An excerpt from my column, originally published in 2009. The ground ivy is still in the yard.
“Okay, weeds. Your time has come. You knew when you started creeping over the rock borders that I’d catch you, and now I’m gonna yank you out by the roots. These are MY flowerbeds. I’m not looking for Yard of the Year; I just want my lawn back. I want the grass to grow, the trees to thrive, and the ornamentals to ornament.
“Don’t look at me like that. I have a little boy who thinks that cookies are a food group. That look doesn’t work on me. Prepare to be displaced.”
This was the pep talk I delivered at the beginning of what became the Great Garden Siege. I would boldly go where no weed killer had gone before. I would be ruthless. I would be tireless. I would prevail. As it turned out, I would also fail to convince the weeds.
I can handle a few dandelions. I’ve dealt with the four hundred billion saplings that arrive every spring, courtesy of the squirrels. I’ve even refrained from doing a “shriek and dance” number on the back porch when I stepped on a slug the size of a cucumber. Gross. The only thing it seems that I cannot do is keep from getting my rear kicked by the ground ivy.
English Ivy is as proper as its name. “Hello, I’m here to crack the foundation and strangle your trees.” Oh, thank you very much. I’ll be yanking you out of the ground now. See? All very civilized. Ground ivy is evil, plain and simple.
It’s probably in your yard right now. Go ahead and look; I’ll wait. See if you find round leaves with scalloped edges on long, jointed runners. They have little purple flowers in the spring. Find any?
If you did, prepare for a battle to the death. Short of torching your yard (which requires a permit and very cooperative neighbors and isn’t a good idea to begin with), there is no easy way to get rid of ground ivy. The secret is in those long runners. Pull up a handful and take a look. See how the stems are jointed? Everywhere those jointed sections touch the ground, roots sprout. This stuff is the Kansas version of kudzu. The Weed That Wouldn’t Die.
I donned gloves and a hat and stepped out onto the back porch. The sun smiled beatifically on my heroic (if ill-fated) venture. Somewhere in the distance, a bird chirped. Probably a mockingbird.
I knelt on the sidewalk, accompanied by popping sounds familiar to cereal aficionados across the country. Reaching for the nearest patch of evil ivy, I got a good grip and pulled. Resetting my shoulder in its socket, I braced myself and pulled again. A leaf came loose and huddled in my gloved palm. Hmm. My, the rains have been good for the local plant life this year. Moving into a crouch, I grabbed a handful of ivy runners in both hands and gave a mighty yank.
As I lay on my back in the lavender, I could hear squirrels laughing. I got to my feet and brushed debris from my pants. And the rest of me. After a few dozen equally fruitless attempts to eradicate the ivy, I hobbled into the house.
“Larry? Call City Hall. I’m gonna go buy some matches.”