How to Get Rid of Kudzu in 5 Steps
Although it is called the "vine that ate the south", it is entirely possible to kill kudzu on your property. My husband and I used the method outlined in this article on the grounds of our summer home. You can use the physical or herbicide method to get rid of these plants.
United States Kudzu Coverage Map
Why People Fear the Kudzu Plant
In all truth I hate to kill anything green. Seeing this plant's vining coverage over buildings is quite beautiful, the leaves are edible to man and animal, and widespread planting of kudzu was mostly responsible for preventing a repeat of the dustbowl that ravaged the Great Plains in the 1930s. But there is more bad news than good with kudzu in modern life.
The reason people dread having this vine on their property is because it can grow up to 60 ft. per year. By the time many property owners notice it is a problem, the plant has begun to take over ground space, cover fences and walls, and replace precious other native plants. A kudzu infestation makes it very difficult for people to have food and flower gardens as well.
But it is entirely possible to eradicate kudzu. This is the process I recommend, based on the methods my husband and I used to get rid of it.
Method of Kudzu Eradication
To most effectively get rid of kudzu, you will want to use the physical method, which involves removing the crowns of the plant. Before you start it is ideal to wear boots, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and preferably gloves to protect your skin from pests and cuts from woody parts of the plant.
Whether you have just a few vines or thousands, grasp a couple of them and walk towards the direction of resistance. This will tell you where the kudzu crown is located. If you have a whole lawn, yard, or field of vines, you will repeat this process many times.
1. Find a Vine Lead
2. Cut the Vines
As you walk closer to the vines you will locate intertwined clusters of them. You will need to break these up to clear out the kudzu. I used two methods to cut them. You can choose one or the other, but you will usually find you need both.
You can cut along the vine as you prefer to make the job less of a hassle for you. Placing the cut up vines on large tarps or old blankets allows you to easily move the debris to your preferred disposal location.
One-handed Vine Cutting
For one-handed cuts I used . These shears have a very durable spring that allowed me repeated cutting without the tool getting stuck closed. I used these shears in areas where I needed to lift up the kudzu vines to make them taut enough for a straight cut. I used one hand to hold the vines and the other to cut. GLC Shears
The shears cut up to 1 inch in diameter, which allowed me to release vine clusters and medium sized knots with them. The blades stayed extra-sharp despite repeated contact with both wet and dry soils. The pruning shears are ideal for people who can bend, lean over, or plan to get close to the plants.
Two-handed Vine Cutting
At times I used a two-handed vine cutting method because it took the pressure off of the muscles in my dominant, over-used hand. I used as they are spring-loaded and made for easier closure during repeated use. They were ideal for vines that needed to be cut from a distance, and especially for cuts up to 3 inches wide (large bundles of intertwined vines). Corona Loppers
To use this tool effectively the vines already had to be taut as I didn't have a free hand to cut them otherwise. These loppers also came in handy for Steps 4 and 5. If you need to reach eye level or above to cut any vines, wearing safety glasses is advised.
3. Remove Soil-Attached Nodes & Expose Smaller Crowns
As you pull along the vines and cut them you will notice nodes or knot-like areas on the vines, every 6 to 16 inches. These nodes each have the capacity to create their own crown when touching the soil.
If you come upon nodes that have attached and created roots, tug at them slightly, with your hands close to the ground. If they create too much resistance, you will need to dig them out using a multi-pronged hoe in case they've created a small crown.
Multiple crowns are very common. For crowns less than 1-inch in diameter I used a combination . This tool is ideal because the hoe and the tines are rust-proof for many years of use, so I didn't have to worry about leaving the tool outside accidentally. In addition, the handle is made of solid oak wood with a rubber gripper for grasping ease, so the tool did not slip out of my hands. Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller
This tool is a work horse in kudzu eradication. You can use it to identify the crowns in the soil by knocking the hoe side of the tool into the soil in various places to identify exactly where the crown is. For small crowns, take the forked side of the tool and insert the tines into the soil around the crown. Once you have a firm grasp around the crown, pull the tool upwards, using the leverage of your body if needed to loosen the crown.
4. Gain Access to Larger Crowns
If you have a big job to do or have thick and mature kudzu, you will likely have large crowns. As you can see above the crowns look like very large nodes. To get to large crowns like this cut away all thick above-ground growth surrounding the crown using a reciprocal saw. I used my because I didn't have to be anywhere near electricity to use it, and it also came with a wood cutting blade, ready for use. Skil Saw
Use the powered saw for the toughest cuts that will otherwise cause you the most manual labor. I love the saw because I was able to use the included power jump charger during a lunch break to fully charge it back up in 25 minutes. I just went back to work for my next round of kudzu cuts.
This saw takes a 10-minute manual cutting hand-saw session down to 1 minute. Since attacking and eradicating kudzu is usually a labor-intensive task, it is indisposable to have a powered tool at your side. The saw also came in handy for my husband with his other wood cutting and workshop jobs.
To help keep your blade clean and free of corrosion, after using it coat it with some WD-40 or motor oil and wipe it down with a rag.
The reciprocating saw is highly useful again in Step 5, which is the final step. Please follow the manufacturer's suggestions for eye protection whenever using the powered saw.
5. Finish: Sever the Crown from the Tap Root
Severing the two parts kills the kudzu plant. To complete this process:
Move extra soil away from the crown and at least one inch below it. You will need to dig out more soil depth for thicker plants. Observe the thickness of the root in the one-inch or more exposed area. Once you have enough access for tools to the dark tap root beneath the crown, sever it using the loppers or shears if easy enough, or use the reciprocating saw from Step 4 again for larger roots.
You might find which tool you select depends upon the position the crown is in, the physical leverage you need to remove it, and the size of the root itself. The reciprocating saw will be of most use for well-developed crowns and roots as well as when you are too tired out to attack the plant with hand power.
Cut the crown up with the saw, if needed, to make it more manageable, severing the tap root when you gain access.Leave the tap root in the ground as it will not grow new kudzu plants. You can simply allow it to decay by placing displaced soil back on top of it.
You can use this process in each area that contains kudzu. As long as you proactively attack this plant as described, you will help keep it from propagating anymore, if not completely eliminate it.
Congratulate yourself for a job well done!
The Chemical Option
If you want to use an herbicide, the Missouri Department of Conservation Invasive Species Coordinator recommends applying clopyralid herbicide to kudzu during the summer.
I do not recommend using chemicals of any kind for eradicating kudzu because you will need a large volume and repeated applications to keep the plant under control. In addition, you will still have to do cleanup, and will not be able to plant anything else in its place for a number of years. This is because the chemicals required to kill kudzu often render the ground infertile.
If you would like to plant an edible or pollinator-friendly garden in the place of kudzu, issues of potential toxicity also come into play for the soil. There are also serious human health concerns that might come along with using the stronger type of chemicals kudzu would require.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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