Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Bane of My Garden: Poison Ivy/Oak

Bane as defined by an online dictionary is: 1. fatal injury or ruin 2. a. a cause of harm ruin or death, b. a source of persistent annoyance or exasperation, and 3. a deadly poison. Or in other words, bane equals poison ivy, aka Toxicodendron radicans. In my garden poison ivy is the bane of the entire garden. There is not one single garden that does not have poison ivy happily growing in it. Urgh!

It has not always been poison ivy though. Last year the bane of my garden was oak trees. They self seeded everywhere. This year it is poison ivy. I can pull it, I can spray it, I can cut it, I can mulch it, but still it rears its ugly little head. And I thought I had issues with pulling baby trees, try pulling poison ivy!

I read somewhere that you can pull poison ivy when it is small and it won't cause a rash-usually. Up until this year this was a pretty good bet for me. I'd use my index finger and thumb and quickly pull the poison ivy when it was tiny. No problems with rashes. Oh sure, I'd occasionally get a rash but it was not a big deal. Not so this year. I've had a poison ivy rash from my toes all the way to my neck and everything in between, especially in between if you know what I mean. Time to rethink my philosophy on pulling poison ivy. Hmmm. It has gotten to a point I really dread walking the garden. The poison ivy just continues to sprout no matter how many I pull and it is causing me more and more rashes. What a bane-pain?? Help!

Anyone else having issues with poison ivy? I'd hate to guess why it is so bad here in my garden, but the rain may have helped a bit. Any other ideas? What is the bane of your garden this year? And do you find different weeds do better in some years than others?

in the garden....with a tube of hydrocortisone-a BIG tube.


  1. Good Morning All.
    Tina I've never had a rash from the bane but that doesn't mean I couldn't get one. I have cut it down, from trees, that was bigger than my finger but never had a reaction. Do hope it calms down for you.
    Hi Anonymous, Jean, Dawn, Skeeter & Nina. I do hope you have a pleasant day & either get rain or dry up whichever is your wish.
    The bane in my garden is weeds, weeds & more weeds.

  2. I have heard of this plant before and there's even a movie named after it with Drew Barrymore in it. I don't think that I've heard my wife complaining about poison ivy but she has complained about dandelions. It seems that a perfect garden is not without its dangers :-).

    Greetings from London.

  3. Oh, Tina, it should be awful! I head about anti-itching ointment Zanfel. I also read about using a brush killer for this plant. Good luck!

  4. Hi Tina, I have had bad reactions (rash) to poison ivy in the past. I haven't lately...though your story has me thinking I still need to be very careful. One thing I have read is to wash with Fels-Naptha soap to cut the oils of the poison ivy. I have a lot of little babies of the dreaded three leafed plantlet all over the place. Will use gloves from now on......

  5. Tina,
    I just pulled poison ivy out of our garden yesterday. It the first time I’ve ever seen it growing anywhere around the house. I had my gloves on and was careful not to let it touch me anywhere.--Randy

  6. I find a few small starts every spring but usually manage to get it out quickly. I don't seem to be allergic to it but that can change so I don't push my luck. I know a lot of birds eat the berries and drop the seeds in other places they visit. You must have a large source somewhere around you that keeps seeding your area. If that's the case, you will battle it forever:(

  7. It has to be a warmer weather thing, I've only had it once and in a small area, lower back, itchy! Squirrels would be the bane in my YARD! They make so much noise even just when my cats are walking through, I can always tell when they are coming home.

  8. Not nice volunteer to have! the mockingbirds are very good at planting poison ivy for us. I've been pulling out sprigs all spring and summer. No rashes here but I've never had poison ivy. I may be one of the lucky few who is immune. (knock on wood!)

  9. Good morning all! Another beautiful day in Tennessee. Hubby has the day off and that makes it even more beautiful.

    Lola, Weeds, I can totally sympathize. You are so lucky not to be allergic to the poison ivy.

    ACIL, Too funny on the dandelions. Yup, gardening can be mighty dangerous-a weed lurking everywhere waiting for its chance to jump in and take over.:)

    Tatyana, I will look into Zanfel. Never heard of it. I've tried Tecnu and it is not working.

    Janet, I will look for Fels-naptha soap too. I am getting so many good tips on treating the rash. I tell you it is not fun as you know. Aren't the little three leafed guys just devils?:)

    Randy, You be careful pulling it. Even a little bit can get you. Even taking off the gloves can transfer the poison. Stay cool down there.

    Marnie, Lucky you to be immune to poison ivy. It is such an awful weed, most pretty but dangerous. Yup, big sources of poison ivy in the woods surrounding my yard, and even in the farmer's field. I might need to not encourage the birds huh? Hate to do that but I know it will be a forever battle. Not one I am happy about at all.

    Dawn, I am surprised you don't have more poison ivy there. It does grow well in Maine. Remember summer camp? They always warned us about it but it never affected me. Though they always warned us of leeches too and I never saw one in the lake. I'm kind of wondering about those warnings now. Hmmmm. Squirrels! Now those are a pain. I'm thinking shotgun. I just found the largest nest I've ever seen in my yard. No wonder Bella goes bezerk trying to get them. She knows right where they live. I wish she could climb trees (don't tell Christy:). Hopefully they'll move on.

    Dave, You are most lucky not to get rashes. It's been so bad this year. I hope your garden is doing well. I really liked the spruce post. I have that sedum here, but it's never bloomed:) Love the bloom.

    Breakfast time and I have company coming to view the garden so I've got to get in the garden. ttyl

  10. I do hand pull PI but I do it wearing cheap gloves that I then turn inside out as I remove them and throw them out. OR even cheaper, I put my hand inside a plastic grocery bag, pull the vine up, enclose it int he bag and throw it out, without it ever touching my skin. If you think you've touched your skin, buy Tecnu Extreme and wash your hands with it (cold water) and the rash won't come (Aunt Debbi also loves this product!). OR even cheaper, buy rubbing alcohol and use that to wash your hands immediately after touching PI (it breaks up the oils that cause the reaction). I'm very allergic to PI and these things really work!

  11. Oh, Tina, I feel your pain I have itchy chigger bites and a tick bite in some pretty delicate places, one inside my bellybutton!! I've been drinking Dimetapp Allergy and slathering on the HC. Sounds like you've become sensitized to the poison ivy. People who work around latex, in health care and poison ivy in landscaping are at increased risk for developing serious reactions. Poison ivy is the only thing I use Round Up on. I hate the stuff. My poor DH gets PI so bad he has to get cortisone injections. I really don't want him to get it. I only get a rash, but I do my best to avoid it. GRRR!!! Go spray some Round Up on it and have your revenge!

  12. Oh, Tina, I do feel and itch for you:) I have poison ivy in the "back forty," as I call it, too. I thought I had pulled it all out in early spring, but it is rearing its ugly head all over the place. No matter how hard you try to avoid touching it, I think it reaches out to get you. So far, I've just had it on my arms and hands (how did you get it in other places??). I'm going out this morning, in fact, with my bottle of Roundup--this is one instance where I forget "being green" and pull out the big guns.

  13. I read that the increased levels of carbon dioxide means bigger and meaner poison ivy. Seriously...there have been several studies linking CO2 to a more potent urushiol producing plant! Yikes! gail

  14. Hi Tina -ouch poison ivy is bad in this area. One of the main reasons I won't weed this summer:0) I have a fear of spreading it to lil bundle so I will wait on my ugly weeds.

    Hi Lola -hope your doing well and cooling off a bit. It certainly cooled here and it feels great. Only in the 80s yesterday -yeah! The morning walks even felt chilly with lil bundle --he had his stocking cap and blankie.

    Hi Jean, Dawn, Skeeter and Nina -have a blessed day.
    Oops -washing with Dawn dish detergent as soon as you make contact will help stop poison ivy from spreading --it breaks the oils down -tried it myself last year -it worked:0)

  15. Never have had anyone around here affect by it but I do know it grows in Maine. I do have to say that there was 1 excetion to that....When the Kosvo (probably spelled wrong) was going on and I had your kids for a few months, Brian got a bad dose of it. You know how Brian and Stevie liked to play and build forts in the woods. Brian got it but Stevie did'nt. Go figure.

    With all the rain we have had, the bane of my garden is WEEDS, WEEDS, WEEDS!!!! I di get out yesterday as it was still dark and dreay with a little mist but no real rain in the afternoon. OMG, how long can this go on? Unreal.

  16. Having seen the blistering, uncomfortable rash on my daughter's face, I believe poison ivy is the one plant that could make me resort to an herbicide/chemical for relief. I have no suggestions, but good luck with it. And I hope your rashes clear up soon. They're awful. The bane of my garden's existence this summer, ironically, is RAIN!

  17. That's terrible, adding insult to injury. Invasive weeds that cause rashes. How rude. I'm sorry I don't know what the answer is to get rid of poison ivy, but best luck to you in the battle.

  18. All winter long we've waited for the days we could just 'lounge around in the garden' and what happens? Poison Ivy and Ticks! I am afraid to go out into my yard and garden now, too...isn't that just sad?! I hope you can get it to dry up and not spread too much, it can be a real problem if it gets 'internal' dad unfortunately got it in his mouth somehow and in other 'out of the way' places & ended up in the hospital (this was YEARS ago...he passed away* in 2005) *not from the poison ivy!! I'm itching away and have a rash too...from the sun, of all things! The meds for the lyme disease have made me overly sun-sensitive and it actually hurts just to walk in the sun. Guess this won't be one of my better summers (or yours)...but, you're in good company anyway!! Happy 4th of July!

  19. The birds are constantly reseeding poison ivy for us. We do several poison ivy "patrols" every year, just to find and eradicate the stuff. And DH always digs it out as soon as we spy it in the yard. One of those chores you have to keep pace with or it can get out of hand. Like so many others in the garden! :) The real bane in our garden is Bermuda grass planted by a previous owner. We have changed much of our lawn into flower beds and are constantly fighting Bermuda grass. Slowly, slowly, slowly we will win the battle! ~~Rhonda

  20. We have poison ivy everywhere. All of it is an irritant, including the bare vines in winter. I always wear gloves when dealing with it.

    If poison ivy oil gets on shoes, leather gloves, etc, if you put them out in direct sunlight, the light will break down the oil. Washing off the oil off of your skin within 15 minutes works too; you don't need soap, plain water will do the trick.

  21. I can't imagine having poison ivy in the garden. I think I've only been exposed to it when I was younger on a hike. My sister has found nettles in her garden. I hope you can find a way to get rid of it without the rashes!

  22. Arrghhh! That's such a pain! Luckily they don't become weeds here! [Touchwood]

  23. I feel for you Tina. When we first moved into this garden it was EVERYWHERE and it found it all - the hard way. I managed to get rid of (If I tell you how, I'll deny that I ever said it) but this year it seems to be coming back.

    Shame it is so bad, because it is so wildlife friendly. H.

  24. Monica, Now that's a great idea with the bags. I need to use it if I may.

    Lzyjo, Round up is a very good thing for poison ivy. Sometimes I wish I could round up the whole surrounding area and really do away with some pesky weeds. Just kidding. Your hubby must be careful-and you too.

    Rose, bad story on how it gets other places. Even though I thoroughly wash my hands after working in the garden, the best I can figure is some of the oil transfers to more sensitive parts of my body despite washing. Not fun at all. "Big guns" sure are needed with this weed.

    Gail, I heard that too. That must be why it's so prolific too. A real pain-ur bane:)

    Anonymous, oh yes, those pesky weeds will wait. No use risking spreading anything to the baby. Skeeter said he has changed so much! One of these days I'll stop by and if you are out this way-do drop in.

    Mom, Brian is so allergic to it! Jimmy is too and if you just say benadryl shot he gets goosebumps because of the pain. You really have to watch this weed as it is most pretty and unassuming so who would expect such a poison from it.

    Nancy, That is too funny to have rain as your bane. I'm sensing a rhyme here:) Be careful and dry out soonest!

    Megan, My thoughts exactly. I mean does the poison ivy think I fix the garden just for it?:) I hope it moves on soon!

    Jan, You do take it easy and get well. Summers can be risky. And you are so right about internal poison ivy poisoning. It can be very bad. Your poor father!

    Rhonda, I was wondering who would say Bermuda grass as the bane of their garden. I totally sympathize because if I had a choice between Bermuda grass and poison ivy, I'd take poison ivy any day.

    Sweet Bay, those birds are so lovely but with all those seeds-OMG! I will definitely leave my shoes outside in the sun. The clothes get washed quickly and with very hot water.

    Catherine, it can be bad. Nettles-now that is an ouch!

    Chandramouli, Lucky you guys as this is a bad weed for sure. Love your saying touchwood! Let it work!

    Helen, Mum's the word:) It is so good for wildlife but not cool for humans that's for sure.

    Everyone have a great evening or day and watch for those leaves of three!

  25. We have PI all over the woods but not much near the house. Dont think the Saint or I are allergic to it as we have both messed with it without any reaction. Sorry for your itching but the red bugs or chiggers are making me itch. I got them while in TN and just now stopping with the itch! While in the yard here watering, I picked up some more of the itchy critters. Argggg. Today while watering, I was smart, I put on some bug spray before I went out and no itches today! I dont know which is worse, the icky bug spray or the itch...

    All packed and ready to take off in the morning. I will pop in here when I get a chance....

  26. I get poison ivy too--- little tiny plants easy to spot in our small yard. I blame the birds! I know they eat the berries (don't they?), then sit on the fence and feeder and drop the-- um-- seeds into my yard in those predictable spots. I use round up--- almost exclusively for poison ivy.

  27. Tina, we don't have poison ivy out here, but we do have its cousin poison oak, which sounds like a "hybrid" of the banes of your existence for the last two years. I've heard how people don't seem to be affected much by the stuff until they get a serious allergic reactions. Sounds like what you had this year! The poison oak is some of the prettiest foliage we get--red-tinged most of the year--but probably not something you'd want in the garden...

  28. Tina, that rash sounds bad! I have a creeper plant very common in my region which I have to keep pulling out. I don't know its name but locals call it "the refugee":)

  29. Tina, it's me again. I just read in one of my books that lemon juice applied directly to skin should help. You need to let it dry. Sounds .... ouch! Can you try on a very little spot?!

  30. Skeeter, Urgh on the chiggers. That is one thing I've never picked up-yahoo! Have a safe trip!

    Carole, Oh yes, the birds love the poison ivy berries. Almost makes me wish they would not visit my garden.
    Roundup, oh yes.

    James, That poison ivy/oak is most pretty for sure. Too bad about the oil in it. Now if we could just make its toxicity go away...

    Kanak, The Refugee plant? It must've hitched in with some bird too. Weeds are such a pain.

    Tatyana, I'll give a try sometime. Thanks so much for the tip.

  31. Oh Tina, poor you - sounds awful! I hope you're better soon.

    Poison Ivy is all over the gardens in the older sections of my town. I'm not sensitive to it. . . yet. I still exercise extreme caution when pulling it.

    I found it last summer in our yard under a honeysuckle that was pruned almost to the ground. Because of where it was I got out the big guns. I make an exception to my self-imposed all-organics rule when it comes to poison ivy. So far it hasn't come back, and I haven't seen it anywhere else here, but I'll be watching carefully from now on.

    I've also read about CO2, global warming, and poison ivy being related. Years ago a friend had such a bad reaction to poison ivy she ended up in intensive care for two weeks. It was very scary, and sobering to realize it has the potential to be that serious.

  32. I've never had a rash from this weed but my Dad was highly allergic to it. It has been an issue in my garden from time to time thanks to my neighbor's unkempt side of the fence where it thrives. :(

  33. Tina. I too consider myself above poison ivy, and as of yet have not gotten a rash. However, having heard that one's body can turn on you (as you now know) I have not lived by the theory that I am safe. I am not always the first person to wash my hands when coming inside, however, if I touch poison ivy I wash my hands quickly.. especially before an "between parts" of my body are used.

  34. The allergen in poison ivy is oily. Regular handsoap will not remove it. Use detergent (dishwahing liquid) to wash with. The allergen is not volatile enough to evaporate in normal air, but it can be carried on smoke. DON'T BURN IT in a pile leaves by accident. The oil does linger, so you can get it on garden implements and clothes, which can get you later via secondary contact. It can even be transferred from a pet's coat after a aromper in the woods. Use throw away gloves and remove exposed clothing by turning inside out as you remove them. Never touch the outside of the clothing or let it touch your exposed skin. Wash separately in hot water with laundry detergent (not soap). Rash on otherwise covered body areas is usually from secondary contact from removing contaiminated clothes or your hands when performing normal hygiene. Even if you have never gotten a rash before, each time you contact it, you become more sensitive. Eventually, "bang" you've got a case of poison ivy! Best to avoid contact, even if you are not currently allegeric. Beware of secondary contact from tools used by others. You may need to glove up and wash all your garden tools with detergent. For example; yopu wear gloves to pull PI, then wearing the same gloves pick up a trwel or use your wheel barrow. Later, (un-gloved) you use your wheel barrow and "voila" you've got PI. Some people are so allergenic that a mosquito landing on a PI plant and then their arm can tranfer enough to cause a reaction. If a case of PI is extreme, ask your Dr. for prednisone in the 7-day pack. It is the only thing that helped my son. I can usually get by with topical ointments to ease the itch until the rash goes away. If you very allergenic, be careful of Chinese lacquered furniture, the Chinese lac tree from which the lacquer is made is a distant cousin to PI and some react to the lacquer. Hope this info helps. -Richar in Tennessee

  35. Thanks so much everyone for your helpful comments. I am doing better lately at avoiding this poison.