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A Pair of Perilous Poison Ivy Problems!

Dear Mike: Our 'new' 170 year old house has 30 peony bushes, tangled up in what we believe to be the original poison ivy plant for all of Pennsylvania. We started to battle it last summer and wound up on prednisone. Could we mow everything down and still get peony flowers next year?
---Ann Durkin; Downingtown, PA

Mike! I desperately need your advice! 1) My husband is *seriously* deathly *allergic* to poison ivy. 2) We just bought a house, and it's all tangled up in the hedge between our neighbor and us.Old building materials are piled all along the base of the hedge, so I don't think I can even *find* the roots! AND we don't want to hurt the hedge!
---Akire Bubar; Glenside, PA

Anne: NO, DON'T mow everything down! Like Spring bulbs, your peonies need to keep their green leaves intact to flower next year! Instead, pull out what ivy you can after the flowers fade, then finish the roots off after the peony leaves die back naturally.

Akire: Someone (other than your husband, as 'death' can be more than just a turn of phrase when a severely allergic person gets a big dose of the stuff) should suit up and pull out what they can, clear out that debris, and then finish off the PI.

I know, you both hoped some kind of herbicide could make it all disappear without killing the 'good' plants. But it wouldn't--AND the dead vines would still have to be removed, as they retain their nasty Poison Ivy Power. So the answer is:

McGrath's Patented 7 Part Poison Ivy Purging Plan!

1) Apply "Ivy Block" lotion to your hands, face, ankles, wrists, etc to form a protective barrier between your skin and the plant's dreaded allergenic oil. Available at most drug stores, or order direct at (lots of good poison ivy info there too) or call 1-800-421-1223.

2) Wait until right after (or DURING) a heavy rain, or soak the area down THOROUGHLY. All weeds pull out much easier from wet soil.

3) Wearing heavy boots, protective goggles, long pants and shirt, do The Plastic Bag Dance...

4) Gather up all those heavy plastic bags from the mall cluttering up your house. Slip a bag over each hand, locate where a vine enters the soil and pull s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y; the vine will come right up for you. If it resists, have your helper soak the soil with a hose. Don't YOU (the puller) touch ANYTHING--especially your face! When you get the root (or the vine finally snaps), dump bags and vines into a trash can or bag. Don't re-use your 'hand bags'; start with fresh ones every time. (AND DON'T BURN THE VINES!!)

5) When you're finished for the day, have your helper open the door for you, put all your clothes in the wash and run them thru a cold water cycle. Then you get right in the shower and wash any areas that might have been exposed with cool water. No soap; no washcloth. Water dissolves the allergenic oil; soap and cloth could spread it to where you REALLY don't want it. THEN take a regular shower.

6) Next day, go back to any spots where roots escaped you and either: a. Suit up, dig down and pull what will likely be GIANT roots out of the ground (peonies), or b. 'Mulch' with heavy carpet, metal sheeting, or something equally impenetrable (hedge).

7) Be vigilant! Immediately pull any new sprouts or spray them with herbicidal soap or vinegar. Without green growth, any surviving roots WILL die. But your previously-entangled plants should thrive!

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