Roger Cook
Q: The pachysandra and ivy in the front flower beds are taking over the yard. What's the best way to get rid of these groundcovers so we can start fresh with other plantings?

—Bonnie and Dave Rosen, Rochester, N.Y

A: Roger Cook replies: Here are three approaches you can take. They're all effective; the best one for you depends on your patience, physical abilities, and how you feel about using herbicides.

Smother them: Spread black plastic sheeting over the top of the groundcover and weigh it down with rocks. Wait a year, maybe two, for the plants to die, then dig out all the dead roots.

Spray them: Systemic herbicides such as Roundup are absorbed through the leaves and then travel to the roots, killing the plant. Don't be surprised if it takes more than one application to complete the job. These herbicides will kill anything else they get on, so be sure to protect any plants you want to keep. Once the groundcover is dead, dig it up and replant. The herbicide won't affect new plantings.

Dig them out: Ivy and pachysandra have very shallow root systems. If you cut through the foliage and remove a 4- to 6-inch layer below that, you'll get most of the roots. A root left behind has the ability to sprout and start a new plant, so if stragglers pop up later they should be removed, too.

Whichever method you choose, you can prepare the beds for planting once you've removed all the roots.
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