Gaining Control Over Poison Ivy
Lately, there seems to be more interest in tackling the poison ivy problem.
Previously nurseries sold various spray products containing amitrol. When sprayed on the poison ivy leaves – as well as other weeds – it traveled down to the roots and killed the entire plant.
However, complicating the situation now, New York City passed bill 1524-2019 prohibiting use of pesticides by City agencies except: “This bill would prohibit city agencies from applying to any property owned or leased by the city any chemically-based pesticide, with some limited exceptions, including: pesticides used to control invasive species listed on the New York state invasive plant list, harmful plant species as defined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, pesticides used when the use of an alternative would be a worker safety hazard related to vehicular traffic, and others”.
So what can be done?
I first noticed an article about goats as gardeners in Riverside Park only in 2019, although they have apparently been chomping away on Staten Island at Fort Wadsworth since 2005.
Goats have also been enlisted to clean up Stuyvesant Cove Park in Manhattan along the East River as well as our own Van Cortlandt Park in Riverdale.
In addition to poison ivy which seems to be a sweet delicacy for them, the goats will also eat brush and other invasive weeds as well as climb hilly areas not easily accessible to mechanized gardening. Their hooves destroy the roots and their poop becomes fertilizer to benefit new plantings.
Meet Suburban Acres Goats
There are several companies that rent out goats. I contacted Suburban Acres Farm in Manalapan, NJ, owned and operated by Adrienne Vento and Iztok Ferluga. They raise Oberhasli goats (Capra aegagrus hirta) which were originally bred in Switzerland. Although females were raised for their milk, the bucks – male animals – and the wethers – males castrated at a young age – were also used as pack animals. The goats are dark brown and have two black stripes that run from the base of each ear, along the poll and back to the tail.
While goats will eat weeds and brush, clearly one needs to keep them out of desirable plantings. Portable electric fences which can enclose variable and extensive areas can be powered off a simple car battery, solar panel or household current.
In addition to providing them all those delicious food options the goats also require a clean shelter, clean water, hay and a variety of supplements – minerals, vitamins and some prophylactic medications. They also require grooming which includes hoof trimming and protection from annoying insects such as flies.
Research turned up the curious fact that New York City’s nickname, Gotham, is derived from Old English, meaning goat town. While it was not meant initially as a compliment, it seems that what is old becomes new again.
If you have enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my book A Habit of Seeing: Journeys in Natural Science.