English Ivy Condition

Asked June 13, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT

Have an area aprox 60x50 ft planted to English Ivy about 30 years ago.

Have situation that is very disturbing. Each spring it is very bare of leaves. Eventually, it grows back and looks well in August.
During meantime is full of weeds. Many such as: maple shoots, dandelions, wild marigolds, oxiallis (sp) and worst of all creeping charlie.

Have been pulling weeds continuously and cannot control them. After pulling taller ones the ground is full of tiny ones sprouted.
Recently, I dug up area that looked like less than 50% ivy and replanted with more. Have also planted myrtle to replace ivy.

The major cause of problem is probably deer eating the leaves during winter. Then in spring with open spaces the weeds take over.
Years ago did not have problem to magnitude now have. Perhaps the deer did not damage as doing now.

In order to determine the soil conditions ivy is growing in I had a soil test recently done by MSU The Lab Number is 186761 Would appreciate your comments to determine if anything is noteworthy other than to apply fertilizer with concentration of nitrogen.
Noted the ph is vs target of 6.0 indicated. Have read that high magnesium affects calcium and wonder if that is an issue.

My first thought is to follow instructions given regarding fertilizing and have done that. Would additional application of straight nitrogen monthly help speed growth and filling in vacant spots? Next is to plant additional myrtle to fill in as deer do not appear to eat it.
Remaining thought is to keep deer out next winter. That would allow to ivy to grow and fill in quicker in spring. Will be looking for methods to keep deer out and wonder if a motion activated device with predator sounds might be available.

Below are pictures of the ivy area taken in spring of the ivy condition.

My immediate concern is controlling the weeds. The ivy is either to thick or the runners to massive to apply mulch. Thought about using product such as Preen but directions say to apply away from the plants. That will be difficult to do. Also, while it may affect sprouting of new weeds I understand it will no longer be effective if pull the weeds that are sprouts now. Other than giving up do you have suggestions?

Clinton County Michigan

15 Responses

Deer, Ivy ground cover --- Hello,--- I couldn't see your soil test results, the system doesn't accept codes with the digit 1 in them. Please check your code-- it should be a combo of letters and numbers near your name on the test results. Magnesium to calcium ratios are not considered important in growing ivy or vinca. The root of the problem, of course, is the defoliation by the deer. This is allowing the weeds to grow. --- Growing ivy or vinca isn't going to be a problem for you if you can stop deer from defoliating it each year. I would concentrate on that. While it is extra work to temporarily fence it off, it would be less work in the long run. Once you keep it growing you will have less and less weeding to do. Deer fencing, temporarily placed around the ground cover in early winter then removed in spring, is most effective. Use deer repellents in early spring to be sure deer don't come after the ivy then. Here is a link to effective deer fencing ideas.--- http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/deerfences.html --- pictures of various deer fences--- you would want temporary, removable versions of these, unless you have decided you want a permanent fence around the whole yard--- http://www.arcadia-farms.net/keeping-deer-out-of-the-garden/ --- Your idea of encouraging the Vinca major is a good one. Deer don't like it. It is considered invasive so do keep it from spreading outside the bounds of the bed. I suggest you replace all the ivy with deer resistant plants such as vinca, ajuga or others. Here is a ranked list - stay with plants listed as 'rarely damaged'. --- https://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/ --- In case you haven't yet read this article, here is a comprehensive article on preventing weeds in landscaped beds--- http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7441.html --- And here is the link to weed controls. Note that many chemical controls for weeds will harm other herbaceous plants like vinca and ivy. Always follow the label directions and test a small spot first if in doubt.--- www.msuturfweeds.net --- If you provide a soil test code that still works online, I can take a look and answer your magnesium question. Thank you.

Thank you for your very detailed and informative response. Will study the links provided and go from there.
I may be confused about the test result reference. Have two sheets pertaining to the test. First one has Soil Test Report for: Under that is Lab# 186761 The second sheet has MSU Soil Test.com and under that title is: Soil Test (#38C5DF) Report for Robert Tvorik. That may be the one you are seeking.
Thanks again.

Thank you for the other code, that is the one that allows me to see the test results online. --- Your pH is mildly alkaline. Ivy and ajuga can grow fine in pH ranges from 6.5 to 8.0. Both Mg and Ca are available in soils of pH 7.2 so your soil pH is not locking those up. Also your calcium to magnesium ratio is 6.8 to 1, which is close to the supposedly ideal ratio according to a study done back in the 1940's. However, this ratio is being shown to not be important ,anyway, based on recent studies by Purdue and Univ. of Wisconsin. And the fact that your ivy grows well when not browsed by deer indicates the conditions and nutrients are fine. I wouldn't exceed the fertilizer recommendation. Your soil's CEC is 12.123, which means it is well capable of holding nutrients. Pushing too fast a top growth on new plants by adding more than the recommended amount of nitrogen means their root systems may not develop as well. You want good root systems so that plants are hardier during the winter.--- Also a correction for you--- I said 'vinca major' earlier and should have said Vinca minor. V. minor is hardy to USDA zone 3 or 4, whereas V. major is hardy to zone 6 or 7. While V. minor is said to prefer neutral or slightly acid soils, mine does fine in pH 7.8 --- I am not familiar with the use of predator sounds to repel pests species. However, here is a university study you may want to look at, if you haven't already--- https://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Blumstein/MarmotsOfRMBL/pdfs/Hettena_etal_2014_Ethology.pdf --- Another tip of which you may not be aware--- while doing internet research, by entering a suffix of " site:.edu" after your google search words (without the quotes) you will get university sites that have research based info. I this info helps you. Thanks for using our service.

Thank you so much for the detailed info. I will review and get back later.
Looks like my major issue is the deer devastation Guess I was mislead by fact that we had no serious deer problems for many years. Only recently had it been so bad. Perhaps more deer now, more hungry deer or they now found our property as a source of good food. I did not realize ivy was a prized food for deer.
Thanks for the search tip. I am not well skilled in searching and your tip will be very helpful.

As you are experiencing, deer are moving about as we develop more and more of their natural habitat. And, with severe winters they must eat more to keep going. Best of luck to you!

Have continuing battle with weeds. Spent considerable time pulling weeds and had it looking pretty good. Then was gone for 10 days and when came back the weeds had again taken over. Pulled them again and applied Preen knowing that the seeds already germinated would grow and pulling them would reduce the performance of Preen. Called folks at Preen and was told that Preen can negatively affect the new growth of the ivy plants. I had thought it only controlled germination. Now want to decide action going forward. Am thinking would be best to sacrifice the ivy in area most affected by weeds and start over with new planting. Thought is to use round up to kill existing weeds. Had heard about the procedure of continuous working soil as weeds germinate to reduce the weed seed population. Will that work? Is there enough season left to germinate seeds.

Additional comment: Would plant new ivy or myrtle from other locations. However, will be away about 10 days in mid September. Concerned that if dry transplants will not take. Would it be better to wait till spring? When do transplant am planning to plant large clumps vs individual plants and mulch between. Cannot mulch if plants are close together.
This winter am planning to obtain a motion activated predator call. Are you aware of success using such a device?

Hello again,--- Sorry to hear you had some weeds take over again. Preen works by stopping the seedling's roots from growing. Large established plants are not affected. If the Preen folks said it will affect your young transplants, you can believe them. Since you won't be around until after mid-September, I would wait until next spring to put in more transplants. Any preen in the soil will be gone by then. Some of the weeds you are pulling may be perennial weeds, which means if you don't get all the root (very difficult to do) then they grow back. So, glyphosate to clear the area of perennial weeds first is a good idea. Then, preen or a deep mulch to stop any weed seeds for the rest of this season. Or let the weeds have their way this fall and do the glyphosate, followed by preen next spring, then put in the transplants with as large a root system as possible--- could you grow flats of them in a basement over the winter? Be prepared to care for the transplants at least a couple months straight in spring, or setup a soaker hose on a battery operated timer for the periods you are gone. I did this one summer for my flower beds and it worked well. I just asked my neighbor to check it every few days to be sure a hose hadn't burst and let water run all over! I haven't heard any new info on predator call systems- deer are usually smart enough to get used to any sounds that don't actually follow through with a real threat. Cultivating will break up the roots and stems of any young plants( farmers call this hoeing the row!) However, you don't want to do this near any young transplants, their roots would be cut up,too. A 3 inch deep mulch will suppress weeds very well. Put the mulch down then plant your ivy, laying the young branches out over the mulch.

Hello, Your friend Ivy Bob back with you. Been a long hard fight with weeds in ivy.
Whenever gone for week or so come back to areas with weeds overtaking ivy. Then pull and pull. Do understand that to revitalize the ivy must stop the deer mutilation which will take action on by using motion activated predator call or fencing.
Would appreciate your thoughts on my present plan:
1 At present move any good ivy plants to area with least open area and mulch.
2 Spray worst area with Round up after step above
3 After weeds are affected spade up the area to spur germination of weed seeds in soil. Read article about "exhaustive germination" to lower weed seed density
Question: is there sufficient growing season left to accomplish that now?
4 In spring apply Round Up again to perennial weeds that come up.
5 Transplant clumps of Ivy and myrtle in the "bad area" and mulch between clump
Does this sound like a viable plan?

Additional questions:
A) Procedure to transplant mature ivy which has long runners. My idea is to dig as large root ball as possible and cut off stems leaving about 8 inches. Thinking i
new root system will have difficult time supporting long stems.
B) Is now ideal time to transplant? If not when?
C) Tips on growing ivy in basement as suggested. Tried starting clippings in past and was unsuccessful. Did not root well. We have walk out basement with large windows facing east and south.

Summary, Some areas did come back with good growth. However, some thin areas that could use filling in as described above. It will be difficult to mulch. The worst weeds are creeping charlie and what I think is something like Coriolis (sp?) It has leaves like clover and yellow flowers.
Rather than wait until spring I would like to eradicate some of the weeds and replant some ivy unless not good procedure now.
Thanks again for you help.

Weed control among ivy bed
Hello 'Ivy Bob'
It sounds like you are having some success! The plan you have looks good. Add a step to control the creeping charley as outlined below in the areas that have no desirable plants yet. And, add a step in spring to put pre-emergent down in the whole bedding area, to prevent annual weeds from sprouting. This will help with crabgrass, yellow woodsorrel and some others. Remember, some broadleaf chemical controls can hurt your ground cover.

As for exhausting the seed bed, there could be many growing seasons worth of seeds in the area, so the sooner you can get a dense planting of ground cover and or mulch, the better.

I don't think it is too late to plant ivy. Get to it within the next 10 days. The more roots on the plant, the more foliage it can support- this is a judgement call. But remember, ivy will take root along the stems at the nodes, where it touches the soil, too. If you haven't had success with indoor starting, just stick to outdoors. Plan to keep taking starts and filling in the bare spots for at least a couple seasons, some in spring, some in fall.

The two weeds you mention- first, creeping charlie, aka ground ivy, is hard to manage. Here Is the recommended control per www.msuturfweeds.net:
"Ground ivy is, for the most part, tolerant of most postemergence herbicide active ingredients. University research indicates that products containing triclopyr have the most activity on ground ivy. Combinations of products containing 2,4-D tankmixed with quinclorac have also shown excellent results. The best post-emergence control of ground ivy is achieved in the fall or during the short flowering period in mid-May. At these optimum timings, most active ingredient and combination products provide good-to-excellent control." So, try these chemicals this fall, before placing any ivy plants there.

The second weed you describe sounds like yellow woodsorrel. Look at this link and compare to what you have:

If this is it, putting down a pre-emergent in spring ' when the forsythia begins to bloom ' will help suppress it because it is an annual that sprouts from seed every year. Some pre-emergent chemical active ingredients are: Prodiamine, pendimethalin and dithiopyr all provide some suppression of woodsorrel. You can sometimes order this online if you don't find it locally, but these are common active ingredients (not brand names). Remember to read the label to see if the product you buy lists woodsorrel (aka oxalis) as one it controls. Follow all precautions and directions.

You are becoming a real expert at all this and are creating new 'brain cells' as well as getting healthy exercise-- best of luck!

Thank you for the kind support! At times looked like a loosing effort when I have pulled wheel barrow of weeds. Was surprised to see your response late in evening.

Couple additional discussion items and I should be on my way:
1 You said have several growing seasons of weed seeds. I conclude from that best approach is mulching and obtaining dense ground cover. The idea of exhaustive germination therefore not practical. Expecially since want to transplant in next few days.

2 Regarding transplanting. We agree to put largest plant possible to obtain root mass that will take hold faster. How about any single plants? Perhaps put several together to form planting group? You pointed out stems will take rood from nodes but my thinking is that applies more to established plants and for transplants should cut off long stems so root has less plant to support. If agree, maybe leave about three or four leaves?

3 Creeping Charlie The most offensive weed of all! Understand want to apply post emergent with triclopyr which is in Weed B Gon I have and will apply to any open area with no ivy plants. How about in existing ivy? Could I perhaps apply Round Up manually to creeping charlie using a sponge or Q tip? How many leaves of a plant would need treatment to be effective?

1. That is fine.

2. I can not find any research that indicates you should prune back plants with root balls, unless one of the following is the case: prune off damaged or diseased part of stems; root ball was recently dug and so is much smaller than plant had before digging. If what you are planting is potted plants or flats with roots that are filling up their container, then don't prune. Now, if you are taking cuttings and trying to get roots to develop yes, make the cutting 4 to 5 inches long and use rooting hormone powder to encourage root development. If you are digging up plants and dividing them from the parent root ball then yes, reduce some of the stems based on how much root you retain. I would say at least 5-6 leaves retained. Groups of 3 plants is fine, it can give a more pleasing look to the bed while it is growing in.

3. Note the timing for best management of creeping charlie-- fall or spring. For existing ivy bed treatment, I believe I gave you info earlier on using herbicide by the paint-on method. A sponge-type of paint brush is the common tool, so a hand held sponge in a glove-protected hand is Fine. The more leaves you cover the more chemical that goes to its extensive roots. Since charlie is so tough, the more leaves/stems covered the better. --- Regards!

Thanks again for your response. Update:
Yesterday I dug up ivy in worst area and removed weeds. Then transplanted the ivy in areas with some open or thin spots. However, did not go as thought. The ivy does not come up in clumps but rather roots spread out which resulted in bare roots. Some have thick stem with some small feeder roots off them. Kept the best ones and discarded others. When tried to replant found the places full of ivy roots and tree roots so could not make nice holes for transplanting. I did best could and put several plants in and covered with soil. Found difficult to much as space between exisitng and transplants was minimal.

Follow up previous message: Want to show you what plants look like after dug up.
Even when saw juvenile plant I though would produce nice plant with roots found it attached to large root. So could not obtain just nice root ball.

Going forward for now will wage war on the creeping charlie to see if can kill it.
Will get some books on growing ground cover and prepare for spring project.

You are doing fine. Yes, lots of roots in the bed is normal. And yes the 'bare roots' are perfectly normal, that is the nature of the plant. Thats why it makes a good ground cover, it roots itself all along the way as it grows. Get good soil contact with these long sections and they will root where they contact soil.