Tales of a Vintage Home: English Ivy Removal

As a “green” homeowner, I went in assuming that the bachelor pad my (now) husband had thrived in would be a cinch to tidy up. Sure, we knew upon purchase there would be plenty of little projects to make it a home, and then I would move in and give it that “woman’s touch,” but nothing, NOTHING could have prepared us for the terrible, awful, no-good, green nightmare: English ivy. Oh the horror!

Upon purchase in March (during the cold winter months here in Michigan), we decided a cute home built in the 1930s was the place for us to start our lives together. This house exuded charm and appeal, from the original hardwood flooring, to the gas fireplace, the cascading stairs and the tiny breakfast nook off the kitchen. There was question whether the enormous pool in the backyard (the ENTIRE backyard, that is) worked, or what the yard and plants looked like under the snow cover. But, we decided that we loved the house so much that we would deal with what lies beneath once the snow melted. [Insert foot into mouth]

What we discovered once all those feet of snow melted: an enormous mess. English ivy (which, according to Wikipedia is “rampant” and “clinging”) was EVERYWHERE: climbing up the fence, up the chimney, somehow made its way between the shutters and siding on parts of the house, and it lined the grass along all sides of the house and fence. Okay, okay, the header photo here might be a bit of an exaggeration (unfortunately I didn’t take a “before” photo – shoot!) Horrified doesn’t begin to describe our reaction. As the snow melted farther and farther down, more and more ivy reared its ugly head. The photo below is actually after we cleared up what we could of the ivy – here it’s growing back after 3 months. If you look closely, you can see the stains on the wood fence where the ivy vines were peeled off.


We spent a few summer afternoons last year ripping down as much as we could; and then we got to the roots. These roots are massive, and they are so winding and so deep into the soil that it takes an army to qualch just one – and even then you’re not sure you got the entire root. We’ve tried it all: poison ivy killer, weed killer, bleach, a more natural solution of vinegar, and simply digging out the roots. Which, turns out, are all unattainable goals; the vines simply laughed at each of these measly attempts to reign its grip in. After enough months of attempts, creative brainstorms with family and friends, and an impressive Google search history in my browser, we’ve done what no Dutch girl does without some serious pro/con lists: we’ve hired out. I’m almost ashamed, yet proud, to admit it. His work begins today, and I don’t know that I’ve been this excited to get home from work in a long time.

The most interesting piece of the quote is the Bobcat rental – yep, a BOBCAT is necessary to get the massive 60+ footage of English ivy gone forever. In a few weeks, we’ll plant some new, low maintenance plants in its place, and the English ivy will be a mere memory. I cannot wait for the before and after photos – this will certainly be a future blog post.

Have you hired a contractor recently, and did you find it worth the cost? Or, were you able to come up with a DIY solution instead of contracting? Share your hacks!

-thrifty hollander


3 Comments Add yours

  1. finkelstein says:

    We have had our own sea of ivy overgrowing our house and yard. We DIY-ed it out of here by starting from the root up: we chopped up the stem at root height. If you wait a day, a week or even longer, you can pull the bastard from the wall in a minute.


    1. @finkelstein: Thanks for the tip! I suggest anyone with an ivy infestation get it out as soon as possible, however possible. It certainly wreaks havoc – we are hoping ours doesn’t grow back. But if it does, we can try this.

      Liked by 1 person

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