Can You Compost Ivy?
One of the surest ways to cover your house in camouflage is to grow climbing plants, which will then cover it completely. This is a tradition that has been done for centuries and continues to date. Some of the best climbing and camouflage plants include hydrangea, the Virginia creeper, the jasmine and the ivy.
The ivy is a common sight especially throughout the UK, climbing up buildings and walls or through tree canopies. The evergreen self-clinging plant grows quickly and could annoy some people who will tend to cut it. however, there is more to the ivy than meets the eye. This article discusses composting ivy and how to go about the mildly poisonous plant.
Can You Put Ivy In Compost?
No, you cannot compost ivy, well, not straight away. Composting ivy is possible, although all advice is against doing so, at least not straight away. The biggest problem with composting ivy is that the plant regrows ridiculously quickly. It means if you add ivy to your compost, it will not decompose but instead, will continue to grow.
It will quickly take root and take over rather than breaking down and composting. Even if you shred the ivy, it will most likely grow again. To successfully compost ivy, some composters have come up with steps to take and finally down the green plant.
However, they all involve killing the plant in its entirety. They can all be done at home, although you might have to involve your local composting facility for expedited results or to simply remove the problem from your home or garden.
First, you can shred the plant completely. If you recommended that you use a leaf shredder and shred the plant into the smallest sizes possible. You then bag them in a black bag or put them in a leaf composter and leave them alone to decompose. As there is nothing else but the ivy in the bag, there is no risk of regrowth. This method, unfortunately, can take years.
Once the ivy decomposes enough that you are confident it is completely dead, you can add it into your main compost bin.
You can also kill the ivy by leaving it to dry in the sun. However, be sure it does not touch the soil for it will continue to grow.
Secondly, you can choose to burn the ivy.
If you are short of storage bags or space to bag the ivy, you can go ahead and burn it. Once incinerated, the ivy has zero chances of regenerating. All you have left is the ash, which is now easy to compost. You will simply throw the ashes in your composting pile and wait for the final compost.
The ashes could also be used directly around the garden as fertilizer or could be used for pest control. However, do not burn poison ivy under any circumstances as its smoke can irritate your lungs. Burning ivy is only for the common types of ivy.
Thirdly, you can simply give the ivy to your local composting facility who can take it off your hands as they collect their garbage. Commercial composting facilities are constantly monitored and reach incredibly high temperatures.
As a result, the ivy is subjected to incredibly high temperatures and simply cannot survive there. It will therefore be added safely without any problems or worries of regeneration. If you prefer to use vermicompost, avoid adding ivy in there.
First, there is the constant risk of the ivy sprouting in the worm bin or even worse, it would sprout up wherever you choose to use the castings.
Secondly, ivy takes a long time to break down and worms prefer food that breaks down much quicker. The worms will not be able to start eating the ivy until it is partially decomposed, and this could take over a year.
Can You Compost Shredded Ivy?
Yes, shredded ivy is one of the few recommended ways of composting ivy, although the majority of researchers argue against composting all types of ivy unless they are dead. As already mentioned, if you add ivy to the composting pile, it will continue to grow, making it unsuitable for composting.
As such one of the several recommendations is to burn it and compost the ashes. The other is to compost it in a hot compost where the high temperatures will kill it and not allow it to sprout. The other recommendation is to shred it.
However, even shredded pieces of ivy can continue to grow. Therefore, shred it into the smallest sizes possible and compost it separately. To achieve this, place the shredded pieces in a black bag or simply cut out the light and put them in a leaf composter, leaving them alone to decompose.
Luckily, there will be nothing else in the bag but ivy, and as such, there will be no risk of regrowth. Unfortunately, this process can take quite a long time. However, if you manage to let it decompose, you will simply add the mulch or completely dead ivy in your main composting bin.
Hot composting is the safest way to compost any weeds or plants that tend to regerminate. As the name suggests, the composting process occurs in a hot environment and the high temperatures will effectively kill the seeds and plants.
It is therefore the recommended way of composting shredded ivy if you intend to add the plant with other compostable materials. Unfortunately, hot composting is not easy and sometimes, even seasoned composters struggle to maintain the kinds of temperatures you need to kill ivy roots, stems, leaves and seeds.
Ivy is a tricky plant and even shredding might not ensure its death. Therefore, if you want to compost ivy, sherd it first. And even if you shred it, take extra precaution with the clippings and as it composts because there is always a chance that the ivy will regenerate.
To be completely sure, make sure the ivy is dead. You will achieve this by bagging the shredded pieces in a black bag and let them decompose alone for some time.
You can also leave the bagged-up ivy in a sunny spot such as the driveway and turn the bag occasionally to promote even heating. The black bag will intensify the sun’s heat and will eventually cook the ivy
Is Ivy Poisonous?
Well, ivy is mildly poisonous, although the levels of toxicity depend on the part of the plant. When people talk about the common ivy plant, they are mostly referring to the Hedera helix or English ivy. It is a plant that can thrive in cold and low-light situations.
The leaves are mildly poisonous, and some people may develop dermatitis after coming into contact with the plant. This is a paradox as the same plant contains chemicals that have health benefits. Leaves in external preparations can cure skin wounds.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used ivy to prevent intoxication, reduce swelling, and as an anaesthetic and in modern times, herbalists use the same plant to treat asthmas, bronchitis, inflammation, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Also, as an external remedy, ivy is a vasodilator but in greater doses is vasoconstrictive. The leaves are mildly poisonous but the fruits are much worse.
Ingesting the fruit can be lead to more severe conditions for the human body. However, it is uncommon, given the bitter and unpleasant taste of the fruit. Regardless, children may suffer from intoxication if they ingest five to ten ivy fruits.
Some of the side effects of English ivy are shortness of breath, reddening of skin, itching and swelling. The problem can become worse for those who are allergic or have breathing-related complications. In small doses, ivy can produce digestive issues such as intestinal irritation and diarrhea, as well as nervous excitement and drunkenness.
In high doses, it may lead to nausea and vomiting and should be highly avoided by pregnant women. In fact, preparing the plant can result in abortions. It can also result in high fever, respiratory arrest and even comas.
Oh, and it is not only humans; ivy is considered toxic to cows, sheep and dogs, although the research is inconclusive on its effects on wild birds who use the ivy’s fruit as food.
Does an Ivy Plant Needs Sunlight?
Yes, ivies require bright light to grow and thrive. They tolerate low to medium light to keep their bright color. All true ivies need bright light, although variegated cultivars can take medium light.
However, be aware that their variegation will become less pronounced in less light. Also, without enough light, indoor ivy plants will become leggy and sickly looking, and will also be more prone to pests. To maintain the bright color of variegated ivy, give it plenty of light.
Luckily, ivies can be grown with artificial light, or near a north, east or west window. Placing it in a location receiving full sun, like a south-facing window, can burn the foliage. Although the ivy tolerates darker indoor conditions, bright indirect light produces the best-colored foliage and healthiest growth.
If you live in a locale that experiences hot and dry summers, a green leaf English ivy planted in the sun will appreciate a site that receives partial shade in the afternoon. These varieties grow best planted in partial sun to shade.
However, if you experience extremely cold winters, English ivy planted in a full-sun site can experience foliage damage during winter, like burning. If your plants do suffer winter damage, wait until spring when new growth returns before pruning off the damaged sections. If you are growing the English ivy in a pot, consider bringing it into a shadier location or indoors during a winter cold snap.
On the flip side, placing ivies in a completely dark area is a sure way to kill them. As mentioned above, before composting ivies, shred them and place them in a black bag. This is done to ensure they find no sunlight, wither and completely die.
Does Ivy Kill Trees?
No, ivies do not kill trees. This might be a point of concern given that they remain evergreen and climb on walls and trees, leaving one to suspect that they kill trees and other plantations to remain evergreen. In fact, the biggest myth concerning the plant is that it damages trees, but this is untrue.
The ivy lays down roots and does not need to take sustenance from a tree. It also does not suffocate or strangle a tree but rather uses the tree to climb up in its endeavor to reach the light. The only adverse effect ivy can have on a healthy tree is reducing its capacity to produce energy.
This is because the ivy climbs through a tree’s canopy and can smother the leafing branches, which would limit the tree’s ability to photosynthesize. Luckily, this alone is not enough to kill a tree, but ivy may target weakened trees. Also, ivy-clad trees that topple over in strong winds are often diseased or in decline.