How to remove wild grape vines from trees?
How to Kill Ground Vines Without Harming Trees
When removing a vine that's winding its way up a tree or crawling along the ground where it doesn't belong, begin with the least toxic and most gentle remedies before resorting to chemical strategies. While you may want to take a machete to a marauding vine, such as English ivy (Hedera helix), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, it's often best to use regular garden clippers, pruners, rakes or hoes – along with a heavy dose of persistence.
Wear heavy gloves, long sleeves and protective glasses when killing vines, whether or not they are poisonous. The clothing will protect you from scrapes, scratches and toxic saps, and if you use herbicides, the clothing and gear will reduce the risk of skin or eye damage. Use hot water and plenty of detergent to separately wash any clothing that may have been tainted by herbicides. Then hang it on a clothesline to dry in the sun if you can.
Although it is the most labor intensive of vine-eradication methods, manual removal is effective at killing unwanted vines. That said, it is also likely that you'll need to return to the site every six months or so to take care of any new growth. You can work at manual removal at any time of the year. To remove and kill vines, follow a few basic guidelines:
- Use sharp pruners to cut the vine off the tree, leaving about 6 inches of the stem in the ground to deal with later.
- Gently pull the vine to see if it has attached itself to the tree. If not, pull the vine off the tree using your hands or a rake.
- If the vine is securely attached to the tree, cut another section of the stem at the highest level you can easily reach and let the rest of the vine die on its own. Pulling the vine away from the tree when it's attached can damage the tree's bark.
- If the vine is woody and as thick as a small tree branch, use a screwdriver or iron pry bar to lift it so you can insert your pruners into the gap. Protect the tree itself by placing a rag or thin piece of wood between the pry bar and the tree's trunk.
- If you can't pry up the vine's stem, use a small handsaw to cut through it, but be sure to stop before you nick the trunk of the tree.
- Pull up the underground portion of the vine if you want to remove it. The best method is pulling the vine horizontally through the soil, rather than pulling it upright and disturbing all of the soil along its route. Some vines may be easier to pull up after a rain or after watering the soil.
To avoid spreading diseases to trees and other desirable plants, disinfect your cutting tools after using them on vines by wiping the blades with a clean cloth or paper towel soaked with rubbing alcohol.
Herbicides are capable of killing vines effectively, but they could also kill neighboring plants or damage the bark on nearby trees. Apply herbicides to either the foliage of growing vines or to any small stumps of the vines that you may have left in the ground after cutting them off near the tree. You can also use a paintbrush to apply the herbicide to the vine's leaves. General tips for herbicide use include several common-sense guidelines:
- Carefully read and follow all the directions on the product label. If you don't completely understand the product label, contact your local county extension office for help.
- Apply the herbicide on a dry, calm day with no rain in the short-term forecast.
- To minimize harm to bees and other beneficial insects, apply the herbicide in the early evening after the bees are finished with their work for the day. Don't use herbicides near creeks or ponds where they may harm aquatic animals.
- Apply within the temperature parameters provided on the produce label for best results.
- Use herbicides when the vines are actively growing so the product is taken in quickly by the plants. If you cut some vines off near ground level, brush herbicide on to their cut ends right away before they have a chance to heal.
- Drape the tree's trunk in cardboard, plastic or heavy fabric to help protect it from exposure to chemical sprays.
- Re-treat the vines as directed on the product label to catch any errant roots and stems that may resprout.
Herbicides can be especially damaging to the bark and roots of young trees. If you decide to use a herbicide on your weedy vines, consider combining manual removal near a tree with herbicide treatment farther away from the tree. Glyphosate, the active component in Roundup, Accord and Eraser, may accumulate in a young tree's bark and take years to break down. Triclopyr, one of the active ingredients in Brush-B-Gone, Turflon and Pathfinder, has a half-life in soil of up to 90 days and is capable of moving into proximate groundwater.
Discarding the Vines
Cut vines may sprout or release seeds in a compost pile, so throw them away in a heavy garbage bag or just place them directly in your trash can. Vines treated with herbicides might bear lingering traces of chemicals, so throw them away in a heavy plastic garbage bag as well. You can leave cut vines in a pile on the ground and let them decompose naturally, but check them in a few months to ensure that they're not sprouting where you left them.