Getting rid of blackberry?

carlab44(z8 WA)October 3, 2010

We have some blackberry that keeps growing up in the break between a concrete foundation wall and a poured concrete slab. We have been cutting it back, but we can't get to the roots to dig it out since they are deep down under the concrete slab.

We are not ones to use herbicide for anything, but someone said if we cut the stalks and painted it on the stalks it would kill the blackberry and the effect to the environment should be minimal. Thoughts on this? Or other suggestions on how to get rid of it? It is in an area where the kids like to play so we'd really like to get it out of there.


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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Yes, a cut & paint method works well. All you need do is paint onto the cut surface of the stub that remains in the ground.

Even then you will need to repeat as needed. Perhaps for several years.

Lily Miller Blackberry & Brush Killer works well.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 2:53PM
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pippimac(New Zealand)

If you go the glyphosate route, make sure you paint immediately after cutting.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 4:55PM
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Once again there is no glyphosate product acceptable to any organic gardener. Very few of the other plant killers are acceptable either.
If repeated cutting of the top growth has not killed the roots then those roots may be getting nurishment from another part of the plant. Check around for other growth nearby. Denying any plant access to sunlight, by cutting off all the leaves and keepiing therm cut off or covering those leaves with a good mulch, will, eventually, kill the plant because it cannot produce the foods the plant needs to grow.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 6:40AM
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pippimac(New Zealand)

I was remiss in ignoring the obvious organic forum issue.
A pretty reliable way (we're talking blackberry here, so nothing's easy...) is to cut the vine to a shortish stump and tie a thick, black plastic bag around it, right at the base.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 7:11AM
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I vaguely recall hearing at a horticultural lecture that using Roundup against blackberries was an acceptable organic practice. That is, when done by nicking the vines and dabbing the Roundup onto the nicks.
I have no idea whether this is true or not, or even if that is exactly what the speaker meant. But it does seem plausible, even if not true. Does anyone know absolutely whether it is true or not?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 1:31PM
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It would be difficult to consider the use of RoundUp in any form and for any purpose as "organic". It is not a organic product and therefore its use cannot be considered an 'acceptable' organic practice.

The title of the forum aside, removing blackberries - and especially blackberries located in a difficult to remove/treat situation - may not be very successful utilizing strictly organic practices. Blackberries have a number of means of propagating themselves - seeding, rooting stems and the development of underground runners or rhizomes. The sprouts coming up along your concrete slab may very well be connected to a larger, freely growing plant located nearby. If difficult or impossible to remove manually -- and that's tough with blackberries no matter how accessible the growing conditions -- treating directly with a herbicide may be the most practical and efficient method. Both the RoundUp or the Blackberry and Brush Killer would work painted directly on the cut stems. You may need to do repeat applications to get complete control and timing for that is entering a short window of opportunity. Plants should be in active growth for the herbicide to be most effective. Horticultural vinegar (20% concentration) can be effective as well but may or may not be considered organic or even an EPA approved approach.

While it is always best to focus on organic practices when ever possible, it is realistic to understand that they may not always offer the treatment or control we desire. How inclined one is to use these non-organic tools when they may be necessary depends a lot on how dogmatic one's approach to organic is.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 1:52PM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

And here I would kill to get blackberries to grow here and others want to kill them off, go figure.

Southern Nevada

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 2:24PM
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Yes, Greg, that is a bit ironic. If I were to stop maintaining my property within a few years it would become one huge blackberry bramble patch. I have a friend whose large back yard goes down a hillside into a bowl-shaped area. He is no longer able to take care of the property. That bowl-shaped depression is now filled with blackberry so that nothing else is visible beneath it. The scary part is that it seems to continue rising and is approaching the house.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 1:11PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Those of us who have lived in the PacNW/Cascadia know full well what Himalayan blackberry can do, including swallowing outbuildings. If you are strict, missionary-like organic religion, then you likely will be sad trying to get rid of blackberry. Get on top of it now, and when birds bring in more, react ASAP.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 8:26AM
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I have not had to use anything not acceptable to any organic gardener/farmer to keep Blackberries from growing, simply keep them cut so no leaves were around to provide the nutrients those roots needed to live was enough to eliminate them. No sprays, no poisons, just mechanical cutting.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 6:38AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

You would be singing a different tune if you lived near the OP, kimmsr. Travel out there and see for yourself. Worse than kudzu, because of the prickles. No brainer for Cascadians.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 10:08AM
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kimmsr, I currently live in northwest WA state and prior to this, lived in Michigan. No offense intended, but considering you have not had to deal with Himalayan blackberry in the PNW, you really don't understand the difficulty of the situation. Himalayan blackberries are a different beast than the wild blackberries that grow in Michigan, plain and simple.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 2:25PM
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I lived and gardened in Washington for a while and still correspond with organic gardeners/farmers there regularly. I do not know if the blackberries we worked on when I was there were "Himalyan" or not but those I correspond telll me that even today the best way to organically eliminate the wild blackberries is to keep the canes cut so the roots eventually starve.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 7:25AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I did that, kimmsr, on 10 acres I rented, in a patch along a drainage ditch. It is an incredible amount of work over more than one season, and I never finished as I moved to Colo. "Eventually" is the key term. Not to mention birds re-seeding the area now that the ground sees sunlight.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 9:03AM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

If it was on several acres like that I would think maybe mowing and putting goats on them would help in keeping the briers in check

But the op asked about a small spot in maybe if you cut them back and dig out every thing that you can with a knife or screwdriver then make that completely covered up with caulking if its a small crack or with something like a sheet of plywood if its a larger area

Unless your concrete slab is certified organic there is no reason you can't use some round up also but I would still eliminate growing conditions as blackberries hit with roundup tend to come back the next year and the next year...

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 7:58PM
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For those of you not familiar with our brand of blackberries, here a link.

Here is a link that might be useful: click on the picture for the best view Greg :)

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 9:47PM
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The problem with our blackberries and ivy taking over any spot not under strict control by the landowner, is the disruption and elimination of native plants and wildlife.

In addition, our native plants have deep taproots that hold the clay soil where it belongs... keeping the sides of hills and mountains in place. Blackberries and ivy do not do this. Come the winter rains there will be dramatic news footage of more homes sliding down off the side of the hills after a really big rain. These are well engineered homes, with a lack of weed control among other maintenance problems. Oddly as I watch each one over the years and note all the blackberries and ivy right there for all to see in full color, this fact is never mentioned. ^sigh^

As to cutting them to the ground, yes I've spent the last almost 30 years working that theory for that years select batch. Trouble is to do it correctly, one would need to patrol every couple of hours almost year round. They grow as long as there's no snow. Snow days if and when we have them are generally about three days, sometimes a week if we're lucky. One would think the growth would be predictable to an experienced gardener.. but that's just not so. I'm often surprised at a flush of growth found upon coming home from work and checking my previous evenings work.

I've dug and chopped and dug some more all these years. Keep in mind the only way to dig these is with a pick ax. And any minuscule bit left behind , hidden deeply.. will come back to haunt you when lest expected. Perhaps a piece of property with no existing plantings would make things easier. But what happens here is the sneaker blackberries that hide under and in my other plants, their roots intertwined with the plants I want there.

Sooner or later most all of my plants have been lifted , the weed roots un-twined and the poor plants replaced. Sadly that's not always the end of that particular one..but it might be. Bigger trouble is the roots holding on to tree or shrub roots and fence posts. Those were always my targets on the constant cutting back. Mostly a fail.

Things got out of control here some years back when I became to ill to garden. That lasted about three years , and I did manage to get out enough to use my hedge shears to cut paths and try to keep any from flowering, though unfortunately I did loose access to the south side of my house due to the speed of the stickers growing there. Mind you, when this started there were only the few, here and there existing plants , all kept close to the ground.

It's been awhile now, and my concern is after a few years now of actively fighting with this, plus the ivy , morning glory ( gone ! ) , and nightshade ( gone !). My concern is the future. I'm older and tired. Really tired of it. Control has to happen now while I am able. Please don't me end up being one of those old ladies with the house obstructed by plants, with only the path to the front door showing.

As a community we have to keep these in check.

I have finally broken down and purchased the Roundup. :(
Tried painting it on fresh cuts.. bad idea.. it drips. Newspaper funnel around targeted area and spray. If the temp goes up the chemicals volatilize and not only smell, but affect susceptible plants. Grapes seem to be the first ones to show the effects. And I'm locked inside waiting for things to clear, feeling terrible.

I seem to have found a workable solution.

That's a little plastic vial used by florists to keep a single flower fresh. I've filled it with the concentrated Roundup, and learned in time the best system to choose and cut the blackberry vine. The vine need to be not too young and not to old and thick to fit in the rubber stopper of the vile. It needs a clean, slanted cut and a couple of the closest spines very carefully sliced off, both to fit in the top, but also to provide additional surface to uptake the Roundup. Vine has to be placed in such a manner as to not bend enough to get an angle that stops the flow back to the roots.. it needs to very gently hang down or be supported carefully and solidly so night critters don't bump into it, thus breaking that flow back.
Smaller vines once is enough, then depending on the age of the plant, I sometimes need to do additional branches the next week. It takes persistence, but so far this is the best I've come up with.

Sorry 'bout the tl dr.. youv' found a passionate topic of mine. All these years I really though I could do this without poison. :(

Here is a link that might be useful: Local explanation of the weed plant problem

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 10:42PM
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The use of glyphosates is anathema to any organic gardener/farmer. Using glyphosates means one is not an organic gardener/farmer.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 7:27AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I guess the organic farmer just gets buried under acres of canes then. Ah well. That's just the way it has to be! Far better to lose production and ecosystem function, yessir!

Plaidbird, that's a clever idea. I like it a lot.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 10:19AM
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That's okay Kimmer, I traded in my organic gardener badge this summer for a "once again responsible community member" badge. Although... the vast majority of my garden is still organic and has been since my house was built in about 1891. The battle lines are all on the perimeter, with six adjoining properties.

Interestingly enough, as I traded in that old high horse, I became car free by choice this summer. With that the planet is still in better shape. Still needing the high horse step stool though. ;)

We all do the best we can.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 1:54PM
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I really appreciate the support, especially coming from someone like you. There are trade offs in life no matter what we do and this seems to at least solve the drip and vapor part of the problem using glyphosates.

Sure this is tedious,but with enough practice now, it is sure. I found useing my old budding knife and cutting the stem end as if doing a hardwood cutting is the final trick that increased the success rate.

Plus.. it's very rain proof !

Thanks again for the comment.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 2:05PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

If I steal the idea and someone asks me about it, I've bookmarked this thread for a citation. ;o)


    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 2:44PM
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Because one opts for a much more effective and efficient approach than simply "cutting back the canes" and uses the occasional chemical herbicide on pernicious weeds like Himalayan blackberries, English ivy, Japanese knotweed or horsetails should not necessarily negate one's inclination to being an organic gardener. As much as we'd all like the world to be black and white, it is filled with shades of gray and when you come right down to it, organic practices don't always cut the mustard. Does that mean you cannot be considered an organic gardener if you opt for a more successful alternate process that is not organically approved? I don't think so :-)

This does not have to be an either/or situation unless you are growing organically for the consumer market and require certification. For the home hobby gardener, the occasional use of something like RoundUp, done under adherence to all label directions, can be a godsend under circumstances like trying to remove these weeds, which simply do not respond well to manual control. We should all exercise some tolerance and understand that this is not a perfect world. There is a philosophy behind organic gardening that should make any attempt - no matter how slight - towards less environmentally disruptive methods acceptable and deviations, as they might become necessary, understood and also accepted.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 5:35PM
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That's great. Spread the word and I'll hope for future tips and improvements to the idea from others. As gardeners we are a creative group, so I'm sure with this starting point we can still do better.

I just happened onto another web site with one of my curiosity clicks, and see they claim these darn things grow 20 feet in a season. Seems like too little to me. Maybe they're only counting how far one plant goes in only one direction ? If a plant grows 20 feet north for example..I'm pretty sure it will most likely think of going east, west, and probably south too !

Anyway.. I' adding the link because it mentions a possible rust that they've found on some blackberries. See at the bottom of the page.

Here is a link that might be useful: ODA Plant Division, Noxious Weed Control

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Hi neighbor. :)

Very well stated:

>>>We should all exercise some tolerance and understand that this is not a perfect world. There is a philosophy behind organic gardening that should make any attempt - no matter how slight - towards less environmentally disruptive methods acceptable and deviations, as they might become necessary, understood and also accepted. This reminds me very much of writing by Steve Soloman.
For those of you unfamiliar with him, this is from a newer book blurb:

About the Author
Steve Solomon is a well-known west coast gardening guru, and author of five previous books. The founder of Territorial Seed Company, he has taught Master Gardener and Urban Farm classes at the University of Oregon in Eugene. His book, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades has appeared in five editions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon link to: Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 10:52PM
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carlab44(z8 WA)

Wow, I wasn't expecting this many responses! (and sorry that I haven't checked in awhile - life with two young kids).

Anyway, I can definitely say I am more than familiar with digging blackberry. I spent 4 years working for an environmental non-profit in Seattle and much of what we did was restore stream banks (which of course first meant removing blackberry and/or knotweed by the root). I may just need to be more on top of this small patch and keep cutting it back. It is likely small enough to manage this way, its more an issue of me remembering to get out and continually cut it back. I do, however, like the idea of using the little gardening vial and may have to resort to that. Luckily this isn't near any other plantings (is in a back corner near our alley).

And these conversations about the rampant and invasive blackberry always make me think of the Tom Robbins book Still Life with Woodpecker and the idea of planting blackberry on all the roofs of Seattle to create a sort of fortress.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 5:09PM
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I thought the peat moss & earth worms threads were bad.
The pine straw/oak leaves- pH compost thing was bad.
This Black berry is over the top.
You may all go the organic garden H&!! for using roundup or Lily miller.
Well I have been fighting wild garlic, Bahia grass & dew berries( low growing black berries).
With out herbicide.
I am going to try the clear Plastic first, then try cutting with lawn mower, maybe fire, before giving up hope.
With 1600 square feet of beds to keep the weeds out. It is hard to start on the new beds(for asparagus).
If I find a magic bullet that is not herbicide, I will start a thread/w photos.
If you never hear from me again.......... the weeds pulled me under!!!!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 3:41AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I am reminded of a time about 20 years ago when I had a Landscape Architect from a good firm in the Boston area give me a consultation about designing our 1/4 acre property. I love blackberries and wanted to include growing them. He thought I could include them if I was also willing to install concrete barriers poured all around the blackberry patch. (g) I forget how deep he said it would have to be to contain the blackberries. Needless to say, I got his point and I didn't include blackberries.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 6:20AM
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Well, I'm killing my New England variety blackberries by cutting them to ground level last fall, then covering the area---about 10'x20'---with newspaper, seaweed, hay, and straw. If it starts to break through, I'll spot mulch it until it's gone. This blackberry came from my cousin's yard next door, and I ignored it for years, but this year I'm going to devote some time and material to it and I'm going to cut it down in his yard and just be vigilant.

People always say, "Oh, you have no idea the perniciousness of the weeds we have in such and such a place and maybe that's true, or maybe people just don't mulch adequately. I'm with kimmsr in being baffled how plants deprived of sunlight survive.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 3:22PM
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A very nice man has offered to sale me a pair of goat.
This may be what I need.
The ten acres are outside of any Township, so no problem there.
Now to find some piglets at a good price.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 8:31PM
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I live in the PNW. Himalayan Blackberries are definitely a problem. They are invasive. Nothing like wild trailing blackberries. That being said, I still let them grow, and even tip root them and replant them. Why would you cut down a plant that grows food without any care at all? They are amazing in pancakes and other things. You'll never really get rid of it. You can however temporarily keep it in check.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 8:55PM
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New to this world. Just bought my first house and it has some "cute" blackberry bushes gradually taking over the back of the yard. I am not an organic purist, but I also would prefer not to blast lilly miller as the guy in the hardware store recommended (have kids who play in the yard, plus I try to do right by Mother Nature). So trimming and point poisoning may be my tactic (or follow Plaid bird's approach, but I can't quite figure it out yet as I have never tended a garden). In any case, how should I go about simply cutting the brush? It's terribly thorny (pricked my finger grabbing one silly berry the other day - I swear the stem reached out to me to avenge its berry) and full of spiders. I'm not scared of them, just don't want to be pricked and bitten all over. So what do I need? What gloves, overalls, shears, flamethrower should I get?
Many thanks, Renegau.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 5:20AM
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Renegau: You might try a "Berry hook".
It cuts the berry canes close to the ground. Use in right hand while you hold the top of the cane with your left or vice versa.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:28PM
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please do not use herbicides,here in the uk I made a tool and hope there is a market in the states? have a look for yourself it does as it says on the tin

Here is a link that might be useful: Himalayan Blackberry root lifter

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 3:46AM
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It is ironic but your blackberry is a prised plant elsewhere in the world and it treats a number of diseases like hormonal imbalances, infertility, cancer, blood clotting... as you grow older you might begin to appreciate the virtues of blackberry leaf tea or alcoholic extract. Some people use its raw leaves to help stop the progress of their cancer on them or their pets. Because your plant is so "obstinate", it is a healthy and powerful plant. Pity you have to kill it

Hope you don't end up regretting that you did not use it to treat your family.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 1:06AM
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