then cover the area to prevent regrowth.
Reclaim Your Yard
With your ivy gone for good, it’s time to take back your yard. In my case, I added plants right away to help fill in the slope.
Here’s my backyard a few years later. The ivy is gone forever!
You might also like these landscaping ideas:
- Cardboard sheet mulching (another trick to remove invasive plants!)
- How to create a landscape berm
- 101 ways to beautify your backyard