Chemical control is not always necessary for poison ivy removal, but Michigan State University’s Forestry Department warns that mechanical removal is unsafe for those who are not highly tolerant of poison ivy. Protect yourself from its toxic oil (urushiol) by wearing thick gloves, safety glasses and long clothes, and wipe the oil from gardening tools with isopropyl alcohol.
Pulling poison ivy by hand allows you to remove the foliage and root system, and it is an effective control measure for the occasional vine or small patch. Wet the ground prior to pulling up the plant, as recommended by the University of Missouri Extension, because wet soil provides leeway to the roots and reduces the chance of leaving root pieces in the ground. The toxin remains active in the plant after it’s been removed from the ground, so it’s important to seal it in plastic garbage bags and avoid burning or composting the plant materials.
According to Joe Baltrukonis of the University of Wisconsin Horticulture Department, plastic or newspaper will smother poison ivy, though this method may require a year or longer to prove effective, according to OrganicGardening.com. Use thick materials or multiple layers to shield the ivy from sunlight, and anchor the corners with dirt or rocks to secure it. Hand-pulling and bagging is necessary for complete removal once the plant dies.
Weaken Root System
Frequent cutting or mowing will starve the roots and eventually kill poison ivy, according to Michigan State University, but the repeated damage to poison ivy foliage may increase your exposure to urushiol. One workaround is to employ the help of a goat. OrganicGardening.com notes that goats and other grazing animals will eat the ivy without harm from urushiol.