Ivy – characterful climber or creeping menace?

21st February 2019

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The vibrant blanket of green that is ivy gives a home and garden a sense of charm and character. Ivy-covered buildings and trees look like mankind has stepped back for a while and allowed nature to take back control, and surely that’s a good thing isn’t it? Well, not exactly!

The problem with ivy is the tenacious nature of its root system. It seeks out and finds any weakness in wood or brickwork and exploits it, pushing its way in and latching on, causing damage as it does so. The wounds these penetrations cause then may allow in other things, like insects and diseases, and if left unchecked the tree could well succumb to these invaders and eventually die. Ivy does not kill trees, but it can weaken them and leave them susceptible to other dangers.

But here’s the dilemma – ivy also offers a great habitat for your garden wildlife, with the tight canopy of leaves offering shelter and a hiding place for small birds and mammals and its berries attracting insects and birds. If you decide to remove ivy from anywhere on your property you have to consider the impact this may have on the wildlife that calls it home.

Ivy grows quickly, really quickly. Allow it to take hold in your garden and it will take over in no time if allowed to do so. A little creepage from next door one day can be a garden infestation soon afterwards, climbing up your trees to reach out for the sunlight it needs. So think fast, decide what you want to do with it, allow it to grow for the wildlife, or remove it for the health of your trees?

Removing Ivy
Should you decide to get rid of your ivy problem there are a few things you MUST remember:

  1. Do NOT rip it off. It’s tempting to just tear it all down – after all, ivy doesn’t look that strong. Firstly, ivy is a lot stronger than you might imagine, because it roots itself firmly in bark and cracks in mortar on walls, and secondly, because of this tethering system, tearing away at it is likely to cause considerable damage. In the case of your trees, that will mean greater wounding and an increased chance of longer-term issues.
  2. Herbicides are not enough on their own. Ivy has evolved to be resistant to the effects of toxins such as herbicides, due to the waxy layer on its leaves. If you spray herbicide on them it’ll just evaporate before it gets through. So, spray your ivy in winter when the herbicide will last longer on the leaves, giving it time to take effect.
  3. Sever at base. The cheapest way to deal with an ivy infestation is to sever it from the base of the tree it’s climbing up and allowing the growth above to die back. Be aware that the ivy up the tree will then go brown, which temporarily will not look great and you will also be clearing leaves for the next few months as they are shed from the dead and dying stems above.

If you would like to talk to us about the ivy in your garden, so we can assess whether it will be a problem or to ask us to remove it for you, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.

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