Ivy, Ivy, Ivy

Brooke here:

Last weekend, I sat in the garden of the Orange County Social Club and talked with a very pleasant woman who keeps goats.  Based on her experience with the finer points of keeping goats, the whimsy of the Rent-a-Goat ivy management option has wandered off down the road, bell a-ringin’.  I described the condition of the yard, and she said we would probably need to rent a herd of goats for at least a week to see any real results.  And, if we did choose to go with goats, there was no guarantee the animals would eat the roots and prevent the ivy from coming back. The absolutely best option, she said (which was supported by several blog commenters) is to buy a goat and let the goat go nuts in the yard for the length of his entire natural life.  We live, however, within walking distance of a Cold Stone, which is the lone federal standard required to designate a neighborhood as a non-agricultural zone, and livestock of any whit or wither need not apply.

Back to Square One: managing the ivy by hand.

We’re starting in two locations.  The first is by the pool, so we can reclaim space for a garden and a scrap of real lawn.  The second is under two gorgeous mature red maples.  The red maples make ivy removal difficult, as they are highly sensitive to herbicides and anything used to kill the ivy might kill the trees.  One Hired Dude recommended that we never use herbicide or chemical weed control within 25 feet of the maples, since it might soak into the soil and penetrate the roots.

So we’re going to smother the ivy to death.


Ivy under red maple, before. What a delightfully thick carpet of loathing.


Since we just moved, we have a metric ton of Styrofoam hard packing sheets and cardboard boxes.  These were layered over the ivy to keep out light.


Red maple, after. It needs a rusted-out truck or old dishwasher to be aesthetically perfect, I think.


Problem is, the trees need water.  We had to leave a twelve-foot opening around the base of the trees for rainwater and whatnot.  I’m not terribly concerned about depriving the trees as they are in gullies (part of the water management project on the roster for the spring) and water runs down under the cardboard when it rains, but better safe than sorry with trees like these.

The cardboard will stay over the winter and into the early spring.  During the winter, we’ll tear out the upper layer of the exposed ivy but leave the roots.  Since the ivy is holding the topsoil in place, the covered ivy and roots will stay as they are until we get around to the big water management projects.  Add some shade-loving brush and flowers, and presto! The beginnings of real landscaping.

Good golly, spring is going to suck.


4 thoughts on “Ivy, Ivy, Ivy

  1. I don’t know if ivy is anything like Bishop’s Weed, but if so, that ain’t gonna work. It’ll creep to the edges to get light, you’ll move the smothering-things to get those parts, and the previous areas will start growing again.

    Unless you manage to cover all areas with a foot of ground around the absolute end of the ivy also covered with cardboard.

    So you absolutely can’t have a goat? Even if it’s a pet?

    Could have one and call it a weird dog.

  2. Kill it with fire. Lots of fire.

    Or see about the exact zoning laws. Goats here aren’t enough to get you classed as agricultural. Or just get one and don’t mention it to anyone. If Animal Control finds out, you didn’t know about the zoning laws and will get rid of it right away. They probably wouldn’t even ticket you.

  3. And a third voice saying you should actually check on that goat. Cold Stone or no Cold Stone, most communities are willing to call a single goat a “pet”. Keeping him out of the neighbor’s yards is another issue, and …. he’s quite likely to find stuff like those Red Maples tasty, and can easily kill a tree by eating all the bark off at the level he can reach – girdling, it’s called. Horses do it too.
    Remember the old joke about goats eating everything? The will certainly eat things you think they should have no interest in. Like lawn furniture. Wooden lawn chairs which to you taste like carcinogenic pesticides and preservatives, to Mr Goat taste like a high-fiber Slim Jim – all salty and wonderful.

    I fear your effort to bring the ivy to heel is ultimately doomed, but I look forward to you proving me wrong on that point.
    Shortly after I was born, my father purchased a house from a couple who were retiring, and had been giving the landscaping less attention as they got older. In a handful of years, he had it whipped into a shape where you could see that in 10 years it would look wonderful, and it did. And ten years after that, he was retiring and looking to sell, and realized he’d been paying less and less attention to the landscaping, and it was beginning to look like a job for nuclear weapons.
    Google Streetview shows the present owners have it back in the “this will look really good in ten years or so” phase, and they had to completely remove a pair of 300 year old apple trees to get it there.

  4. You have my deepest sympathies. I wage a yearly battle against the native climbers in my area. Wild grapevine, which will grow Tarzan-thick and strangle giant Oak trees until their ready to collapse on the house, Virginia Creeper which infests all my shrubs, and evil, evil, wild raspberry canes which chipmunks delight in spreading to every corner of my yard to spring forth and conquer.

    I will not by any means claim to be an expert, but I know that the term ‘Red Maple’ covers several species of Maple trees.

    The neighbor across the street has a Norway maple ‘acer platanoides’ (a purple cultivar) that she has literally poured chlorine and bleach on its roots attempting to kill it so that her boyfriend will finally cave in and have it cut down as it constantly sheds giant leaves into their pool. A ‘acer rubrum’ or Crimson/Red Maple should be fairly tolerant too as both are common in urban landscapes and get dowsed with pesticides all the time here.

    That lovely old japanese maple ‘acer palmatum’ next to your porch? Much fussier and more delicate. Cut anything you can around the base of the tree and use a small blowtorch to scorch a no-man’s land in the ivy around it. The root system of a Japanese maple is fairly compact and close to the surface, which is why its an ideal ornamental tree and can be grown so close to a house/porch with few issues. It would be worth investing in a rubber-cork/cocoa-fiber tree ring that allows water through but will help keep the ivy at bay.

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