March Gardening 2014

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden

Oh when, oh when, will spring arrive?  It was lovely on Fishers Island a couple of weeks ago and I was able to prune my apple trees, but after two nice days the winter descended upon us again.  The weatherman claims that the cold can’t last due to the longer hours of sunlight in March, so the end of winter might be in sight and hopefully, we can get on with our spring clean up chores.

March is the time to prune and remove dead branches from trees and shrubs. And to clear brush before the leaves start to come out. However, in doing these tasks, there is one nasty thing to be on the look out for and that is Poison Ivy!  I think that most of us can recognize the vine in the summer and were probably brought up knowing the rhyme “Leaflets Three Let It Be” and keep away from the vine with three leaves that are attached to a stem that then is connected to a vine.  But the menace is still there in the winter, often growing up trees with a ropy hairy vine. So, two additional rhymes to learn are “Hairy Vine No Friend Of Mine” or “Raggy Rope – Don’t Be A Dope!”  If you suspect a vine is Poison Ivy do not touch it and only remove it wearing gloves using a long pair of loppers. If you pull it up by the roots, be careful that it doesn’t break and the sap splashes on you. Place the cut vine in a garbage bag to remove. DO NOT ever BURN Poison Ivy or put it in a pile to die. If the vine is burned, the urushiol sap can get into your lungs and if the Poison Ivy sits in a pile, the sap will last years after the vine appears to be dead.  If you think you have touched or brushed up against the vine or leaves, wipe the area off with rubbing alcohol and then wash with soap and water.  Never ever take a bath if you think you have tangled with Poison Ivy, because the oil will get from your skin into the bath water and spread all over your body – always take a shower to be safe after you have worked outside.

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) grows in North America and parts of Asia. Its sap, urushiol, often produces an itchy and sometimes-painful skin rash where the oil has gotten on to your skin.  This same oil is also found in Poison Sumac.  The plants grow in woodland areas in filtered light, however, on Fishers Island they seem to thrive in sunlight and grow in a variety of soils. The rash will appear in 12 to 72 hours after exposure and can last up to two weeks or more. The only way you can spread it is when the oil is still on your skin, which is why a bath is a bad idea. Once the rash has broken out the oozing part does not spread the rash.  If you get a bad case, it is a good idea to consult a Doctor because over the counter medications often do not work. Pets can get urushiol on their fur when walking through an area with Poison Ivy and the oil can get on you if you pat them. Pets do not seem to have an allergic reaction to urushiol, but it can remain on their coats for a long time. If you suspect your pet has the oil on its coat, put on rubber gloves and give it a bath in “copious amounts of lukewarm water and use a degreasing liquid soap like Dawn” which should remove the oil. The best way to deal with Poison Ivy is to avoid it if you can.  If you see it on your property consult a professional landscaper for advise on how to get rid of it.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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