As most of what I post is simply sharing my experiences, after a day of hunting down and removing the top portions of Rubus Armeniacus
) I thought I'd share what I've learned. And, while listening to the Home Orchard Society's
own Vice President, Glen Andresen
(Glen hosts â€œThe Dirtbag,â€ heard every second Monday at 10:30 a.m. on KBOO 90.7 FM, and tends his bees on a three-quarter acre organic garden at a retreat in Eagle Creek. He also coordinates Metroâ€™s Natural Gardening Program) ... a caller had asked about removing blackberries... After a(nother) long day of the same, here's what I've found:
They're downright dangerous!
And it's most often the 'dead' canes that will get you. Cuts on my arms don't bother me that much, but when they get near my eyes (without eye protection - not smart) I take them more serious. I've battled these nasty things for years, though I've enjoyed their fruit even longer... The problem is, a little bit go a long long way - I've seen houses engulfed by them! Having purchased and reclaimed two bordering acres worth, I've come to know them well. A rental bulldozer tore through the original 8 foot high mass, followed by 20 years of continued fighting. Though they'll reseed in my orchard & garden, I'm mainly battling them among my reclaimed woods of 15 to 20 year old mixed evergreen trees.
My Brother tried digging his out by hand, me too. But you can break a shovel handle, its metal blade, or your back in the process; and with me - they won!
Plan B: Spray (actually, "Plan A" had been the bulldozer - quite effective!). Who 'likes' spray? As a longtime reader of Mother Earth News
... I certainly didn't, so I went very easy. Having removed the bulk of their canes, I did what was recommended - planted trees. Supposedly, they'll eventually shade them out... and it's working ...slowly. But if you don't kill the BB's roots, they come back as if simply pruned.
With a 6 gallon (heavy) back-pack sprayer filled with the always-changing mix rate of either Crossbow
, I've made many a call to the dealer to find out just what their 'current' mix rate for Himalayan BB's was? I also keep a calculator on my workbench to see I don't mess up the ratio and mix anything too strong... Which spray do I prefer? The closer I get to my orchard, the more I'll shift to Roundup - supposedly it's less toxic
. I've a neighbor convinced you can safely drink it! ...though I havenâ€™t dared her! (anyone remember Libby?) Crossbow's been cheaper, and most people recommend it for Himalayan BBâ€™s. Occasionally I'll mix the two, if going after Poison Oak as well. In days gone by I'd mix in some diesel, supposedly it helps it 'stick,' or penetrate...
My first mistake was to follow the suggestion that â€œyou should spray it in Marchâ€ - try finding 3 or 4 consecutive dry days in March ...I know, supposedly you only need a few hours for it to 'work,' but I've always noticed it more effective the drier and warmer it stayed. And that recommendation came from our Extension Service... it still may? My
desire to hit it early was to avoid the not-yet-emerged indigenous 'forest plants.' But you can dodge them with direct spray and watch the wind direction for mist drift. I'm now hitting the BBâ€™s at my convenience! Itâ€™s also been suggested I spray them in Fall, â€œWhile they're sucking in nutrients." But as far as I'm concerned they're taking in nutrition via their leaves all Summer; so why wait until they've covered more ground?
Here's what I did and learned yesterday: Their still sharp! As mentioned - even the dead ones! They're sneaky too - often running under the grass and sending up 'fruiting canes' from their hidden runners. There's always a main root nodule - but - there's likely a root at the end of each runner. Meaning, if you smugly sever their cane at its most obvious base, they can continue to feed themselves from the other end! Don't let them!
The first thing I do after severing the main cane (pure satisfaction!) is drag its entire length from the trees, grass or brush until the rooted end pops out -- or I can see its not attached. Whenever I go after these things I try to wear my thickest and 'tallest' leather gloves. I've a pair designed for work on a sawmill 'green-chain;' they've extra long cuffs that guard my wrists, and extremely thick and well stitched leather to protect from fast moving slivers. Though my shorter (ordinary) leather gloves work too, I'm just a bit more careful to keep my (Goodwill military) shirt jacket sleeves buttoned up. And as mentioned... goggles or safety glasses would be wise.
Now's a great
time to find and extract their runners. At the base of every rooted cane stands this years new (cane) growth - just one â€“ but it's size denotes the roots vigor. Itâ€™s gratifying to pull them straight up and out, and theyâ€™re still fairly tender. But I use them mainly to locate the base plant, or cane. Look close around the new shootâ€™s base for its original cane or runner, it's there. Using thick leather gloves pull it up and follow it to the end -- where you'll likely find it's rooted again - with perhaps another new cane emerging from there! Now if it's hidden among foliage it's likely sending up fruiting canes
, they look just like the base canes and sprout along the length of the previous seasonâ€™s growth. Don't bother with them - you want the rooted ends!
â€¦Once you've severed them - everything in-betweenâ€™s history.
Itâ€™s amazing how the cane tips will begin to turn into roots as the weather cools in Fall. Anywhere they touch the ground theyâ€™ll root! As the winter progresses this root mass continues to develop; though itâ€™s more easy pulled up. And since theyâ€™re an â€˜evergreen,â€™ theyâ€™re always growing â€“ how else can they ultimately root in Madagascar?
Now I was working in the woods, if you're looking at a decades worth of dead canes, 8 feet high - with new ones on top, itâ€™s daunting! But you've got
to remove the bulk, either with a bulldozer, or the old fashioned way (by hand). Youâ€™ll be left with shoots sprouting from their roots, sending up as much new growth as they can. I'd say you've two options at this point: 1. start digging, and keep digging... I've tried it, and it works. Though I was at it this Winter... I couldn't sufficiently follow and remove their every root. 2. Let them grow, let em enjoy the next couple months of life, you too -- then nail them with spray. You've already removed their mass, so you're not hosing down acres, you're simply 'spot spraying' them, and as best you can - only them. Then kick back, having waited for a nice stretch of relatively hot & dry weather, and let Monsanto
do the work... (sorry Mother
I'd say the second choice is sound and safe. If you use a backpack sprayer (you don't have to fill them all the way), or a squeeze-pump applicator bottle (with good water-proof gloves for either), you spray only the BB's ... unless, like me, you spot some Poison Oak (it hates Roundup)... And what do I have to show for this method? Wow -- the indigenous plants are thickening, and in many locations they've so shaded out (with help from those trees) the area the BB's can no longer flourish. Sweet success! ...But that's a couple acres down, and twenty-something more to contend with...
OK -- the Good News
"In the spring of 2005 a very mixed blessing arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Department of Agriculture discovered a fungal rust causing significant damage to the scourge, Himalayan blackberry, Rubus discolor. The rust was identified as Phragmidium violaceum, which was not known to occur in North America.â€
â€œThe blackberry rust is native to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Various strains of the blackberry rust exist, and each strain can cause different amounts of damage to the weedy Himalayan blackberry. The rust has been used as a biological control agent against weedy blackberry species in Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, and in some cases is very effective at killing blackberry plants.â€
â€œBlackberry rust has been considered as a potential biological control agent for invasive blackberry species in the Pacific Northwest."
(from - http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/homehort/pest/P_violaceum.htm
I attended a "Weed Symposium" at Pacific University (in Forest Grove) last spring - excellent! (and free!) It was confirmed: BB Rust is in the vicinity, and that it doesnâ€™t appear to adversely effect commercial blackberries, only the big bad Himalayan's. Bad news
: there's already a mutated / resistant strain in Tillamook County ... but we've got about 4 years to enjoy
the demise of our current Himalayan strain - and - over plant them with trees. The Extension Agent described shade as the ultimate limiter to Himalayan Blackberries. Having noticed what appeared to me as rust infected canes in Tillamook Co., the last couple years I've brought home a pocket full of leaves to 'meet mine.' ...We'll see... though I'm not slowing up on my control efforts; 1. I don't want anymore sharp masses of dead cane; 2. mine have shown no evidence of slowing up, or being infected with anything; 3. it's in my blood
- apparently rooted on the other side of the planet, I have the feeling I'll be dealing with them for the rest of my life ~
Here's some (or a lot) more info on "Rubus Armeniacus
." I never knew our old pal Luther Burbank
brought these weeds to America..? Win some - lose some!
"This species is an aggressive invader that was introduced for its excellent fruit and has become naturalized in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Northwest it occurs from California to British Columbia. Several scientific names have been used for this plant. In North America it has been most often called "Rubus procerus" or "Rubus discolor."
"The plant is native to Armenia and was for the first time introduced to Germany about 1835 by Booth, named 'Rubus fruticosus fr. maximo Booth' and, because of its large, sweet fruits, became the most frequently cultivated blackberry in Europe. Obviously it was introduced to America 1885 by Luther Burbank, and before 1885 to New Zealand."
(from - http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben230.html
"The Himalayan Blackberry is a plant that many people in North America would be surprised to learn is introduced. Its probable introduction can be traced to the late nineteenth century and linked to a man named Luther Burbank. Luther Burbank called it the Himalayan Giant because he assumed it was of Asian origin, but it is actually from Europe, thus it has retained the common name the Himalayan Blackberry. The Himalayan Blackberry now covers much of western North America, from British Columbia to California"
(from - http://www.ucfv.ca/biology/Biol210/1999 ... blackberry