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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Killing off plants

ivy

Ask the gardener: Killing off plants

Find out how to get rid of plants and weeds in your garden.

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Luke Rose asks...

In my garden I have 3 very large oak trees about 80 - 100 ft, these are lovely trees but growing up all the trunk and most of the branches are very, very thick ivy. Around the base of the tree the roots of the ivy are about 2-3 inches thick. I've tried chopping some the ivy at the base in hope that it would kill the rest on one of the oaks but the higher up the tree ivy is still very heath and green. Please help, how can I kill the ivy off because I've heard that the ivy can kill the tree if left.

Bill replies...

I feel that it would be far better Luke to obtain on the spot advice from a local qualified tree surgeon as I am sure you will be aware Ivy can do immense damage to trees and it may be a question of installing a structure around the trees to remove the Ivy.  Unfortunately it is not going to be an easy task and with you having three beautiful Oak Trees, I am sure will have a tree preservation order on them. On the spot advice is available from your local Council who will have Tree Experts.

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Alan Young asks...

How do you get rid of suckers from the roots of an otherwise nice enough lilac tree?  It's become a problem in the adjacent grass, and shrub borders too.

Bill replies...

I am afraid that there is no easy answer to your problem Alan but, during the summer months you will need to cut the suckers off from just above root level of your Lilac Tree and again just below soil level (to avoid too much soil disturbance to the grass) using a sharp pair of secateurs where the suckers are appearing in your adjacent grass. 

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Nigel Walk asks...

I've inherited a very invasive Kerria Japonica in my tiny garden. The more I cut it out the more it runs all over the place. I'd love to be rid of it for good. What's the best way to do this? It's wedged itself into an awkward gap between my fence and some paving slabs so digging it up is very difficult...

Bill replies...

Kerria Japonica (Jews Mallow) produces an abundance of yellow flowers early spring/summer time Nigel and the shrub will grow in a wide range of soils but, as you have mentioned, the roots and young shoots can become very invasive and the best method of eradicating your shrub from the awkward spots such as between paving stones is by spraying the leaves of the Kerria with a glyphosate systemic weedkiller such as RoundUp or Tumble Weed but, it is very important to ensure no spray drift goes onto other plants.

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Abby asks...

I have a large garden, with several trees scattered around the far end. I was thinking of clearing 2 trees (10 inch diameter and 16 feet high). I cant afford to have them cut down, I have had quotes and I can't get a friend to help me out. I also have arthritis so want to kill them off slowly and easily and then deal with it as it becomes weaker and dry. Is there a simple way? I have heard of using all sorts of weedkillers being drilled into the trunk etc as well as salt and copper nails.

Bill replies...

No matter which weedkiller you use Abby to weaken your two trees there will come a time when you will need to have the trees cut down, and I am very worried that by using weedkiller or other methods could make the trees unstable and dangerous.  I do feel that it would be worthwhile contacting Charity Agencies to see if they can be of any help.  I would also suggest that you contact your local Horticulturl/Agrictural College to see if they could use the cutting down of the two trees as a practical project for their students.

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Edward Wroe asks...

I have a very large back garden (it's a field really) which backs onto the moors. It is getting full of rushes which are creeping down off the moor. I have had these identified as "Juncus Effusus" and despite cutting them down up to 4 or 5 times a year they are spreading. Eventually all my land will be covered in them. I have tried several weed killers including Glyphosphate, but none of them seem to work. How can I get rid of them?

Bill replies...

I would Edward be inclined to have a word with local farmers in your area to see if they have any farming commercial products which they maybe using to eradicate the rushes.  Also your local Wild Life Ranger maybe able to help with your problem.  If your field is very damp and waterlogged these are ideal conditions for the rushes and it is going to be very difficult to irradicate the problem.

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Margaret Saunders asks...

Our garden is overrun with chickweed after rain, even though we take most of the roots out when we weed.  Why do we get this in abundance and how can we eradicate it?

Bill replies...

Chickweed is a very difficult weed to control Margaret especially during very damp and moist conditions and produces an abundance of seed - over two thousand seeds can produced on one plant - and what it makes more difficult is that the seed can stay dormant for many years.  Chickweed tends to thrive in very fertile soil and the only manual way of keeping it under control is to hand weed and remove all the plants from your garden before they start flowering.  I am sorry but there is no easy answer to your problem.

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Sarah asks...

I recently moved into a new home and the garden is approx 20 x 40 foot and at least half of the garden is covered with bramble and also some ivy. What is the best thing to get rid of it?

Bill replies...

There are weed killers which you can use Sarah but you will be unable to plant anything in the area you have sprayed for at least six to eight weeks.  One which is quite often used is Root Out which clears overgrown gardens of weeds including brambles but, you will need to use this product during the growing season ie. April to September.  Other products on the market include SBK Brushwood Killer and the glyphosate weedkillers such as RoundUp and Tumble Weed.  Again these products need to be applied during the growing season.  All the products which I have mentioned can be obtained from Garden Centres and DIY Stores but it is important to read the instructions before using.

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Sarah Yeatman asks...

We moved into our house 1 year ago and have been trying to kill off some climbing ivy which is refusing to go away. So far its been sprayed several times with Glycophoshate weed killer but it hasn't worked. Can you help us?

Bill replies...

There are other weedkillers which you can use Lorraine but a lot will depend on if your Ivy is close to other plants.  If there are no plants within close vicinity you could try SBK Brush Wood Killer or there is also a product called Root Out which will kill Ivy and, there is also Sodium Chlorate which will kill the roots but, again, it is very important if using Sodium Chlorate that there are no other plants in close proximity.  Also, you will not be able to plant any plants in the area for approximately six months.  Please read carefully all the instructions on whichever product you decide to use Lorraine.  All the products I have named are available in both Garden Centres and DIY Stores.

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Tony asks...

Will sodium chlorate kill bramble etc?

Bill replies...

Sodium Chlorate Tony is a total weedkiller and will help to control the brambles in your garden but, it is important that there are no plants within close proximity when using the product.  After applying the weedkiller you will be unable to plant any species in the infected area for a period of six months.  There are however other products such as Root Out which you can use and this can either be applied in a crystal form or in solution and when used for ground clearance the ground can be dug over and levelled after three to four weeks and replanted in eight to twelve weeks.  But, again care must be taken if plants are in close proximity.  Whichever product you use it is very important to read the instructions carefully.

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Samantha Foote asks...

I have a rampant gorse problem. I was told of Roundup weed killer and I was wondering would it affect any of my other plants which are in close proximity to the gorse. Also is it safe in regards to animals?

Bill replies...

If you spray the Gorse with a systemic weedkiller such as RoundUp Samantha you will have to protect other plants which are growing in close proximity, any spray drift will kill adjoining plants.  RoundUp is biodegradable and what I suggest you do is to cut your rampant Gorse back and when new shoots appear and are approximately six to eight inches long I would then spray your Gorse with RoundUp.  The weedkiller will then be transferred through the leaves and into the roots.  With regard to animals it does stipulate that children and pets do not have to be excluded from the area of application. It is however important that you spray on a dry day and I would personally exclude pets for at least twenty four hours until the weedkiller has been absorbed into the plant. Another problem is that there are animals which will eat the leaves of certain plants including Gorse and if this is the case with your animals it would be better safe than sorry and I would restrict them from the sprayed areas.

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Sarah Yeatman asks...

I have moved into a house with a big garden that has been neglected for many years, so there is a huge problem with nettles.  They are everywhere, including in between the mature roses and shrubs.  I have a 2 year old and would very much like to get rid of them without killing everything else, but there are just too many to pull up.  Do you think Roundup is the best answer and if so, will it kill the daffodil and tulip bulbs that are in the soil beneath the nettles?  Thank you!

Bill replies...

You can spray the nettles Sarah with a glyphosate systemic weedkiller such as Round Up providing that you can protect your mature roses and shrubs from spray drift.  Regarding your Daffodils and Tulips providing that the leaves have completely died back the weedkiller will not damage the bulbs.

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Lynda Hoy asks...

Part of our garden is infested with ivy, partly our fault for not keeping it under control, question is I have read about the products you suggest but are they safe to use with pets?  Our labrador is a digger so he is constantly round the garden up to no good... can you suggest a product that is safe to use and that will destroy the ivy.

Bill replies...

Having in the past owned two Labrador dogs who, like your own Labrador Lynda, loved digging holes in the garden I realise the problem that you are facing!  There are weed killers that you can use which will control Ivy and according to the details stated on the packs the products are harmless to pets if used correctly. Two weed killers which you could use are the systemic glyphosate weedkillers Round Up or Tumbleweed.  You will need to spray the weedkillers on a sunny/dry day and the weedkiller will then be absorbed through the leaves of the Ivy and into the roots.  It is however important to avoid spray drift onto any other plants.  It is also very important to keep your dog out of the garden for at least 24 hours after spraying. I feel that you must also take into account that Labs do eat shoots and roots off plants and my only worry is that your dog starts eating the shoots from the sprayed Ivy plants.  Another product you could try is Root Out which kills a wide range of perennial weeds and I feel would be effective in the control of Ivy.  Again this product stipulates 'harmless to children and pets' but again I would keep your Lab out of the garden for at least 24 hours but, again, I would be worried about your dog eating the sprayed material.

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Beverley Waters asks...

How do I kill dense ivy and bramble growing in my garden?

Bill replies...

If you intend using a weed killer Beverley I would try a product called Root Out which not only kills tree stumps but also a wide range of troublesome weeds such as brambles.  It can be used in a crystal form or in solution and is available at Garden Centres/DIY Stores.  The only draw back with using Root Out is that it will kill any other plants which may be growing under the brambles and you will have to leave the ground fallow for at least twelve weeks.  The other alternative would be to use a glyphosate systemic weed killer such RoundUp or Bayer Glyphosate Weed Killer which will enable you to plant as soon as the weeds have died back.

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David Soar asks...

How can I kill and get rid of Dog Lichens? I've tried normal water based lawn weed controls and also pulling them up with the lawn rake. HELP

Bill replies...

Lichens are very difficult to irradicate David and they do tend to thrive in poorly drained soil and shady areas and I find the best method of keeping them under control is by treating the infected areas with Lawn Sand which contains ferrous sulphate.  This treatment will by no means completely cure the problem but should keep the lichens under control.

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Paul asks...

We have a reccuring problem with bluebells in our garden, the more I seem to dig them up the more they come back. Please help is there any sort of a weed kiler or spray?

Bill replies...

It is not easy to get rid of Bluebells Paul and they can become a problem plant in the garden.  If you use a weedkiller I would recommend using a systemic weedkiller and one that contains glyphosate such as Round Up or Bayer Glyphosate Weedkiller.  You will need to spray when they are in full leaf but, if possible, before they start flowering and you will need to spray on a dry sunny day and spray to run off.  The weedkiller will be then be absorbed through the leaves and transported down the roots and into the bulbs and, hopefully this will kill the bulbs.  If you have a bad infestation of Bluebells you may need to spray two to three times.  It is not an easy task to control them.  You must however remember to protect any nearby growing plants from spray drift.

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John Endersby asks...

My garden has been infested progressively for 20 years by Horses Tails. They're coming up all around, between and even in existing plants. I've tried everything, even sacrificing plants to dig it up, but it always grows back. Is there ANYTHING I can use to control or eradicate this loathsome plant?

Bill replies...

It is by far one of the most difficult weeds to eradicate John and your problem is also doubled by the fact that you have plants growing between the weeds.  It is going to be impossible to spray the horses tails without damaging your garden plants.  I feel that you are going to have to lift your garden plants if at all possible (placing in large pots) away from the Horses Tails and, this will allow you to spray the weeds with a glyphosate systemic weedkiller.  With this being such a troublesome weed you will need to spray summer/autumn time to keep the weed under control. The needles of the weeds have waxy coating and before spraying you will need to damage these needles to enable the weedkiller to be absorbed into the plant system.

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Susan Ainscough asks...

How can I get rid of holly bushes and hawthorn hedges that have taken over the garden?

Bill replies...

It is not going to be easy Susan especially if your Holly and Hawthorn are quite large and well established and what you will have to do is cut the main stems and branches down and the stumps and stems can then be treated with a product called Root Out which will kill the stumps and eventually the roots.  You do need to apply immediately after the stems and branches have been cut down.  Root Out can be applied in a crystal or liquid form but you will need to read the instructions before application.  Root Out can also be used to kill a wide range of perennial weeds and brambles.

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Jan asks...

I want to take a small lawn away and put gravel down because tree shoots keep coming up everywhere.  Could you give me some help?

Bill replies...

Before you put the gravel down Jan you will need to cover the area with a ground cover material which will stop your tree shoots and perennial weeds coming through.  The ground cover which I would recommend is a polypropylene cover and its woven construction is ideal for suppressing weeds and also is water permeable.  If you have been having a lot of problems with the tree shoots  I would play safe and would put a double cover of ground material down.  The materials I tend to use go under the trade names of Mypex or Phormisol.

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Cath asks...

Could you please tell me the quickest to get rid of roots from Privets? I read what you advised to someone else, but is there any other way to remove them and do the things you said affect pets or kids?

Bill replies...

If you have children and pets using the garden Cath I would personally not use any weed killer to kill the roots of your Privet - the risk is far too great.  If your garden is accessible to a large machine you can hire one that will shred the roots - the other alternative, which will certainly keep you fit(!) is to purchase a very sharp spade and dig the roots out.

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Tina asks...

I have holly in my garden that I want to get rid of. I have tried to dig it up without success, can you advise me best way to get rid of it?

Bill replies...

You are going to have to eat an extra Wheetabix in the morning Tina to build up your muscles! but on a serious note I sympathise with your problem and it can be very difficult to dig up an established tree and it may be worthwhile to incorporate your tree into a feature in the garden.  For example you could cut the main trunk back to approximately three feet and use the trunk as a bird table or what quite a number of people are doing now is installing bird feeders on the side of the cut down tree.  You could also cover the trunk with a climbing plant such as Clematis Montana.  It is difficult to more explicit Tina without knowing exactly what you want to do with your garden for example - if you want to plant trees and shrubs you will obviously have to remove the Holly completely but if the Holly Tree is just shading your garden as suggested above you can incorporate the cut down trunk as a feature.  If you intend to have the tree cut down by an approved Garden Contractor ensure that their insurance covers any mishaps when the tree is being cut down.

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Cheryl Oates asks...

Dear Bill, we have a plum tree in the far left corner of our garden.  The roots shoot up into the lawn.  Over the past three years we have mowed the lawn taking the tops off the root shoots.  The roots below are becoming stronger and this year really spoiling the lawn.  I want to dig them up and cut them right back as far as possible.  This will cause a lot of disruption to the lawn - is there another option?  Hope you can help.

Bill replies...

What happens with Plum Trees and other prunus species such as Cherries Cheryl is that they all produce large roots - spreading just below the soil surface - and this can cause immense problems on pathways - garden areas and in your case on lawns.  There is no easier answer to the problem, if you cut the main roots back they will start to shoot again and this is going to be detrimental to your Plum Tree.  The bottom line therefore is that you may have to make a choice between your lawn and your Plum Tree.

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John Kelly asks...

Last year I cut down a cordyline that I thought was past its best. I cut it down to a stump of about two feet,  expecting that would be the last of it! Then, about a month ago, there started to appear one shoot, then another, then another.... I would like to retain a single shoot but how do I get rid of the others?

Bill replies...

This is what usually happens when you cut a Cordyline back John - more than one shoot appears - but none of these shoots are classed as leaders and they will have a tendency to grow to the side.  If you just require one shoot the remaining stems can be cut back flush to the main trunk.  I would cut the shoots back now and this will give plenty of time for the cuts to heal and callous over during the winter months.

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Carol asks...

I have had my garden done with golden gravel and was assured no weeds would come through.  Now the weeds are over run I have tried all sorts of weed killers but they seem to come back all the time can you help please?

Bill replies...

I feel that it is worthwhile checking with your Garden Contractor Carol to see if a polypropylene liner was put down before the gravel was laid.  The liners are widely used to suppress the weeds but the interwoven strands also allow water to permeate through the soil.  You will always find a few weed seeds will germinate in the gravel but these can be easily removed.  If as you say your gravel is over run with weeds and some are perennial weeds such a docks and dandelions you will need to spray with a systematic weed killer which contains glyphosate such a Round Up or Tumble Weed.  It is important Carol to check if a liner has been used or you will be forever having to spray with weedkiller.

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Flavia Timiani asks...

We have New Zealand Flax growing very close to the house wall in a border.  It's overgrown and we'd like to remove it.  Any suggestions as to how we can do this?

Bill replies...

The New Zealand Flax (Phormium) is a very popular architectural plant and will tolerate wet conditions but, will need space to grow.  I can see your problem Flavia with your plant being in close proximity to the house and the difficulty of removing the plant - but I still feel the best method would be to try and dig it out.  If this method is too demanding I would try and cut the stems/leaves just below soil level - there is a chance however, it will shoot again but, at least it is keeping your plant under control.
I am reluctant to recommend a systemic weed killer due to the structure of the plant and with other plants being in close proximity.

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Mr T F Wright asks...

I have a problem with numerous holly shoots over extensive areas can you recommend a systemic weed killer or any other method to get rid of them? I am not capable of digging them out and they are very difficult to pull out.

Bill replies...

It maybe worth spraying your Holly seedlings with the SBK Brushwood Killer - which is not only used for irradicating weeds but also bracken, gorse and tree saplings such as Ash and Sycamore.  It does not list Holly seedlings but I feel it would be worthwhile trying this product.  The other option would be to use a Glyphosate weed killer such as RoundUp or Tumble Weed and although I personally have never used these weed killers on Holly seedlings I feel it may be worthwhile.  Whichever weed killer you use it is important that you do not spray any other nearby plants and always use the recommended protective clothing.

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Sharon asks...

I have ivy growing through an old boundary wall between myself and my neighbour. She's happy for me to kill it off, but what is the best thing to use? We can't just cut it off as it is well established through the wall, which is natural stone with lime mortar (150 yrs old).

Bill replies...

One of the problems with Ivy growing through walls and into the lime mortar is that the roots of the Ivy takes the moisture out of the mortar which in time could cause cracks to appear in the wall.  I agree with you Sharon that it is going to be difficult to pull the Ivy off the wall with the roots being embedded in the mortar.  I do however feel it would be worthwhile to spray the Ivy with a glyphosate weed killer - such as Round Up - which will be absorbed through the leaves and some of the weed killer will be transferred down into the roots.  You may have to spray your Ivy two/three times during the summer/autumn months for it to be affective.  Then, you will gently have to pull the dead shoots and leaves off your wall.

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Diane Taylor asks...

I have a large pampas grass between me and my neighbour's bungalow. We are both in agreement that it is taking a lot of room up and would like to pull it up. We would like to know what sort of root it has got and if it will be easy to lift. My daughter said that she would have it in her garden but we need to know if our task will be an easy one.

Bill replies...

The operation is not going to be easy Diane - the Pampas Grass has a very tight spongy and tough root system and, you are going to need at least a pick and very sharp spade.  What I would suggest you do is to commandeer a couple of strong volunteers to give you a hand - but I would delay the operation until the Autumn.  Good Luck!

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David Todd asks...

I have for the past couple of years been trying to clear an area of garden from bluebells. As much as I dig them up, as many seem to return the next year. Is there any way of suppressing them?

Bill replies...

The woodland weed of the domestic garden is certainly the bluebell and, as you have found out David it is very difficult to eradicate.  What I suggest you try is spraying your bluebells with a systemic weed killer - one which contains the chemical Glyphosate.  Roundup and Tumble Weed are two brand products.

After you have sprayed the weed killer onto your plants the spray is absorbed through the leaves and a certain amount of the weed killer is transported into the roots and into the bulb.  It may however, take a few applications to actually kill the bulbs.

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Margaret asks...

Hi Bill I have a very large barrel with two climbing clematis in and also lots of other plants. I want to get rid of one of the clematis that has been in about three years, but the barrel is very full of roots from the clematis how do I do this?

Bill replies...

It is going to be difficult to dig your unwanted Clematis plant out without damaging the other plants in your barrel.  What I would suggest you do Margaret is to cut your unwanted Clematis back - just below soil level -  this will ensure you do not disturb any other plants in the barrel.  There is a chance that your Clematis will shoot again and if this happens you will need to nip the young shoots out.

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Frank Bradley asks...

What is the most effective weed killer to get rid of Marestail?

Bill replies...

Marestail Frank is by far one of the most difficult weeds to irradicate and I have found the most effective weedkiller to keep Marestail under control is one which contains the chemical Glyphosate.  The popular brands are RoundUp and Tumble Weed.  Due to the structure of the plant you will need to damage the needles before applying the spray otherwise the weedkiller will not be absorbed into the plant.  Once absorbed into the plant some of the weedkiller is then transferred down the stem and into the roots.  It may take two/three applications to keep the Marestail under control.

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Andy asks...

Hi my friend planted a fern tree a few years back but now has pulled it up, but she can't seem to kill the roots. I would be grateful if you could advise her on the best way to get rid of the roots. Thank you.

Bill replies...

A lot will depend on whether there are any other plants in close proximity to the Fern Tree.  If other plants are close by it will be impossible to apply a total weed killer such a Sodium Chlorate - which along with the Fern will also kill any plants in close proximity.  However, if the Fern is isolated you can apply Sodium Chlorate which will kill the roots but you will be unable to grow any other plants in the area for approximately six months.

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Claire Stanley asks...

Is there a product available that kills ivy?

Bill replies...

It is not an easy plant to get rid of Claire but, what I would suggest you try is spraying your Ivy with a systemic weed killer - one that contains Glyphosate.  The weed killer is absorbed through the leaves and a certain amount will be transferred down to the roots.  If your Ivy is climbing against a wall I would cut the plant hardback - pulling the shoots off the wall - the Ivy will shoot again from the ground level and when there is a reasonable amount of new leaves I, would then, spray the leaves with the systemic weed killer.  You may need to spray the plant two/three times using the above procedure.

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 09:12
created: 23/10/2006

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