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What To Do About Poison Ivy


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Remember the poison ivy rule: "Leaves of three, leave them be".
Remember the poison ivy rule: “Leaves of three, leave them be”.
This Friday, the poison ivy behind F.N. Brown elementary school is toast. After school closes that day, Paul McDevitt, Verona’s director of public school facilities, will be putting down pesticides along the fences by the ball fields and playground.

According to the email sent by the school district, the pesticide application will take place on Friday, June 7, between 4 and 7 p.m. You’ll be able to get back into the treated areas as of 7 a.m. Saturday. If it rains Friday, the pesticides will be put down on Saturday between 4 and 7 p.m with a re-entry time of 7 a.m. on Sunday. New Jersey schools are required to keep pesticide applications to a minimum, and to notify the community 72 hours in advance if they are going to do so.

Poison ivy has been on the rise all over, and its itch is getting worse. According to a 2007 study, the rising levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere are making the plants larger and more toxic. Homeowners who try to rip it out may be setting themselves up for several weeks of discomfort. But unlike the schools, they may not be able to declare their grounds off limits while putting down toxic chemicals.

Gloria Machnowski, the vice chairman of the Verona Environmental Commission, has been looking into alternative to powerful pesticides to fight poison ivy. She likes a natural herbicide, St Gabriel Labs’ Poison Ivy Defoliant, which is made from things like clove oil, citric acid, vinegar and mineral oil. Machnowski says you can buy it online through Amazon.com.

There are also some home-made spray alternatives, like mixing one quart of water with two tablespoons rubbing alcohol or mixing three parts of vinegar with one part dishwashing soap. Try to spray the poison ivy leaves only; used in excess, the vinegar solution could acidify the soil so much that nothing will grow in it.

Machnowski says that, according to the Northeast Organic Farming Association, poison ivy will die out if it is repeatedly clipped to the ground by mowing. Homeowners can also put a smothering mulch of cardboard on top of the poison ivy and cover that with wood chips, bark mulch or shredded leaves. Resist the temptation to burn the poison ivy or pour boiling water on it: That can cause the poisonous oils to become airborne and cause more trouble.

And what if you do come in contact with poison ivy? Machnowski recommends Farmer’s Friend Poison Ivy Soap, which is marketed by Burt’s Bees.

Poison ivy photo by mullica via Flickr.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


  1. Update: the chemical application was cancelled due to rain and the VEC suggested to use a natural herbicide instead of chemical herbicides. Paul McDevitt, Verona’s director of public school facilities, found an organic alternative, horticultural vinegar. So, if you see a BOE employee spraying weeds or poison ivy, please know that this is the horticultural vinegar and not a chemical based weed killer. The VEC also contacted Verona Recreational Director Jim Cunningham and later on the Town Manager announced that vinegar will be used to control poison ivy at Verona Pool as well.


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