Clearing Blackberries

Blackberries, while delicious and great for jam, has its drawbacks.

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Any berry has the opportunity to get out of control. They spread by lateral roots underground, can take root when another vine touches the ground, or by seed courtesy of hungry birds. New growth can establish from a cut piece of root or cane. There are many varieties of blackberries, some even thornless, but the kind you find “in the wild” are most likely the Himalayan variety. In Northern California you find road sides and abandoned lots filled with massive banks of sharp, thorny canes. While the berries are delicious, they are fast growing and horribly invasive, and they can quickly take over a yard. One square yard can have as many as 500 canes growing.

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Our house came with approximately 2,000 square feet of solid blackberry brambles. There are also smaller clumps scattered throughout the property. At some point, perhaps when the house was being prepped for sale, someone attempted to clear them, but only made maybe a 20 foot dent, and left the giant pile of canes in the middle of yard. So not only did we have a mess of thriving new growth, ancient canes from god knows when, but also a pile of (thankfully) dead, spiny sticks.

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We are unsure of what we are doing with most of the property, and taking time to observe sun patterns and where the water goes, but one thing is for certain: the blackberries need to come out. So the past weekends have been filled with blackberry removal efforts.

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First weekend was digging out the new growth that had taken over the path. Its important to get the roots so they don’t grow back.

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It doesn’t help that our ground is solid adobe clay. Which is very, very hard. We called quits on this phase of blackberry removal when Matt broke his shovel. 

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The next weekend was spent dealing with the pile of dead vines. As the daughter of an arborist, many of my weekends as a kid were spent acting as ground crew for my dad’s tree jobs. I’m excellent at dragging brush, and can jump down a load in the back of a truck like a champ! After a very full load, the pile is almost gone. 

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This last weekends project was to get a section cleared to the corner of our neighbors fence. The East side of our property line is dead straight, and borders 3 parcels. There is a fence on the first, but open for the back two. We desperately need to erect a fence to keep Gaia and the chickens in, and the front neighbor had her line surveyed, so we will be using the fence from the front parcel as the guide of the property line. But first we had to get to the back corner of it.

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Turns out we also have access to her pear tree, which she told us we were welcome to if we could ever reach it, and the 2nd parcel has a dilapidated fence, set back about a foot from the line, with lots of crap behind it.

So if you need me, I’ll be in the back yard chopping up berry vines. If you see me and I’m covered in bruises and scratches, don’t be alarmed!

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7 thoughts on “Clearing Blackberries

  1. Wow! I must say I’m jealous of your landscaping woes — brambles, thorns and all. Good luck getting it all out and taming the edibles. So much better when you can walk through without getting grabbed and scratched.

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