Question of the Week
Answer: Controlling poison ivy is a difficult task, and it may take a long period of time to get a handle on it. Here are a few options for controlling poison ivy without the use of chemical herbicides.
1. Control poison ivy by constantly mowing or cutting young shoots until the plants die. This will tend to exhaust the roots and the plants will die over time. Another way is to dig up the plant roots and all. The roots will resprout if left on the soil surface.
2. Grazing goats or sheep can feed on the regrowth and keep the plants from getting too big. One way to manage the grazing is to rotate the livestock to other areas when the feed is low and then reintroduce the livestock when vegetation reappears.
3. For a natural herbicide recommendation, you might try a citrus oil, vinegar, and soap mixture. The citric acid and acetic acid work to desiccate the leaves, and the soap acts as a sticking agent. This herbicide is only a "burn down" chemical and will not kill the whole plant. Repeated treatments will be necessary to use up the energy reserves in the roots as they resprout.
4. Burning poison ivy is a commonly recommended control option. However, when burned, poisonous particles are released in the smoke and can produce an allergic reaction in the eyes, throat, lungs, and skin.
The ATTRA publication Sustainable Weed Management for Small and Medium-Scale Farms discusses several strategies for weed control, both proactive and reactive, as alternatives to conventional tillage systems. Options include mulching, competition, crop rotations, and low-toxicity control alternatives.
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