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Grass and lawnmower, the perfect herbicide for invasive ground covers.  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6781
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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This is not about chemical herbicides. Only safe, natural methods are used.

This thread presumes that readers wish to get rid of English ivy and other invasive ground covers, that threaten to take over their gardens. I hope this doesn't devolve into a discussion about whether or not this should be done.
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This is the best way that I know of, to completely eliminate English Ivy and other invasive ground covers from your landscape. It can work for many plants that spread through their roots. It is not a suitable way to deal with invasive grasses since they can easily survive the treatment described.
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I have worked at dozens of properties where English ivy is or is becoming the dominant plant in the landscape, to the detriment of most other living things. There is no other common plant growing on Vancouver Island, that costs so much in heartache, labor and cash for a given area of removal.

 Commonly, when people decide that they want to get rid of ivy, they get out their loppers, their shovels, and axes. Usually they work at it until they run out of time and get tired. Unless it is a very small infestation, this is usually not effective in the long run.

 Going at it piecemeal is pointless. If you attack it every year or so, and pull out all of the ivy  that you can get easily , you're not eradicating it or even controlling it, you're simply harvesting. It must be dealt with aggressively. It can be eliminated simply by pulling off every new shoot that comes up, but this can be quite laborious and may take several years.
 
When a landscape is so inundated that there is really nothing of the garden salvageable , the simplest way is to rip everything out and make the ground level enough that a lawn mower can be run over it. Then plant grass. If you get a good covering of grass going, this will compete heavily with the ivy. Few plants can survive being smothered by grass and cut off short to the ground regularly. That's why a mowed lawn remains a lawn and a grassland with herds of herbivores remains a grassland. Trees and other woody plants that want to grow tall, can't survive the regular cutting.

 Left to nature , all lawns in my region would soon become meadow and then forest.
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The landlord who owns the shed where I store my tools, has purposely introduced many invasive ground covers, that now dominate and ruin all attempts to grow specific desired plants. There is a small lawn adjacent to the area that is inundated and there are more paths within it. None of those ground covers are able to compete with the grass or withstand constant mowing. I have observed the same thing in a variety of gardens. Only a few invasive grasses and miniature bamboos , seem to be able to compete with regularly cut grass.
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So, it's pretty simple in my climate .  If any area of ground is mowed regularly , a lawn is the result. This lawn won't be pure Kentucky Bluegrass, it will be a mixture of grasses, dandelions and other things that withstand regular mowing. All of these things work together to smother the problem plants.
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A grass lawn is not necessarily the desired end result. It's simply a step in the process of getting rid the invasives.
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Getting rid of grass.
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 Once invasives have been eliminated, it's easy to get rid of grass. Grass can be smothered out using mulch.

 I like the no-till potato method. Potatoes are planted at intervals within the grass and then a heavy mulch covers all of the grass. The potatoes grow up to create a dense shade.

 Cardboard can be used either against the soil or it can be done using my method , which is to place a heavy mulch on the soil and then cover it with cardboard that has rocks on it, to prevent it blowing away. This allows the mulch to rot and it provides a shaded and protected environment for bugs that gobble up the moist, shaded, dying grass. The cardboard is exposed to sun and wind , so that it barely breaks down in a garden that is not irrigated from above. The cardboard can be gathered up at the end of the season.
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That's about it.
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 I'm not known for my brevity, but I will attempt to summarize here.
 
1. Cut, pull and otherwise yank out most of the above-ground portions of your invasive plants.

2. Level out the ground and plant a lawn.
 
3. Cut the lawn regularly, but occasionally allow it to grow a little longer, so that it casts dense shade.

4. After a couple of years or whenever you determine that the invasive plants are largely gone, it's time to kill the lawn and reestablish your garden.

Use the no-till potato method or any other safe method of killing lawn grass.
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 Be very vigilant and constantly check for remnants of the undesired plants.
 
You now have a landscape free of invasive ground covers.

Congratulations, you have your land back. Be very careful whenever someone offers you free plants that contain unknown weeds. If you do ever inadvertently create another invasive problem for yourself, deal with that area immediately. Don't procrastinate.
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Don't just sit there, get up and start ripping at those plants.
 
Gilbert Fritz
Posts: 1319
Location: Denver, CO
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Too bad, I think bindweed in my area competes with mown grass; not well, but enough so that when the grass is turned into a garden, there are plenty of bindweed seeds and roots waiting to go.

English ivy is a miserable, struggling plant here that people try to nurse along on North walls.

But interesting and very useful idea.

Mowing isn't all bad! There is a reason that some sort of grass cutting is so common.

I remember Ben Falk explaining that he let his pasture go without cutting, thinking Nature would heal its self; but all he got was less desirable plants and a monoculture of goldenrod.
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3566
Location: Anjou ,France
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The other thing I do to get rid of Ivy is to increase light levels and reduce humidity , grass stands a better chance when there is more light and less moisture against Ivy in my experience .

David
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6781
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Lucky for me, grass grows year-round, around here. Some years we might get a few inches of snow, but a week later it warms up.

Where ivy threatens to take over large trees, I girdle it and pull what I can from the canopy , then branches near the ground are cut off so that more light can penetrate. This allows the grass to gain a good foothold. Sometimes the grass must be irrigated as well. As all of the dead ivy roots decompose, the ground level will shift a little. Holes are filled with soil so as to keep the ground level enough for mowing.
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