Poison ivy in the fall

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Poison ivy and I don’t get along. Each time we meet, I get the worst of it. It’s easy to see now because it is red, so can I spray it and kill it? Is there any way that I can lessen the bad effects of our encounter?

Poison ivy, it’s one of our most discussed native plants. Poison ivy grows as a vine climbing up shrubs, trees or buildings or it can run along the ground as a ground cover. The only difference is that in one instance the vine grows vertically and in the other, it runs horizontally.

Poison ivy in Michigan cannot grow as a shrub but it could vine up through a shrub. When the color changes on poison ivy, it’s too late to successfully spray it with an herbicide. The time to use a product like Roundup is when it is warm and the plant is green and vigorously growing. When leaves are red, the plant is closing up for the winter and very little of the herbicide is going anywhere.

Use a stake or other marker to indicate where the plants are now. Just don’t get too close. Then, go back next May and terminate them with extreme prejudice. You don’t have to have direct contact with poison ivy to get it. It could be secondary, like the dog ran through it and you touched the dog or the oil got on your shoes and you tied the laces the next day.

If there are a number of poison ivy plants to kill, start closest to the house and work outwards in concentric rings. Keep in mind that you can get the resinous oil on you from dead plants and dormant plants, too. Take a look at your nearest pharmacy for some products that might help with your battle.

Ivy Shield and Ivy Block will protect exposed skin from poison ivy oil. Tecnu is a wash that removes oil from you if use within two hours. A new product, Tecnu Extreme, also relieves the itch.

But if you are a blistered mess, see your doctor if it is bad enough. There are half a dozen over-the counter itch relievers so check with your pharmacist. Right now, Virginia creeper, which is a groundcover or a vine, is red but it has leaves in groups of fives with the occasional three or four leaf combination thrown in. Poison ivy is always three leaflets to a leaf cluster.

Should I be digging up my summer bulbs like gladiolus or dahlia? This is the right time but the plants are still green and growing.

There is calendar time and plant time. And they are not often the same.

When dealing with plants, use plant time. Even if you don’t know it yet, you are waiting on the first killing frost. So far, it hasn’t happened.

After the tops have frozen and are dead, dig up your bulbs or tubers. Do not trim the stem flush with the top of the bulb or tuber. Leave some of the stem attached so it can be a “handle” and it can dry this way. Cutting even with the top could lead to various rots getting into the stored root systems.

Dry the bottoms in the shade if it is warm enough, or in the garage or house. Brush off any soil once it has dried. Don’t wash it off because you are trying to store dry tubers and bulbs.

When the handles and attached bottoms are dry, store in sphagnum peat moss, Canadian peat moss, vermiculite, dry sand or shredded newspapers. The mosses help prevent many kind of rots because they are acidic. They and the other materials prevent drying of bulbs. Bulbs and tubers to dig up beside your two are calla lilies, caladium, tuberose, tuberous begonias, cannas, elephant ears and rannuculus. Once frozen, they are lumps of snot for eternity.

Dig and store them before the ground freezes.

You can contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.