Over on The National Gardening Association (garden.org) a query was posted in the Ask A Question Forum.
“What is an organic way to get rid of Virginia Creeper?”
The question received many excellent replies; one suggestion involved pouring herbicide into a trash can and stuffing the vines into the can – the purpose of that method was to contain the herbicide and reduce the risk of damage to desirable plants.
The question and responses set my mind to thinking. Could be another way? Not organic, but some method that uses the least amount of herbicide.
I tried surfing the internet looking at weeds and how to eliminate them, I came upon several products which looked interesting but were very expensive – using the expensive tool one would inject herbicide into the target plant. Not only was the tool expensive but one would need to purchase different formula herbicide depending on which plant was being targeted.
This one is what started me thinking… how to beat the price of $250 plus the cost of herbicide.
Since I like to design and construct things so I have my own tools. I set to work to see if I could kill Virginia Creeper using only items I had on hand.
I would target the large Virginia Creeper which has been growing up into an oak tree.
Here is a photo of the oak tree. As you can see it is a very large oak tree with a huge Virginia Creeper growing from the ground to high up in the branches. You can also see the dead Poison Ivy which is dead/dying…whew, painting herbicide on individual leaves is a lot of work!
Rather than paint individual leaves, here is the process I tried.
Drill a whole not quite to the center of the stem of the vine. Using my battery powered drill driver with 1/4″ bit I made 3 holes along the vine. For smaller stems/branches use a smaller drill bit, or even a syringe if you have one. Keep in mind that you will be pouring liquid into the hole so try to aim for something perpendicular to the horizon to avoid having herbicide spill out onto desirable plantings
Using a paper funnel to direct the flow, measure a very small amount (1/4 teaspoon) into each hole. A disposable paper funnel would be useful to avoid wasting or spilling the herbicide. You can get these funnels at most auto parts stores near the oil or just roll a piece of paper into a funnel shape – junk mail works.
After pouring the herbicide into the hole(s) use a bolt, screw, cork, or short piece of stick to plug the hole – just something to keep the rain out and the herbicide in.
And then wait…put your feet up; take a walk, watch a movie…this might take a while. Be prepared to wait for several weeks as some herbicides can take anywhere from one to 4 weeks to take effect; some can take as long as 8 weeks.
Two days, let me repeat that…two days after starting this experiment I was walking my dogs in the backyard when I made an observation. There were lots of green leaves scattered all over the ground under the big oak tree. For a moment my heart skipped a beat but thankfully these were not oak leaves. Looking more closely it was evident that they were all Virginia Creeper leaves. Huh? Is the experiment working? So fast? Is that possible?!
I walked over to the low hanging Virginia Creeper that is loaded with seeds – this particular piece of the plant always smacks me in the face while I am mowing the lawn. I will not be sad to see it disappear.
Here is a view from inside the house through the window screen on day 4. You can see that the leaves are disappearing quickly.
Here is a beautiful sight – dead Virginia Creeper!
Sure, I know there are expensive and sophisticated systems that are available that will accomplish the same thing, but this was an experiment to see what I could accomplish by spending no additional money – just using things I had on hand. Hope you like my method and will try it on a Virginia Creeper in your neck of the woods.
Is this an organic way to eliminate Virginia Creeper? Heck no! But it uses the least amount of herbicide and limits the possibility for harming desirable plants and it’s much easier than going out on a limb to paint individual leaves.
If using this method to eliminate Poison Ivy please wear long sleeves and disposable gloves and be prepared to clean all tools to remove the toxic oils.