Blackberries: Fight them, or learn to live with them?

peachymomo(Ca 8)April 25, 2011

I have a very healthy blackberry patch along the far end of my backyard, I have a feeling the neighbors on the other side of the fence may be watering them because they stay healthy and green all summer. We've cut them back yearly to keep them in check, but I want to landscape the backyard and I'm trying to figure out a long term plan. I don't think we can eradicate them because no matter what we do they will continue to encroach from the neighbor's side of the fence. The worst part about the whole thing is that they don't get enough sun to produce a lot of fruit, so we have all the negatives without the positive!

I've decided the theme for the backyard design will be 'woodland meadow' and I want to plant natives and other low water plants that will need little care or water once they are established. I want to leave the open space open, plant it with meadow grasses and stuff, and plant a nice green screen around the edges to give the illusion that the backyard is a clearing in a forest instead of backing up against other houses. But is there anything that can compete with those blackberries? Will I have to continue to cut them back every year, or are there some things that will eventually get strong enough that they won't need my help to survive? The area is part shade/mostly shade, you can see in the pic where there is more sun because the blackberries are larger. There is a hose in the back so it won't be hard to water things until they are established.

Right now there is an old rabbit hutch near the back fence, we don't raise rabbits and I want to remove it and put some other kind of focal point there. Originally I wanted a mix of plants that would give four seasons of interest. But after fighting the blackberries and looking at that old hutch for a couple of years I'm thinking a good looking shed might be better, like one made to look like a rustic forest cabin maybe?

Here's a pic, I would like the new focal point to go on the right of the little oak tree instead of the left, and I want it to be big enough to block the view of at least some of that blue building.

The oak trees branches are a few feet away from the fence at the closest point, I know that it is bad to plant things under oaks and I want to keep my oaks healthy, but I hope that I can squeeze a couple of things between them and the fence to cover up views of my neighbor's stuff.

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I have a patch but it is all in my yard. Fall and Winter I fight to keep it the size I want. Then I enjoy the fruit. If it weren't for the fact that there is a fence, you could undoubtedly remove the patch. But with a fence new shoots will always ramble over into your yard.
It is not all that hard to keep a patch under is not enjoyable, but it is doable. It is a job you could hire out. You could stop it at the fence line and maybe even snack on the fence fruit. You gotta admire the perserverance of blackberry bushes. They never stop.
Oak leaves make great mulch for blackberry plants. My patch is near a big oak as well. That's some nice property you have. Take time and make your plans.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 7:31PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Would it be feasible to install a barrier below the soil line to prevent the berries from coming back on your side? This page provides an answer to that question that may help you.

We grew raspberries once, they spread so fast and so far outside the box it was scary. We don't have a large "back 40" so can't afford the space to let berries ramble and invade other parts of the yard... which is too bad because it would be nice to have a source of nutrient-rich raspberries always at our fingertips.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 10:29PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Most of the blackberries that are a nuisance in California are from some imported from India a hundred years ago and spread by birds all over the coastal area. Here I spray them with brush killer where I can spray without killing other plants. The rest must be rooted out. With plenty of blackberries in neighboring properties they are constantly being replanted. Don't let them get too well established or you may have to hire a crew to take them out. Al

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:57PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I was thinking it might be fun to temporarily fence off that back portion and hire some goats to eat all of the blackberries : )

That is another reason I'm hesitating about planting ornamentals back there, once I have plants that I want to keep I wouldn't be able to use goats as landscapers anymore... But I think having a pretty collection of plants to look at instead of that blue building would be worth the work.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 11:43AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Your yard is a dream. I can perfectly imagine your vision of a meadow, a clearing in the forest! I think the shed/cottage should go exactly where the hutch is- not straight back in the middle. Maybe even on a diagonal, out toward the center of the yard just a tad bit more.

This is one of those rare situations where I believe chemical warfare is called for. I would spray those berries this spring like crazy and then dig a two-foot deep trench across the back of the yard next to the fence and either leave it open, so the berries have trouble crossing it, or even better, put Bamboo Guard in the trench and fill it back in. Then you can plant tall native shrubs across the back of your property in a sweeping arc from your shed to the other side. No more maintenance!

Mikey and I buried bamboo guard last year and it was a pain in the butt, but it has the added benefit of keeping the gophers out of our yard.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 2:03PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Renee, you better keep your fingers crossed. Gophers have no problem going under a bamboo guard. Al

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 9:40AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Sounds like the general consensus is 'fight them!' : ) I'm okay with that, it's a nasty chore but it'll be worth it.

Thank you Renee, I love the idea of knocking back the blackberries and then putting in a trench, I didn't even know there was such a thing as Bamboo Guard - now I have to find some. I'm so glad you like my idea for a forest meadow themed back yard, it's a natural fit for the place and I couldn't think of anything else. Plus, the dog will love it. Now that you've pointed out that the shed would look better off center I remembered that lesson from my long ago art/photography classes, thanks for reminding me!

Thanks, everyone! In a few years when the project is done I will post pictures so you can see what it looks like ; )

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 10:02AM
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Dan Staley

Use the canes you cut to put out where the neighborhood cats walk: top of the fence, front flower beds...


    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 10:03AM
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