I'm trying to reclaim an area which has been left wild for a few decades from the looks of it. Maybe 100 square meters, flat andtotallycovered in ivy (regular English kind). In places, the ivy is up to a foot thick of layers and layers of roots all crisscrossing. I think maybe each year leaves fall and a new layer of ivy grows on top. It's like walking on a sponge.

How can I best clear this? I tried quite a large fire but it seems very resistant. I guess the same to weed killer.

I think the nature of well separated layers means each fire can only get one later each time, it's naturally self insulated?

If I could kill the ivy so it would start rotting I could wait a year to use the land... Maybe I could use a rotorvator or similar to chop it all up after killing it with powerful weedkiller then just leave? Though I still have a pile of ivy pulled off a wall 2 years ago that shows little sign of decomposing

  • I would just rent a loader and a dump truck for a day. Would probobly cost about $250. It might take some herbicide to kill off all the cut roots after the main clearing was done.
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 21:00
  • @Rob Post an answer if you have an answer to the question. See gardening.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment for more information.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 21:07
  • my tool of choice for this type of work is chickens, because if they won't eat it they'll scratch it up Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 21:23
  • 2
    @blackthumb Hedera helix is toxic to chickens (and humans, but not as bad as poison ivy). But it tastes so bad they don't eat it anyway. Weed killer is a waste of time, because the leaves are water repellent.
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 22:20
  • 1
    @stormy when you say 'rumours' in regard to glyphosate, presumably you actually mean 'evidence'. Because there is strong evidence its carcinogenic, hence the class action being brought against Monsanto/Bayer in the States
    – Bamboo
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


The only good news here is that the roots are very shallow, so you only need to go a couple of inches below ground level to exterminate it completely.

However the roots produce an adhesive which will stick to anything (ivy will climb up a 30 foot high smooth vertical wall if you let it) so what you have is a foot thick layer of roots solidly glued together.

Think seriously about ripping it up with a small digger to get down to ground level. A rotary saw (the sort of tool used for cutting concrete, not a chain saw which will be blunted instantly if it comes in contact with any soil) may be useful for chopping it into manageable pieces as the digger tears the whole layer up at once.

Burning it will be hard because the whole foot thick layer will be saturated with rain water. From your numbers of 100 square meters and a foot thick you will have about 30 cubic yards of waste. You can hire a skip that size if you have the access (we are talking about something 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet high here) but if you can only get a small (e.g. 4 or 6 cu yd) skip on the site this is going to take several loads.

A possible alternative would be to hire a flame thrower and burn your way through it, in as many passes as it takes to get down to "ground zero."

  • It's not accessible for a digger unfortunately, though getting the stuff out is easy enough. Cutting it into sections is a nice idea though I'm nervous about using that sort of saw. Maybe a 300mm blade on a reciprocating saw or even an old hand saw?
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 11:20

If its Hedera and not Glechoma, those roots will go down fairly deep - we just cleared out a small area of Hedera here, and I had to get the contract gardener to use a crowbar to lever out the bigger roots, which went two feet down in places.

You're right to think that ordinary weedkillers won't touch it, they won't, but if its an area you don't need to use for a year or two, what will help enormously is to cover the whole area with thick, black plastic, anchored down tightly round the edges, to exclude air, light and water. After a year, you can lift an edge of it and see what's going on - if its all still thriving away (which it might be, having done this in a walled garden down in Devon years ago, it took two years of black plastic over the roots, but some of the 'stems' we cut down were as thick as tree trunks) anchor back down for another year. After that, dig, taking out any major roots left behind, or treat major roots you can't remove with SBK, a brushwood killer, used neat on cuts or drilled holes you make in the roots, preferably without spilling any on the soil. Cover any treated roots with an upturned pot or something, then replace the soil over the top.

Hedera, once out of control, is a pain - I have another larger area that needs clearing of the roots now its been cut right down, and frankly, I'm not looking forward to it...and will likely need the help of the gardener's crowbar again, if we want to plant it this year.

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