Felicia Feaster

Why in the world would someone want to banish a berry? This is the height of berry season after all, when picking, baking and accessorizing our cereal and ice cream with berries is a near-fetish among summer fruit-loving types.

But berries can also have a dark side. Like that delicious salted caramel ice cream you can’t get enough of until you realize you’ve added 10 pounds to your frame, when it comes to berries they can be too much of a good thing. Blackberry brambles have a tendency to go a little loco: wild blackberries can regenerate from the crown or rhizomes even after herculean efforts are taken to destroy the plants. You will definitely have your work cut out for you: wild blackberry bushes can live for more than 25 years. That avidity can suddenly take a garden — and gardener by surprise. You can try burning. You can try mowing. And you can even try bulldozing. But unless you take the right approach, like a slasher movie monster, your berry brambles will keep coming back. Again. And again. And again.

Here’s my advice for nipping those bossy berries in the bud:

1. Till until you can’t till anymore.

Just tilling once will only fragment and spread the underground stems called rhizomes around. But if you keep on keeping on, eventually you will tire these resilient suckers out.

2. Get herbicidal on them.

Glyphosate (Round-up) and triclopyr (Brush-Be-Gone) can be effective, if you follow some ground rules:

*Don’t spray when fruit is present. You don’t want anyone eating your herbicide-zapped fruit. You also don’t want to hit them when the plants are drought-plagued or otherwise stressed and shut down, meaning the herbicides won’t do their necessary work.

*After the initial herbicide treatment, hit the sprouts that pop up next year with more herbicide to make sure they don’t get any ideas about a second wind.

*You’ll want to use the herbicide when the most sugars are flowing to the plants’ root system. In first-year canes apply herbicide in late summer. In second-year or a combination of first and second-year canes, apply herbicide in early fall.

3. Remove by hand

Hard-working organic gardeners recommend hand-pulling of the brambles down to the root system to make sure you get every bit of the plant out of the ground. This can be a long and arduous process. Wear thick gloves, long pants — maybe even goggles if the plants are particularly tall — and plan on continuing to pull up any sprouts that pop up for some time.

4. Get a goat.

Many homesteaders swear by these critters for getting rid of pernicious plants.

8 Comments About this Article

  • Saami Powell
    Don't chop them up, each root section becomes a new plant (a la Disney's "The Sorcerers Apprentice".). Poisons only spread in the soil, killing friendlies like fruit trees, rose bushes or vegetables (yes, even the new-fangled spread-on-leaf varieties). The most sensible response is to dig them out, as cutting them at ground level only gives the sprouts waiting under the soil an opportunity to rise like Jason in the "Friday the 13th" movies. Be sensible when you dig them out, don't get so enraptured with the concept that you wind up having dug trenches through your garden, several of your neighbours gardens, under an "M" road or three and off into the wilds of Cumbria. Just dig out what you find beneath your garden, any 'nexus' rhizomes should be removed, these will be at a depth, so prepare for some hard labour. Any spur roots from the 'nexus' should be followed and removed permanently. Chop up the remaining roots that feed into the 'nexus' from beneath, paint these with glysophates and cover thoroughly.

    Posted 6 months ago

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  • Patricia N.
    I have a well, so I don't want to use and herbicides. I guess I will be doing a lot of digging for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the blackberries are coming from an empty wooded area next door, so they keep sneaking over from there. I don't really want to clean up land that doesn't belong to me. My husband's solution is to just keep mowing them down; I believe in digging them out. Thanks you, Saami, for your input; I have something to show my husband about the benefits of digging the plants out.

    Posted 2 months ago

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  • David Dedick
    Roundup (which is made of Glyphosate) becomes inert once it contacts soil. It is a great broad spectrum weed controller and an enviromentalists dream come true.

    Posted 1 month ago

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  • Rick Stonehouse
    Roundup is banned in several, if not all provinces in Canada. Only licensed professional may use it, and only with certain application techniques and with enough adequate warning (intent to use) for neighbours to voice objections. As well, Roundup and WeedBGone and their kind are extremely hazardous to humans if ingested or inhaled. You could seriously be getting a lot more grief legally or heath-wise than you bargained for. Educate yourselves on the use of herbicides in your area.

    Posted 1 month ago

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  • Rick Stonehouse
    Just because major stores sell products like Roundup doesn't mean you can use them...at least in Canada. As an associate from Home Depot and one from Kents pointed out, it's not illegal for us to make money from selling it so we will continue to do so.

    Posted 1 month ago

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  • David Dedick
    Thanks Rick. Back in the late 80's I did a second job as a gardener. This necessitated getting a pesticide/herbicide applicators license through the Ministry of the Environment. My above comments are based on the subject as I learned it at that time. I am no longer in the business and don't use these products at all. I am curious though ... could you recommend an objective website (or link to one) that documents the hazardousness of the Glyphosate? I would like to educate myself.

    Posted 1 month ago

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  • Christine M. Simoneau
    get a llama, I did and it took about a year but the primroses, blackberry brambles and honey suckle were all gone, goats ate my apple trees and disconnected my telephone lines more than they did anything else and these were "brush goats" . Llamas are quiet and persistent, they continualy eat the leaves off till the plant dies, they did go in the pond and ate my cattails too but that was a small price to pay.

    Posted 1 week ago

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  • Saami Powell
    I don't have a property big enough to support a llama, however, if you replant and fence in your projects the llamas will respect it as far as their necks can reach. I have been using glysophates with limited siccess, as it appears that when threatened the bramble produces more extensions. Also weeds that grow from roots up into the garden, the roots have to be dug out. Glysophates go down the root to the main junction and then seem to lose their effectiveness. Also, the gels rub off on vegetables, killing them and the sprays atomise and carry on the breeze, again affecting the vegetables. Careful application and only applying when the beds are fallow seems to be the only workable solution. Even this is experimental. I still haven't found a workable solution for when the beds are growing vegetables. I have taken one sprig and I am trailing along a fence, cutting off anything growing toward the fence and leaving for th current year any branches that come off towards the garden, in effect confining it to my desires. Again, experimental. Stay tuned for further updates.

    Posted 1 week ago

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