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by Tom Mugridge

Q: Please settle a dispute. I like to remove ivy from tree trunks (not to mention the house and garage) because it is a breeding ground for bugs, unsightly and since it is living on the bark of the tree, not healthy for the tree. A friend says that the ivy actually provides a protective coating around the base of the tree and is good for it. What do you say?

Is there a way to prevent it from growing on the house/garage and trees? Is pulling it off the best way? Thank you

A: There's a camp on either side of the river on this question. Some feel it's not harmful, others think it can be.

I must admit that I'm in the camp that believes it's usually best to remove ivy from growing up your tree(s) (I say this because we have a few small trees at home that I have left the ivy on for the time being).

Although an ivy-covered tree trunk is appealing to many people (including me), ivy can keep the base of the trunk wet long after a rain. This may be conducive to decay at the base. So, from this standpoint, it's best to remove the ivy.

It is for this reason also that we recommend not mulching up against the trunk of a tree or shrub -- mulch holds moisture in, too, and this can lead to problems later on.

Ivy can also hide structural defects. It's hard to see that decayed hole in a tree trunk if it's covered with ivy, and this can be a potentially deadly situation. So, from this standpoint, it's best to remove the ivy.

As for how to remove it, just cut it at its base and carefully pull the vines out. If pulling the vines off starts removing pieces of bark, cut it at various places and remove it as best you can.

As for preventing vines from growing up the house or garage, simply prune them down as they start to climb. You pretty much can't hurt ivy, so cut it anywhere you want. It'll just re-grow on you, so you can be fairly heavy-handed.

If you have ivy on the house or garage already, when you pull the vines off you'll probably have their little "feet" stuck to the siding. These will eventually weather away, but it'll take quite a while. In this case, you can sand them off and then paint if needed.

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Tom Mugridge

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