Keeping your yard healthy is especially hard when an unexpected plant is beating it for resources. Many invasive plants need little to no light, and don’t mind too much sun either. They’re adaptable, which is why they spread so easily through your yard, moving so fast that it seems next to impossible to stop them.
If you’re struggling with eradicating invasive plants from your yard, here are a few ways you can manage and stop them, or at least slow them down.
Are invasive plants really a threat?
All plants are living things, and some would argue they should be left to grow as they please. And while that’s fine for some species of plants, invasive ones pose an actual threat to the ecosystem and wildlife. As the U.S. Forest Service reported, “[i]nvasive species have contributed to the decline of 42% of U.S. endangered and threatened species, and for 18% of U.S. endangered or threatened species, invasives are the main cause of their decline.” Once these plants take over an area, they deprive other plants of nutrients and reduce biodiversity in the area.
The effects of these plants go beyond our forests, as they produce a high number of seeds that animals and people easily spread. Ones like English Ivy and kudzu can sprawl into your backyard and ravage your yard and garden. Their roots can also burrow into brick and wooden walls, compromising their structures. (Odds are your outdoor shack won’t survive them.) English Ivy vines also climb up trees, creating canopies that keep light from passing through.
How to uproot invasive plants from small areas
The strong roots make English ivy and other ground-cover plants hard to get rid of, so the only way to keep them at bay is to remove the roots and stop seed transfer. There are several ways to do it, and none of them are fun, except maybe the last one.
You can pull the roots up by hand, smother the plants, use spray (natural weed-killing remedies are recommended if you go this route), or mow and rake. If all else fails, you can rent goats to eat up every inch of the stubborn plant.
If you have a smaller area, pulling up the weeds might be the easiest option. Make sure you have a shovel and proper bags for disposal, then just use your shovel and trowel to dig up the plant and a patch of the surrounding ground. Remove the soil around the roots and let it fall, leaving the soil loose and tilled; then let the soil dry completely.
Drying out the ground will kill any remaining roots or debris, preventing the ivy from returning. The loose soil will become the perfect environment for new native plants to take hold. Plant native plants as soon as possible to revitalize your yard. The Nature Conservatory suggests starting this process in the spring when the soil is loose and wet.
Mow and smother English Ivy from larger areas
If you have a larger area to cover, mowing or smothering your yard invaders is a less laborious option than hand weeding. When mowing, make sure to mow as low to the ground as possible to dislodge the entire plant. (A weed whacker will also get the job done.) Then, thoroughly rake the area, and bag and dispose of the debris. Leftover leaves, sticks, and clippings will only encourage the scorge to return.
Smothering is the slowest option, which involves covering the affected area in dense cardboard and mulch, depriving the area of air, water, and light. Before trying to cover the site, you’ll want to mow or weed whack the area, ripping up as much of the roots as possible. Then you’d water the soil to remove any pockets of air, and lay down cardboard to cover the ground entirely, plus two inches beyond the affected area to prevent any light from getting through.
The Nature Conservatory recommends adding ten to 15 layers of cardboard and newspaper, wetting them between each layer. You’ll then leave the ground covered for the next six months. All that is left is to monitor the area, patching up visible holes and checking for any unwanted sprouts.