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Managing Himalaya berries and other canes with a hedge cutter

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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My new Stihl cordless hedge cutter is the best machine that I've ever used for cutting down canes. The guard teeth have a little nib, which prevents the material from being spit out.

Most of the area in the photographs was cut last year. About 600 square feet of new area we're cleared this year. I spent 15 minutes, touching up the area that was done last year. It was all done in one hour. Part of this was cutting very long, stringy grass that was close to wire fencing. This was an exceptionally heavy grove of Himalaya berry. On an open site where walkways and fences are not an issue, I could see making production of up to 2,000 square feet in an hour. This will not eliminate the berries, but it will cut all of them into mulch and expose them for root removal. If the same area where hit several times in one summer, the plants would be greatly weakened.

Rather than cutting  the canes at ground level, I begin cutting them up high and then slice through the cane approximately every 4 to 6 inches. This leaves a mulch which does not need to be cleaned up.

 I have one of those gas powered weed wackers with a circular saw at the tip. These machines sling material everywhere and they can be quite dangerous. After the material is cut, there's a big mess to be cleaned up. The far safer and quieter electric machine is superior for this task.

This doesn't completely eliminate Himalaya berries or other canes, but it does make them quite manageable and it exposes the base of the plants, which would allow removal with a mattock if complete removal is desired.
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This pathway was completely grown
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A week after cutting soft new growth may poke above the dry leaves
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The berry bushes continue right to the waterline. I dropped the berries but leave the native bushes.
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Now my customers have a clear view of the water.
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This duck chose a very secluded nesting location. I left a little clu mp and piled some debris around it. The nest is made of last year's cuttings
 
Dale Hodgins
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The rounded nibs prevent canes from being spit out.

If you are looking to eradicate berries, they need to be cut just before your driest season. Allow the cut portions to roast in the sun for a few weeks, before gathering them to a compost pile of their own. Cover this pile with a tarp and with some leaves or other material to prevent light from reaching the canes. If mixed with some manure, they break down just fine.
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Dale Hodgins
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Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I've cut and pasted my comments from another thread.
.....
Salmonberries occupied 20000 square feet of my best soil. All of it was dealt with using a hedge cutter.

It would be best to fence grazing animals on to the space once the initial clearing is done. They prevent regrowth.

I manage all pathways at the farm, using the same machine. Loppers are used to cut larger branches, but the bulk of it can be done with a hedge cutter. It is vastly faster than running around with a hook knife or any other human-powered tool.
.....
For best single season results, without the help of grazing animals, do your first cut in the spring. Canes cut easier when they are damp. I often plan this sort of work for just after a rain. After being cut in the spring the plants will quickly put up new growth. Cut this just before your dry season. Rake it all up during the heat of late summer. Continue cutting new growth. Once the initial cutting and gathering is complete a fit person should be able to manage more than 10,000 square feet in one day. Every cutting weakens the plant and reduces the vigor of new growth.

In some cases a lawn mower could be used to continue the process. On rough ground, a string trimmer might work better.

Once you've headed down the road to eradication, it's important to continue. Don't allow them to get 3 feet high and store away more energy.

Something dense and easy to kill, like buckwheat can be planted amongst the stumps of nearly dead canes.

In British Columbia, blackberries tend to grow in the same areas as big leaf maple. Berry groves stop once they get to the dense shade of these trees. Therefore, this is an ideal spot to compost berry canes. There isn't enough light for them too take off and compete with the trees.
 
K Putnam
Posts: 189
Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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Dale, genius, my hero. Let me opine on how happy I am at the moment.

I just dug out the cheapo Black and Decker trimmer designed for small hedges in Seattle and cleared about a 15X15, not too overgrown section. This hedge trimmer is too wimpy to deal with big canes, but the ability to de-limb the canes without having to do it by hand with a lopper...total game changer. I'm more than happy to get in there with the big canes and lop them apart, but what a difference. I do have a metal blade for my weedwhacker, but I have found it far too scary to really commit to using. I'm a strong woman, but I find a gas-powered weedwhacker can drag me around with just the plastic twine...much less a metal blade.

I have about 1/3 of an acre of blackberries and my previous efforts to deal with them has invariably resulted in me seriously throwing out my back. So, the roots have to stay. Any proud owner of a himalayan blackberry patch knows it is about management, not winning. Having an easy way to knock them back over and over again is exactly what I need. They can stay forever in Zone 5 and let mother nature figure out how to deal with them, but I'll be dead before that happens, so I need a way to deal with them on the rest of the property. If my little, crappy trimmer can do this well, a more serious one might be in order down the road. My tool budget has been exhausted this year, so the little B&D and I are going to be out there doing what we can.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Posts: 645
Location: Longbranch, WA
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I was able to get a hedge trimmer attachment for my Stihl kombi unit on ebay. My observation matches yours. Whereas the the spinning blade would deflect the vine rather than cut through it unless it was at right angle the hedge trimmer will grab vines at a wide angle and cut through. My blade does not have the curved knob but equal length teeth. This has been advantageous with sawing through larger vines. I find it is more efficient to switch to the circular blade when I get down to one or two feet from the ground. I have been using my special order Meadow Creature Broadfork to dig up the crowns. I posted a picture of one in the scotchbroom thread.

The hedge trimmer also works great for pruning the grapevines. This time of year I need to cut the growing tips back for best production and to keep them from growing up the trees. Now I can just walk along with the trimmer set vertical [it has an articulating head] to trim them back to a uniform width then flip the blade 90 degrees and walk back cutting the height at an even 8 feet. I have two former fence lines that I train the Himalayas the same as my other berries. They need the tips pruned back in the late winter when they try to tip root.
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Hymalayan crown exposed with hedge trimmer and cut flush with circular blade
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Yes, the combination of tools sounds good.

I use the long reach Stihl equipment on grape vines, blackberries, grapes and clematis. I can reach 14 and a half feet high with the long reach hedge cutter and 18 feet with the long reach pole saw. I bought this equipment primarily for tree and hedge work, but it has proved handy for managing all sorts of invasives.
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