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Cut invasive English ivy off tree trunks and protect roots from voles

For The Baltimore Sun

I can’t decide when to cut English ivy off my trees — spring or fall. I know it’s invasive and lately I see it everywhere, but I’m not looking forward to seeing brown ivy hanging on my tree trunks.

It’s not like green ivy looks good either. But it’s crucial to get English ivy off tree trunks, where it matures and becomes able to propagate itself with berries.

Aesthetically, spring is the best time to tackle this, because new tree leaves will hide dead ivy and the bursting landscape will distract from it. Spring or fall, cut vines at the base of the tree. Apply a bit of glyphosate to the newly cut stem only. Then cut off the vines as high as you can comfortably reach. Remove cut vines. This creates a bare ivy-free trunk — all the better to see if ivy sneaks back.

Use the same procedure with euonymus wintercreeper, another invasive evergreen vine which is turning up uninvited more and more. Remove vines on the ground around trees, too, or you’ll be fighting them over and over again.

Something ate the roots off of our two-year-old dogwood tree. Saw a chipmunk once or twice last summer. How can I prevent this in the future, if I decide to replant a dogwood?

This does not sound like chipmunk activity; it sounds like voles. Voles will gnaw on the base of trees or tunnel down and completely eat up roots of small trees and shrubs. Search ‘voles’ on the Home and Garden Information Center website for management tactics.

Spring is a good time to set out baited mouse traps for them, because they are extra hungry now. Voles love to hide in mulch piled on tree bases and chew in safety. When mulching, be sure to keep the mulch no deeper than two to three inches and several inches away from trunks. Do not pile rocks or anything else at the base of trees either.

You can safely replant a dogwood. There is no particular connection between voles and dogwoods. To have a beautiful dogwood, plant one that is resistant to powdery mildew. Search ‘powdery mildew-trees and shrubs’ on the Home and Garden Information Center website for recommended cultivar names.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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