Author Message
John Polk
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

I have only eaten the thornless variety once, and they did not have that same "bursting with joy" flavor that I love with the real blackberries.  It may have just been location, or season.  I will try to do a side-by-side comparison if the opportunity happens, as blackberries (or better yet, Boysenberries) are on my "must plant" list.  I would rather deal with thorns than have an "also ran".

Does anybody have an opinion?  As I said, my experience was a ONCE only sample.
Peter D
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

As pigs tractor up the entire ground and eat all the roots and pasture plants in the area, if you could fence in the area and run pigs on it for a season or two. You'll have cleared, manured, and tilled soil ready for planting as you move the pigs off and onto the next patch of ground you want to repair.

I admit I love blackberries and wouldn't have minded if my property had an infestation of any amount. Blackberry jam is my favourite.

I have heard that there are blackberry varieties without thorns though they do not like the heat as much I may give them a go. The only thing stopping me so far is that some report that they taste nothing like a blackberry 

Jeff Hodgins
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

Well I have raspberries which are similarly hard to get rid of and from my experience I agree with Dave you should choke them out. I'm not trying to get rid of them but I am choking them out a bit and there are some paches where they have died out almost compleatly. Here's a list of whats choking out my raspberries.

Tall perennial grass, jeruselem artichokes, garlic, chives, leaks, rubarb, comfrey, trees, gilium (cleavers), runner beans, goldenrod, mint, burdock. 
I also use carpet cardboard and bits of plywood. cardboard works for one year with just one layer in spring.
  If you do it machanicaly I recomend doing it when the soil is dry using a bush hog and then tilling twice or tree times over the corse of a week. then add some some new species (as above) to take there place.
paul wheaton
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

I uploaded a podcast I did with Maddy Harland, the supreme ruler of Permaculture Magazine.  She talks with me mostly about permaculture stuff, and just a tiny bit about the magazine and books in her queen-dom.

We start off talking about her visit the mighty, the glorious, the amazing Sepp Holzer.  She went to a desert in portugal where Sepp did his thing (tamera).  Once again he brings lakes to the desert, and shows how to grow all of your favorite garden plants without irrigation in a desert.

We talk about vegetarians keeping pigs.  And I tell my story about Sepp Holzer, pigs, blackberries and a vegetarian

We then talk about farm income models that Sepp advocates and Sepp's book that has recently been translated to English.

Maddy has a new blog at Mother Earth News.

We talk about the works of Ben Law and Patrick Whitefield.
hiawatha McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

yes the blackberries that we have in this area are rampant and permeate parts of the natural bush, and with birds & foxes (and people) finding them delicious, the seed spreads....they also spread by the canes layering naturally and the tips being pushed into the ground by animals
I put it to the local farmers group that we should be capitalizing on the natural goodness before our eyes, and controlling them in a non-poisonous manner, and reaping huge harvests....(the demand for our blackberry jelly is insatiatble)....their response was a blank look
which is hilarious in that once, when the local scientists wanted to develop an 'antidote' for the blackberry, they set up some trials (with government panic money) and THEY COULDN'T GET THEM TO GROW!!! HAHAHAHAHA
Gary Park
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

Excellent post, hiawatha.  I appreciate how you made your point in a fun to read way.  :O)  I just cleaned up my blackberry patch last week.  One tip I have--Plant your berries in part-shade and they won't grow and spread as fast, but they still produce just fine.
Aljaz Plankl
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

hiawatha, it works! I was at friends house and they were complaining about blackberry spreading where they don't want it. I just looked at the place and think to myself, what was that guy on forum saying... oh yes, just go and do it... And yea, it's so much easier to go small at first, it's really easy to do the big shoots after. For now the place is clean, from now on we will leave couple of main roots to give us one or two strongest shoots and the rest will be cut regularly. Not so much work when you think about it.
Lisa Paulson
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

Well that was mind boggling.  Here in Canada we have shorter daylight hours and fiercer weather to deal with outside in winter and you somewhat adopt shorter work hours outside, electing to tackle bigger projects in the warmer months.  But being idle is a very different concept, but if I had a shortage of food and no large animals , I could see conserving energy moreso than I do now .  No wonder they thought it was hell when they arose to actually start living it up and working , they would be so unfit .
hiawatha McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control


NYT: Seven months of winter, five months of hell

sounds just like the old surfing days
no waves
head for the pub
sleep on the beach
sometimes with another mammal
Joel Hollingsworth
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

Synergy wrote:I better get better at this so I can learn how to preserve for winter, either that or learn how to hibernate .

You probably were joking here, but it's an option.

Whether or not physiologists would count it as hibernation, many parts of the world traditionally, seasonally, drastically reduce activity in order to economize on food. I recommend this article:

NYT: Seven months of winter, five months of hell
Lisa Paulson
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

In good weather I tend to graze as I work around the farm so I eat blackberries a full month  and then some as they ripen, then I have  desserts with them, breakfasts and they have finally either not ripened yet or gone mildewy due to the fall moisture so nothing left to can this year .  But more and more bushes coming up every year and I intend to do a little more work training them along the fence out of the way, if possible.  I want to keep them on the perimeter fencelines so I try to dig them up when they sprout up in my interior plantings.    I have never yet had more food than we can eat  , so I better get better at this food production so I can learn how to preserve for winter, either that or learn how to hibernate .
Joel Hollingsworth
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

Makes sense. And presumably you need some fuel shortly after the blackberry harvest, for canning.
Lisa Paulson
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

I was thinking maybe blackberry are a resource come fall as it  burns well once cut and dried a few days.  Would it ever be feasible to tie bundles of sticks with some cut ivy vine and let them dry further stacked for burning in a woodstove?  So you can have berries, fenceline protection, wildlife habitat and a heating resource.  Many a day I am burning vines and windfall branches and weeds and thinking these actually may be heating resources.  I haven't a woodstove here to try.
Paul Cereghino
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

And a scythe with a brush blade for clearing... snickety snack
Brice Moss
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

put some goats in rotation behind the cows in your paddocks, they love the blackberries specially the tender young shoots that come up after you cut them down.
hiawatha McCoy
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

hello brenda
the cows won't eat it, but for those of us who raise cattle the berries would likely take over sections of the paddocks, for those who don't have stock, perhaps berries encroaching into bushland would be annoying
we have had some success with crowding them out, particularly by shade, but it seems an understory is desirable (and inevitable), and that takes away the berries spirit

and joel, what a brilliant idea!
slow down the expansion while you heat up the jam jars!
I'm going to do it
Joel Hollingsworth
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

I've also heard of putting a steel 55 gallon drum with no top or bottom over the plant, so that the fruit is easier to harvest and the growth is easier to keep control of.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: blackberry control

sounds like it would work, if you had the cows
hiawatha McCoy
Post     Subject: blackberry control

I want to tell you about a recipe for blackberry control
a body covering of practical clothing and good boots
a glove
a hoe
a pair of secateurs
if you can operate your secateurs with a gloved hand you may avoid pain
otherwise observe lao tse and grasp lightly
(in the tao te ching, he also says:
Take account of the difficult while it is still easy,
And deal with the large while it is still tiny.   
The most difficult things in the world originate with the easy,
And the largest issues originate with the tiny)
this is not a time for gung ho or you will be zapped
it is a time for peace dexterity and confidence
start at the first accessible cane and cut it off with the secateurs
you may not be able to reach the ground level, never mind, just cut it off
cut the same annoying cane more than once, hang the expense
continue in until there are enough cut canes to remove from the scene
- do this with the hoe and drag them back from the work area
you can burn the canes- they are very flammable, even while still green
keep cutting until you are able to cut them off close to the ground
remove the cuttings with the hoe acting as a rake
every now and then you may find it expeditious to have a crack at the roots with the hoe
but since this is a ‘sustainable’ blackberry recipe, I cannot have you overdo it
it is winter, so it is now time to feed out bales of hay to the affected area and let the cows finish the job of stomping and manuring while the hayseed plays its part in refurbishing  the area
blackberries might increase in size by doubling each year
that I think is what is known as a geometrical progression
but we are not talking here of a whole paddock becoming covered  in one year
for an area to be overtaken by blackberry, there has to have been a lot of observation and hand-wringing, and no action…for years
you can prove my proposals are not feasible for all sorts of good reasons
you say they are not eradicated, merely cut off
correct, so-called eradication is a matter for poisons and unquantified damage to life
a heavily pruned blackberry will not necessarily survive the trampling of hooves or the nibbling of sheep
any plant whose leaves are continually removed will eventually die
in any case you are now years ahead as the blackberry begins again at ground level
way ahead of your neighbour who is still peering out the window ruefully telling himself that
blackberries are a curse
your  larder is full of organic blackberry jam from last february  and the particular field is clear
may the grass grow unimpeded this spring

Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

i have blackberries on two different areas of my property..and the ones that are in the shade do grow taller, leafier and healthier than the ones in full sun....however the sun ones haven't been in the ground as long we'll wait and see if maybe it is just their youth
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

One thing to be said in defense of blackberries is that they do shade things a lot, I wanted to have permie type habits, except my inspiration was Jesus Charcos story about cemetries shut to the public if saint where buried in them that turned into jungles. Islamic saints are meant to create hundreds of miles of green, the hundred is a rough approximation of what i once read, a number i can't remember but think included at l least one thousand, I wanted to create a jungle, but i wanted to walk round the garden and so Icut out the blackberries in many places and though they seemed a stringy set of of enmeshment of intermeshed stalks with a few leaves, i am thinking of those  those that had not bushed out but where getting as tall as possible in the shade of willows. When i cut them down i found i had let in an awfull lot of sun. Here the sun is too strong to need encouraging. i had greatly reduced the jungle effect.
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

brenda Groth, hi,  i only have to decide i will eat a plant for iti to disappear. It happened to me with stinging nettles, I only had a few, and burs of the burdock plant, ithe roots are good, i started to eat them and what seemed to be the beging of an invasion stopped.,  Maybe your blackberries don't get out of hand because you eat them. I like mine but being wild many are way out of my reach.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

I agree that brambles seem to do well here no matter if it is drought or I i a crop i can basically count on having..which might not be true for strawberries or blueberries..or tree fruits.

A lot of people don't want blackberries as they can be a nuisance..but they are dependable
Leah Sattler
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

although all those brambles can be annoying I was happy to have those blackberries here recently. when it got blistering hot the pasture areas dried out and turned brown. those blackberries were as green as ever providing much need nutrition for my goats!
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Rose, if you look at the list of trees that I grow in the RE: Rain in the General Forum you will not only see the lists of trees that I grow but some photos..we have tons and tons of maples and maple syrup is very easily made in our a matter of fact..North of us in Canada the Maple leaf is the symbol on the flag.

Our soil has very high moisture content most of the year..and our land is low, near groundwater level..that is why we can have ponds without inflow or outflow and have them not really go stagnant..the groundwater flows just blow the surface here..

Our land is pockets of clay, sand and peat.
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

In answer to Brenda Groths message on how far north she lives.
      Gosh, how do you grow anything with frosts like that . England was a soft fruit place though i don't think the english climate is that hard on trees at least not unless they try to grow southern climate trees. Do you have maples where you live maples is one of the subjects i have tried to understand because i was trying to understand sap flow in trees and remembered about mapls syñrup and tapped maple syrup into the computer to see if i could not find out more from the producers of maple sugar and i did.
      Where my house is, there are fairly late frosts and they start early in the year because it is at a thousand metres abocve sea level. The sun is strong here, and ththe ground is really overgrazed and holds little water. My neighbors have better earth in their vegetable plots than i but they have smaller plots, the man who sold me mine sold me a lot of land for a garden. They do bare the land except in their vegetable patches, for fear of fires and that makes it barren, no plants no vegetable matter rotting in the earth, that produces nitrogen or the animals pass over the land quiclky because there is not much to eat and so don't fertilize it much. The dry eseason is july - August but it may start in jume and end at the beginging of november though it usualy rains in october. The drought in summer is tremendouse and the heat, 40 degrees centigrade for example.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Well comparing us to Europe I'm not sure either..probably more like Norway??
That would be a guess..we have long cold winters with a lot of heavy snow and lows can reach minus 30 and minus 40 Farinheit. We get our first freezes in September and our last frosts in June..if we are lucky..there have been years with hard frosts every mo of the year.

we have generally fairly wet springs and falls with very dry summers..but there are the exceptions.

Brambles grow very well here. Fruit is always iffy cause of the late frosts, we actually lost entire trees and tree branches off of adult large trees this year from the late hard freezes...ash and catalpa branches died off all over in large numbers...many fruit trees are total losses.

Many years berries are our only fruit we can dependably rely on.
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Gosh I have raspberries and they have started to run but i haven't had them for long enough to find that they are unstoppable. I shall move them to where theres no watering and hope that stops them.
      I don't know how the weather is with you, on the other side of the Atlantic. The south of Texas seems pretty good and its on the same longitude as the Sahara desert. and here in Madrid its about New york level. I am not sure what the weathers like in New York state but when i whatch cnn weather it is obviouse that the waweather in north america is different from the weather in parts of europs on the same level. I'm not great on geography, maybe i have got it all wrong.
  I cut the brambles with long stemmed pruners or hedge cutters. I can imagine them getting all tangled up with brush hooks and swinging around and tearing my skin with their thorns, but men sometimes go in for the savage.
It must be great having bears. We have two or three in the North of Spain but no chance of bumping into one in the lanes round about here, you would have to go up the mountains in the north to see them.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

well I live in a totally different area so maybe that is why I don't seem to have the problem

in the wild where i used to pick my blackberries..they were never pruned and there was a tangle of brush and dead canes..and bears.

always just picked around the outsides when i picked them there so then i grew my own.

tried the thornless ones but they i ended up getting regular thorney ones..just 3..and yes they do spread..but they are also fairly easily controlled when they are not  allowed to get out of hand in the first place.

you just cut off any runners or rooted tips if you don't want them before the roots get deep..and make sure you remove those excess you don't want in the fall..before next years mess would be evident.

we have very hard winters here..and they do get knocked down if they are left long..and they will root under the snow in the you can't let them stay long and get knocked down.

i keep my patches small so they are easily controlled.

here we have a worse problem with raspberries..esp the wild they run run run..and they are much more difficult to dig up..
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Brenda Groth  Its tremendous the way the tips of blackberries sprout roots in autumn, it scares me a bit, i read a short story about a woman whose garden was a sort of nightmare to much for her, and the roots coming out of blackberry tips great spray of white roots  always makes me tihink of that story.
tell me how to prune the i don't want to look it up and if yours are yum then you must be good at it. anyway i'll have something to compare anything i read about it with. 
  I dont believe i could persuade my neighbors to buy blackberries, they are really good at vegetable gardening they would beat me silly at selling blackberries, its only the pastures land they leave absolutely bare they go out and take earth from under the trees in the mountain for their gardens, thats one of the reasons the pastures are terrible, though i don't believe it could make much difference. rose macaskie.
Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

blackberries are cane tip rooters..if they fall over..they root..they will also root all along a fallen cane at several points.

i had one area of blackberries where a cane fell over in the fall and I was not aware of it..this spring I dug up about 7 or 8 baby blackberry plants that had formed along that fallen cane..they were replanted in a row in my berry garden and are doing very well thank you.

old canes die when they are through bearing and should be regularly canes should be tied up between wires strung between 2 posts ..or keep them from tip or cane rooting..and this is a way to control your patch..if they show up outside of your patch..they can very easily be removed with a shovel as they are fairy shallow rooted at this point.

extra plants can be dug up..potted and sold..and if you pot them well and sell them in can get a good price for them.

there are good books out there on pruning and managing blackberries..mine should be ready to eat this week..yay !!!
rose macaskie
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

I like cutting out black berries, I like jobs that continue the same for hours, I imagine them to be calming and mentally healthy, if they aren't your only occupation and this one exercises my arms so it would keep me fiscally healthy too if i was in the country all the time.
    They are interesting, they are like ladders that put out spokes in every direction, this means that they can hook on to the black berry next door and instead of having a sort of one fine legged bird bath structure they have the legs of their fellow blackberries, they have a table many legged structure.-
    If you try to get into there centre stems and cut the whole piece down at once you will get scratched, you have to go through the different layers of blackberries till you have bared the centre.
  they create a lot of shade so i don't feel particularly purist anti desert person when i cut them out, i think i would achieve the jungle in the desert quicker if i left them in but i could not walk round the garden.
      I like to have some to provide a safe place for birds to nest in.
      I find the ones that live in walls are hard to get rid of but the ones that come up from the ground seem very put off if i cut them down.
    Maybe this is due to the long hot summers, they can't take being cut down and the heat, this may not be true in a less extreme climate.
    I have taken earth back from my garden to use in my pots and the percentage of black berries that grow in it is big, so maybe it is not so much that black berries grow back from their roots as that there tend to be so many blackberry seeds in the soil.
    I sometimes dig up the main part of their roots after cutting them down. 
    I like making myself do a good stretch of phisical work though.
Dave Miller
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

If you don't have equipment or livestock, here is how I get rid of blackberries.  I have tried many methods on my half acre of blackberries, and this is what works best for me (my berries are mostly on an uneven slope).  I will assume that the blackberries are well established, with a typical thickness of 8 feet or so.

- 2 - 2x6 or 2x8 boards that are 10-12 feet long
- Hand hedge shears, well sharpened
- Heavy leather gloves
1.  Decide what you are going to plant to replace the blackberries.  If you don't have a plan for this, there is no point in trying to remove the berries because they will just come back.
2.  The best time to do this is in the early spring, after a winter with lots of ice and/or snow.  The weight of the ice/snow compresses the vines a bit, making the job easier.  I have actually done this during heavy snow, the weight of the snow really helps.
3. At the edge of the berries, lean the board into the vines, trying to make it flat enough to walk on.
4. Walk up the board.  Your weight will compress the vines quite a bit.  You may have to jump up and down a bit to get them to go down.  If this makes you uncomfortable (you feel like you might fall off), use the second board as well, or a single, wider board.  If you are a small person, have a friend stand on the board with you.  The first time you walk up the board it may be quite steep, but after this it will be less steep.
5. Throw the second board on top of the vines a couple of feet from the first board.
6. Step onto or climb up the second board, using your weight to compress the vines.
7. Repeat this process until you have "squashed" all the vines.  If you are on a slope it is obviously easiest to start at the top and work your way down.  Once they are all squashed, you can walk around on top of them.  The more you do this, the more they will be squashed.
7. Using the hedge clippers, cut off the vines as close to the root as possible.  Don't worry about getting all the vines, just get the ones you can easily reach.  If you close the clippers, you can slip the tip down into the vines, open it just enough to get around your target, and chop it.
8.  Wait until the vines start growing.  You will see the vines you missed because they will have new growth.  Cut the vines that have new growth.
9. Wait for the vines to die.  Keep cutting the ones you missed. 
10.  If you are in kind of a hurry and have good upper body strength, at this point the berries will probably be just flat enough that you can pull (not push) a lawnmower over them.  Remove the bag and close the door.  You don't want to blow chunks of blackberry vine into your legs or your face.  The first time you do this it is really hard, but you will get instant gratification from seeing the berries chopped to smithereens.
11. At this point you can either A) keep mowing the resprouts (which is what I do), B) spray or paint the resprouts (which requires very little herbicide),  or C) dig out the roots.  I would only do C) if you are in a big hurry.  If you keep doing any of these methods, the blackberries will eventually lose.  But you will have to be vigilant for a few years to pull, spray or mow the sprouts - the soil is going to be filled with berry seeds, plus animals will aways be dropping more on the site.

Of course this will go much faster if you have friends helping you.  And if you have access to a tractor, bobcat, etc. it will be a piece of cake.

I agree that goats would do the job just fine.  But I don't have goats (I live in town).
paul wheaton
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Earlier this year there was a showing of Sepp Holzer videos in Woodinville.  Five permies were asked to sit at the front as a sort of panel.  It was me, Dave, Albert Posthema, another Paul (a friend of Dave's who hasn't been to and Marilene (she posts here under an alias). 

Somebody asked us what to do to get rid of blackberries. 

And we had five different answers. 

I liked Dave's - throw your apple cores and the like into the blackberry patches.  Eventually the trees will outcompete the blackberries.

Marilene's answer was to pick the blackberries and make pies.  Then arrange with arborists to bring loads of alder wood chips in exchange for pies.  Cut the canes and then cover with 18 inches of wood chips. 

I cannot remember what the other Paul said.  Nor can I remember what Albert said. 

My response was to put a string of electric around the blackberries and then run pigs in there. 

And now ... here comes the good part ... this is me feeding my ego in my obnoxious way ....

A couple of weeks after that event, Sepp Holzer was in town giving a talk.  At the end there was a bit of Q & A and somebody asked this exact question.  His answer:  "put a string of electric around the blackberries and then run pigs in there."

Ahhhhhh .... validation .... 

And then somebody asked what if you don't have pigs?  Sepp said "then you have to do the pigs work!" and went on to the next question.

Susan Monroe
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Goats and donkeys love blackberry vines, and you don't have to chop them down first. 

The trouble is going to be keeping them down.  I think it was in one of Bill Mollison's books where he reported that a farmer had a gully full of wild blackberry plants that he wanted cleaned out.  He threw bales of hay into the gully and gave his cattle access.  They chewed down and trampled the vines while going after the hay.  As soon as he saw the vines coming up again, he threw more hay down there.  After 30 years, he admitted that the blackberries were winning.

paul wheaton
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

While I usually favor sheet mulching over digging, I think blackberries could push past almost any sheet mulch.

I've heard of a lot of people having success by chopping it all down and then putting goats in the area.  Every time a blackberry sprout comes up, the goats gobble it up!

Dave, if you're gonna bring in the machinery, howzabout a bush-hog? 
rachael hamblin
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Ah, that idea about the picks helps a lot.  Does that pretty much take care of things or do they still keep coming up for a while?
Dave Boehnlein
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

A crew of our interns just cleared a strip of blackberries to make room for pear trees. They got in there and whacked away with brush hooks and machetes until the canes were gone. Then they went through with picks and pulled up all the crowns. I think this is the only way I know of to really get the job done. I suppose you could sheet mulch instead of digging crowns, but you'd still need to do the mechanical clearing.

Oh! You could rent a bobcat for an hour and remove them that way too. Plus it trumps Paul's idea of entertaining!
paul wheaton
Post     Subject: Re: clearing blackberries

Far more entertaining to use a machete!

rachael hamblin
Post     Subject: blackberry control

We have a whole strip of yard that is completely inaccessible/unusable due to being choked with blackberries.  I'd like to get it cleared out but don't feel like taking a week chopping at them, which I can imagine would ultimately be pretty futile anyway....I'm tempted to try to burn them out but I can see several problems with this.  Are there other strategies for removing large patches of invasive blackberry?