It was an epic battle.
When I moved into my little house seven years ago, ivy cheerfully filled a large area along the back wall of my house. It was an attractive ground cover, and it saved me a lot of mowing.
It rained like mad my first spring here, so much that the back yard went all squishy. It got me wondering about my crawl space. I bought the place knowing that there was no sump pump down there. I figured I’d install one if it became necessary.
Hoo boy, was it necessary. When I squished my way around back to check the crawl space, I found it flooded nearly to the floor joists. I borrowed a portable pump and got on my hands and knees to crawl under the house to set it up. The pump ran for four solid days.
But before it finished, I started to itch. And then I turned red. Everywhere. Quickly, the itching became unbearable. I wished I could molt.
The ivy, which surrounded the crawl-space entrance, was laced with poison ivy. I’d gotten it on my hands and clothes – and then, I’m sure, when I went into the crawl space, the offending oils leached into the water and onto every square inch of my body.
The doctor at the immediate care said that he’d never seen a poison-ivy rash cover so much of someone’s body. “What did you do, roll in it?” he said, chuckling. He prescribed steroids to clear up the rash and an antihistamine called hydroxyzine to cut the itching. Desperate for relief, I gobbled the first round of pills – and within an hour my speech started to slur and I started to see colors. I stumbled toward my bedroom but fell onto the floor. I slept there half the night. The hydroxyzine cut the itching all right – by knocking me out cold! But if I stopped taking the hydroxyzine, the itching was unbearable. I spent four days in bed, either stuporous or sleeping.
The itching finally subsided and I stopped taking the drugs. I emerged from my room a man possessed: THE POISON IVY MUST DIE!!!!!!
I bought a pump sprayer and the biggest bottle of Roundup I could find. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed and sprayed, absolutely drenching every square inch of ivy, poison or not. And then I waited. After a couple days, it all started turning brown. Muahahahahahahaaaaa! After it looked really dead, I grabbed my hoe and hacked all of the ivy out of there.
Except I hadn’t won yet. I found more poison ivy along the back fence. And then I found more along both side fences. And then, unbelievably, new poison ivy grew in along the back of the house! I sprayed and dug and cut, removing every bit of the noxious plant.
And then I found it: the mother node. A five-inch-diameter trunk had climbed up a tree in a corner of the back yard, with the dreaded leaves of three hanging off it everywhere. I cut it in two with my chain saw.
That was the turning point. The poison ivy never returned after that.
To my surprise, the regular ivy was considerably more tenacious. I would have let it be if it had wanted to to fill the ground along the house again. But no, it wanted to climb my trees. The conventional wisdom is that this is bad for the trees, so I kept spraying and cutting, trying to kill the ivy. It just wouldn’t die! But with this long winter finally ending, to my surprise and delight it is all turning brown, curling up, and falling off the trees.
Finally! I won the war!