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IN THE GARDEN: Killing poison ivy; December duties

Poison ivy is common across North America. It contains a toxic clear liquid compound in its sap called urushiol that causes itching and skin rashes.

Have you marked the poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) vines?

Before cutting or getting close to the itchy vine, put on rubber gloves. When you're done using the gloves, remove and dispose of them, or, if they are hardy, you can run them through the dishwasher.

If your vines are in your trees, like ours are, cut the vine at the base of the tree. You are going to make two applications of a homemade herbicide. Combine one-half cup of orange oil, one gallon of 20 percent vinegar, and one teaspoon of liquid soap. This natural recipe is compliments of Trisha Shirley.

Use this combination as a spray when the poison ivy begins to sprout out. Spray where you cut, too. If you have poison ivy away from other plants, also spray the mixture on the leaves.

Typically, poison ivy will sprout again after the first application; it is a very naughty plant and will fight back. Keep applying orange oil and vinegar mixture until you win.

Warning: Clean your tools, hands, and even your clothes to remove poison ivy oils. Almost every part of the poison ivy plant contains urushiol oil — the “itchy stuff.” Also, 20 percent vinegar is very pungent. You will want to protect yourself, children, and animals from the fumes as you mix and spray. It will dissipate quickly, so the danger is short; it’s like filling up your vehicle with gasoline.

Remember that this mixture will kill any plant on which you spray it, not just the poison ivy. You can add a drop or two of food coloring to the mixture so it is easier to tell where your spray has landed.


A turkey baster is an excellent watering tool for indoor plants. It allows us to keep the leaves dry on houseplants while the roots drink the water.


Have you made your last tractor or lawn mower cut on the fields or lawns for the season? If so, make sure to winterize your equipment before you put it up for winter hibernation.

1. Clean and oil your tools.

2. Drain gasoline engines and oil/grease joints. Don’t let that gasoline sit in your equipment, including mowers and edgers, over winter. Run the engines until all the gasoline has been depleted.

3. In December, we need to be vigilant as to the weather and our opportunities to prepare our gardens for spring planting. We have time. Do a little each day or every other day. No need to strain or pull muscles.

4. Add organic material to flower and garden beds and have them ready to plant when needed.

5. Those bulbs you put in your refrigerator in September — it’s now been six weeks. Time to plant them. Dig a hole so the base of the bulb is at a depth three times the diameter of the bulb. For instance, if your bulb is 2 inches in diameter, your hole should be 6 inches deep. Both tulip and hyacinth bulbs will provide wonderful color in your flowerbeds.

6. WARNING! Don’t start to prune your fruit trees yet. Pruning promotes growth and budding. You don’t want to dead head roses at this time, either. Pruning flowering plants during this season confuses the plants. Dead heading or pruning sends signals to the plant or tree that it is spring. We don’t want to fool our fruit trees or roses as to what season it is.

7. This is still a good time to set out cool season plants such as pansies, violas, stock, snapdragons, and many more.

Until next time, keep your souls and soles in your garden!

Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

Contact Bill Luedecke at The Luedecke Group Realtors at 512-577-1463 or email him at Contact daughter Martelle Luedecke at 512-769-3179 or

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