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How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy: DIY Tips & Cost to Hire a Professional

We discuss DIY tips on how to get rid of poison ivy; we also tell you the cost to hire a professional to do the job for you.

Poison ivy is one irksome plant with some terrible effects. A brush on the leaves of this plant will lead to an itchy and blistery rash caused by an oily resin (urushiol) found in the stem and leaves of this plant. We identify poison ivy with various sayings and as highlighted above it is for good reason. Whether you identify the plant with “leaves of three, let it be,” or “hairy vines, no friend of mine,” or “berries white, run in fright,” Poison Ivy should not be the reason you avoid your garden. At the same time though, it is a ticking time bomb and especially if you have children.

In this piece, we have discussed some true and tested techniques to get rid of the plant. But before we get to that, here is how to identify the plant and its effects.

Identifying Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is best known for its three leaves. However, this is not sufficient when it comes to picking out poison ivy as there are tons of three-leaved plants. Below are better ways to identify the plant.

Parts – Poison Ivy has 3 leaves that are smooth sided and with pointy tips. The middle leaf is larger than the two smaller leaves beside it. They often measure between 0.25 and two inches. As for the stem arrangement, each group of three leaves grows on a thorn-less stem, with the stem alternating arrangement on the main vine. The main vine is hairy, thus the “hairy vine, no friend of mine” saying used to identify the plant.

Growing Patterns – Poison Ivy often grows from May through November. You can inspect problematic areas during these months for any signs of growth. It can grow on the ground growing to lengths of 4 to 10 inches, as an upright shrub or bush growing to heights of up to 4 feet, or as a vine that climbs trees.

Seasonal Appearance – The plant will change its appearance every season, and you should be prepared. During spring, the leaves are reddish. However, they will slowly turn green as spring progresses and summer approaches. During summer, the leaves are green. The plant also has some berries which can be light green or cream-colored. As for fall, Poison Ivy leaves start to turn. The leaves will be in shades of red, yellow, and orange. During winter, the plant shed its leaves. However, it’s still not safe as the vines can produce urushiol.

Where it Lives

In the United States, poison ivy is often found in the Mid-West, and Eastern regions. The plant doesn’t thrive in deserts, high altitude areas, or in the Western United States. However, should it invade your property, here is where you are likely to find it.

Edges  – Poison Ivy is most likely to grow on the edges of your property owing to the “edge effect.” The seasonal weather patterns cause the wooded areas to dry out making the edges a perfect habitat.

Ground cover, trees, and stumps – The dark floor of wooded areas can house this irksome plant. It also disguises itself as a tree branch and can grow on or around tree stumps.

Shrubs – Though this isn’t common, Poison Ivy can grow into shrubs. It’s thought to be a survival tactic as this is only seen in sunny locations.

Tactics to Getting Rid of Poison Ivy

First, treat the plant poison ivy as a plant of great value. Also, other than people and a few primates, most creatures are immune to this plant. Therefore, if it is not growing where people are walking, working, or playing, let it be. All the same, you want to get rid of the plant if it grows in areas where there is a likelihood that people will come into contact with it. Some tactics you can use are:

Pulling it out

Pulling poison ivy out is perhaps the most effective way to deal with it. The results are immediately visible and works fast. However, it’s also dangerous as you increase the chance of coming into contact with the plant. Also, constant pulling out will be required to eradicate the plants you might have missed. Therefore, we advise you take the necessary precautions when handling the plant.

First, keep your distance by wearing long-sleeved shirts, boots, pants, and heavy duty gloves. Ensure the gloves are long and without holes. You also need to protect your eyes and face. As for the pants, ensure they are duct-taped to your boots and the edges of your shirts to your gloves. If it is possible, don’t touch the plant with your gloves as it will live a trace of urushiol which can cause rashes. Use long-handled tools to handle the plant. If you are dealing with long-vined plants, chop it into small pieces and lift with a reacher, and deposit into a box or trash can lined with a plastic bag. Do not burn poison ivy or compost it. The resin oil can spread through smoke, and you also run the risk of the plant popping back up when you compost it.

Remember, poison ivy has a complex root system and the plant will only pop back up if you don’t eliminate the roots. To prevent regrowth, dig at least 8 inches into the ground and remove all the roots. You can use a hoe for stubborn root removal, but ensure you get right to the end where the roots are growing. Then smother the area using mulch, cardboard, or newspaper.

Having eliminated poison ivy, you need to decontaminate. Be certain which parts of your cloth the poison ivy touched and avoid them. Use a clean pair of gloves to remove your clothes, and wash them separately. First cleanse your clothes with alcohol, vinegar or mineral spirits to remove the irritant. Then clean with water and soap.

Natural Spray

If manual labor is not your cup of tea, dissolve one cup of salt in one gallon of water. Add one tablespoon of dish soap, mix well, and put in a sprayer. Be careful with this method as it kills all plants it touches. You don’t want to get rid of your flowers and hedges as well. Also, you will have to be vigilant as it will take multiple treatments to keep the Ivy at bay. You can also use white vinegar. Again, it will take multiple treatments to completely eradicate the plant.

Starve it out

You can also starve poison ivy. First, it has a complex root system that runs for several feet underground. Secondly, it is a perennial plant, and simply cutting it will not work. It will only sprout again unless you dig it out completely. However, if digging isn’t an option you can consistently cut the plant at the base. Eventually, you will starve the root system and it will die out. If you are dealing with vines, cut them at the base. You can live the vine as it is only using the tree for support. It will eventually die.

Target Seedlings

Poison Ivy spreads through seeds and their root system. Birds feed on the berries and deposit the seeds on your property. The seeds sprout during spring, and soon you have a Poison Ivy crisis, if not caught early. The best way to prevent an infestation is to get rid of the plant in its formative stages. Small infestations will be easier to deal with than larger ones. They have a less developed root system and fewer food reserves in the roots. You, therefore, don’t have to worry about them re-sprouting. Also, there are smaller or no seed banks in the soil.

Other than targeting the seedlings, you can keep them from taking hold by ensuring there is no space for them. If you are landscaping, don’t live the ground bare for too long, especially if you live near a wooded or neglected area.

Animals

This will not work in an urban setting, but grazing animals such as goats can get rid of the plant for you. Most of these animals are unaffected by the urushiol and can eat away the top growth. Though they will not get rid of the roots, they weaken the plant.

Herbicides

If you want quick results, you can use herbicides. However, this should be as a last result. We advocate for natural ways to get rid of the plant, but herbicides do get the job done. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, use judiciously, and keep it out of reach from children.

You can also smother the plants or douse with boiling water. To smother, just place a sheet of heavy cardboard or plastic over the plant. The idea here is to suffocate it. The cardboard also restricts sunlight killing it. However, watch for “runners.” These are Poison Ivy roots that go beyond the edge of the cardboard leading to new growth. To prevent this, ensure the cardboard covers a wide area. As for boiling water, pour over the roots of the plant. It might take several tries, but it is a proven method.

Professional Costs

Poison Ivy can grow to great lengths, and you might need some help to get eliminate the plant. Some lawn companies will not go near the plant but luckily there are those that specialize in eliminating Poison Ivy. You want to look for one of these. As for the cost, most homeowners pay between $27 and $130 for professional services. The cost is dependent on the following factors.

The extent of Infestation – The cost will vary greatly depending on the size of the area covered. There will be more labor involved, more materials, and clean-up will be tasking as well.

Labor hourly wage – Though you can get a national average for the hourly wage, it might vary depending on location. Take this into account.

Permits – Finally, the final amount will depend on whether or not the contractor is required to pull permits.

Also, expect to pay around $100 an hour for any work involving a ladder. This is especially the case if a contractor has to remove vines. The danger involved with working from heights is what increases the cost. As for equipment, any work involving a commercial brush chipper will set you back about $180 an hour, and $150 an hour for all work involving a commercial leaf vacuum. Finally, there is the disposal of the plant. Expect to pay $25 for a 10lb bag.

Average Costs$27 - $130
Working on ladders$100/hour
Brush Chipper$180/hour
Leaf Vacuum$150/hour
Disposal$25/10lb Bag

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawn Company

How are they going to tackle the problem?

You want to know if they will use methods which you are comfortable with. Are they going to use chemicals or will they remove the plants through natural means? Are they going to dig the plant up, and ensure it doesn’t sprout again? Be sure to get a comprehensive answer to this question.

What can you guarantee?

Ask the contractor what to expect after the job? Will he dispose of the poison ivy or is it upon you to dispose of it? Can he assure you to totally eradicate the Poison Ivy? Only work with contractors who are willing to certify their work. It means they trust in their skills and can deliver.

What happens should the Poison Ivy re-sprout?

The idea here is to know what or how the contractor can help should this irksome plant grow again? Will s/he charge you or does he have discounts? Can the company assure you to put measures to mitigate regrowth?

How will you deal with the source of the problem?

If you live next to a wooded area or grounds that are rarely looked after, they could be the source of your Poison Ivy infestation. The plant could also be spreading from your neighbor’s property. How will the company help with that?

What is your schedule?

Finally, ask about the contractor’s availability. Yes, good contractors are busy but you want someone who can eradicate the infestation quickly. The more the plant stays around, you increase the risk of it affecting someone.

Conclusion

You want to avoid Poison Ivy at all cost. Yes, there are some few individuals who are immune to it, but many aren’t. It is also important to be able to identify the plant. Often, the effects of the “urushiol” resin will take 2 to 5 days to show, and odds are you cannot trace back to where you came in contact with the plant. To avoid such incidences, familiarize yourself with it. Use protective gear when pulling out the plant. Finally, you can hire an expert but ask the questions above to certify that you are dealing with a legit individual.

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