Are there any environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of poison ivy near a shoreline?

Updated: June 12, 2017

Are there any environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of poison ivy near a shoreline?

Poison ivy is so toxic and pernicious once established that you shouldn’t try burning, cutting, pulling, or digging it out. You’d almost certainly come into contact with the plant’s toxins and risk a severe reaction.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the environmentally friendly solution is an effective herbicide. Find one in which the active ingredient is glyphosate, which is death for plants, but it irreversibly binds with soil and doesn’t move anywhere else, including into the lake. Apply as directly to the poison ivy as possible.

If the patch is farther away from the water, spraying is the easiest way to apply the herbicide. Always wait for a still day to spray, and adjust your sprayer to a coarse setting (rather than a fine mist) so the herbicide will drop directly onto the leaves instead of blowing away. First, spray in late spring when the poison ivy is well up but still small and growing. At that time of year you’ll kill the top of the plant, and might – if you’re lucky – get the roots too. Then observe the area over the summer, and if new suckers come up, wait until August (when the plants will be transporting sucrose to their roots for storage) and spray again.

If the poison ivy is closer to the water, there will likely be some spray drift no matter how carefully you use the sprayer. Here’s a technique to avoid getting chemicals into the lake: Using a sponge on a stick, carefully brush the herbicide onto the leaves of each plant. While doing this, you’ll be right in the patch, so cover up. Wear high rubber boots or hip waders and long rubber gloves. When the job is done, wash everything (using detergent and lots of water) that has come into contact with the poison ivy.