Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Aaaaarrrrggggghhh!

Today I have been out trying to get rid of Blackberry from my garden. Again.

Most of the day was spent mentally going ‘Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!’ And more than once I verbally went “AARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!” I did that particularly loudly when I got one long strappy cane wrapped around one ankle and it lashed viciously against the other ankle when I started hopping around trying to pull it off.

A small portion of today's efforts.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind fresh blackberries or a nice blackberry jam on scones with cream (although raspberries win hands down over any other berry in my books).  I just don’t want blackberries in my Garden. Ever.

In many countries I understand blackberries and welcome if slightly invasive. In temperate Australia blackberry has settled in so well that it’s gone beyond popping over for a cup of sugar and a chat to moving in and taking over.

European blackberry (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) is one of the most important environmental weeds of southern Australia and is listed as one of the twenty Australian Weeds of National Significance (WONS).

http://www.csiro.au/science/Blackberry-Management.html

The amount of times I’ve thought I’ve finally seen the last of blackberry twining up inside my roses or creeping out from under the May bush does not bear counting. It just takes that horrible snap of the root I almost had out, or the sight of a root wrapped firmly around the roots of one of my roses for me to know I’m beat.

Sneaking out from under a double flowering may bush.

I’m not keen on poison and try to limit using it to absolute desperate times. I have gone past that point with blackberry and have resorted to painting on some herbicide – to little avail. It looks sickly for a bit, then redoubles its efforts (yes I am starting to take this personally).

I know the saying that ‘When life hands you lemons make lemonade’, but I really don’t like blackberry jam all that much. And on a more serious note, it is not a weed I should be encouraging or allowing to escape from my garden.

Does anyone out there have any tips for getting rid of my unwanted guest without having to pull out an entire garden bed plants and all?

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Comments on: "Aaaaarrrrggggghhh!" (32)

  1. Oh.. so sorry to hear about the trouble with blackberry … ~bangchik

  2. I so wish that I had a magic wand for this problem. Any I really hope that another garden blogger comes through for you as I cannot think of anything except digging up the whole bed. Good luck!!!!
    Deborah

    • Hi Deborah!
      Overnight I (almost) made my peace with the idea that I’m going to have to dig it all up. It isn’t so bad when I really think about it, as I was already thinking that this garden bed needed a serious re-do!
      Just a tad more serious than I was first intending 😉

  3. You have my sympathy. I have wild berries growing all over my property; the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I welcome, but the blackberries –aaargh!! My blackberry problem isn’t anywhere near the level of yours, though. They tend to grow at the edge of the woods rather than in the garden. I am most likely to take it personally when they grow under the back steps and then reach out their thorny arms and grab me when I’m walking by. I wish I had a solution for you, and I hope that someone else will. -Jean

    • Thanks for your sympathetic words Jean – it’s good to know that someone can relate to those ‘aaargh!’ moments 🙂
      I would love to have wild raspberries, blueberries and strawberries in my garden – yum! But I have to admit, having had the ongoing blackberry problem, I contained my raspberries in a big old bathtub – just in case they had visions of takeover on their minds too!

  4. Blackberry canes can be so painful! I feel for you, Heidi. Our landlord mowed down the wild blackberry canes growing on the edge of our woods the season after we arrived — but there are still plenty more everywhere you look, it seems. I had no idea they were so invasive in Australia, though. 😦

    Here, blackberry season is at the start of June after we’ve had a so-called Blackberry Winter (a period of two weeks where it’s quite a bit colder than usual for late spring). This chill seems to signal the berries to ripen and get very sweet. In years where we don’t have it or it comes late, the berries taste too tangy, sometimes even bitter.

    We don’t get them taking root in the garden so much, but on the edges of woods, like Jean, so I don’t have a solution for you, unfortunately… and I would be devastated if they went after my roses! Sending you sympathy…

  5. Hi Meredith 🙂 I’m not sure why blackberry has taken to life here so well, but I’m wondering if it is because much of our bushland is quite open and it gets to enjoy a generally mild climate and plenty of sunshine.

    The concept of a ‘Blackberry winter’ is not one I’ve heard before – I guess because our spring season tends to steadily warm without the sudden late cold snaps. You make it sound so inviting with sweet blackberries to enjoy at the end!

    I’m not sure exactly why blackberries come after my roses with such enthusiasm. The roses rarely, if ever get supplementary water, so it can’t be that. Hmmm…they do get a very occasional feed when I remember…and the soil of that particular bed is some of the worst in the garden…that might explain a bit!

  6. Oh, I do feel your pain. We have a lot of wild brambles all over our hillsides. Any time a tree falls, or we weed an area, it seems the blackberries just move right in. I spent two whole days last fall untangling the tenacious thorny vines from some of our lovely western sword ferns, and when I looked at the hill the other day, the blackberries are back! It’s never ending around here…and I just can’t find gloves thick enough that their vicious thorns can’t poke through.

    • Hello CV. It is starting to sound like those blackberries are a bit more than ‘slightly invasive’ in more places than here! I can relate to the glove drama too – those wretched thorns always seem to find a way in!

  7. When I moved into my house I was lucky enough that the previous owners had tackeled the black berry vines in the backyard. When I was weeding this weekend I found a small sprout and that thing must have gone down like three feet and I still don’t think I got all the root. They are everywhere here in Oregon. I love finding them (not in my yard) for a nice snack while hiking or strolling the neighborhood. If you wanted to go the chemical route, I know that here there is Black Berry specific stuff that promises to kill them off. Otherwise I think diligence in not letting them take over is key.

    • Hi Lauren and thanks for popping in 🙂
      Yes I think a bit more diligence is in order (although I do try hard not to let them get far) and a bit more manual labour to dig out those deep roots. I think I will try digging the bed up when the weather cools a bit, but maybe get some of that blackberry specific stuff you mention to paint any roots I break.

  8. Best of luck to you dealing with your blackberry problems…it’s never ‘fun’ struggling with a thorny plant that is stronger than we are;-)

  9. Wow, so much work to get rid of such an invasive plant. I don’t really have any advice but feel for you in your attempts to get rid of it. I did enjoy my blackberry jam on my toast this morning ;^)

  10. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but blackberry brambles decided to naturalize all around my cabin in upstate new york, and I tried everything to get rid of them. They just came back stronger, and in other places from where I dug, literally hundreds of them, up. This after only about 2 years from when I saw the first one. It ended up that I both had to poison it to death multiple times (in the spring phase), and then cover it with a heavy black tarp.

    The net result after 2 years was no blackberrys, which were literally going to impede the way into the cabin, but also no other plants. It was a nightmare.

    And my guess is, after the poison finally goes all the way away, years from now, they will be back. 😦

    Good luck!

    • Oh dear Jess, that sound like a humungous effort – I really hope that you don’t see blackberries emerging there again!
      Oh well, I will just have to keep chipping away or develop a stronger liking for blackberry jam!

  11. I feel your pain! There’s one spot where wild red raspberry just won’t go away. Between the burdock, horsetail and raspberry, the whole bed is going to be redone this year. Then the battle begins all over again. LOL

    • Hello Ceara and thanks for dropping by 🙂
      Ah well, at least we can empathise with each other over the misery of having to dig up an entire garden bed! Although if it was raspberries running wild in my garden I’d be happy – I loooooove raspberries!

  12. Hmmm. I’ve been puzzling over this since I read it last night, and still haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer for you. I know it’s not pretty, but have you tried putting down black plastic as a mulch that will smother it out? It can be a problem to get it put down evenly when there are all kinds of other plants around, but if you have an open area or can move some good plants for a while, it is effective at smothering out plants like this.
    One of the problems with chemical warfare is that most herbicides will kill top growth but not do a huge amount about rhizomes and runners like blackberries. Or else they turn an area into a wasteland, killing everything.
    Likewise, mechanical control can be a problem because if you don’t do it repeatedly, the rhizomes left behind will sprout and create more and more and more and more and…well, you get the picture.
    I can’t tell how big your garden is, but I’m afraid that your best option may be to lift your ‘good’ plants, then put down either clear or black plastic for a few months to solarize (cook the hell out of) the blackberries. It’s not an easy solution, but that’s unfortunately the way it is with pesty plants. Why can’t we have things like blue poppies be easy to grow and wildly profuse everywhere? No one would mind that…:-)

    • Hmmm, some very useful food for thought thanks Jodi.
      I had pretty much decided to go the route of mechanical control and dig up the whole bed to pull the blackberry all out, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that there will be a strong possibility that even then there may be some roots left behind to re-emerge and I wouldn’t fancy digging it all up a second time 😦
      I might now look at still doing the dig, but follow up with covering the bed with black plastic as your suggested and leaving it that way for awhile. I was considering relocating most of the plants in that bed at some stage, so it is really only and elderberry I’d have to work around.

  13. Nell Jean said:

    Dig, dig, dig. Pull, pull, pull. I fight them, too. Other than mowing until they no longer are strong enough to sprout again, there’s not much to do so I just dig and pull.

    It isn’t enough that we have one type. There are little bush blackberries and then there’s a long vining type that we call dewberries.

    Blackberry winter comes. It gets warm. Then we have another freeze and start over with another blackberry winter. Some years blackberries bloom 4 times before spring finally arrives. I no longer treat blackberry blossoms as a sure sign.

    • Hi Nell Jean – I think I’ve got more than one variety on the go too now that you mention it. My reading has also revealed that they use ‘blackberry rust’ as a biological control here, but even that just slows and weakens rather than kills. It’s one (or several) tough plant isn’t it?!

  14. I’ve done everything – weedkiller too but it keeps coming back every year so I just keep chopping it back to ground level. Once I didn’t and it grew those stems so quickly that I missed one of the stems and it through out roots in one of my water features. Absolute agony if you get caught by those stems – I learnt the hard way when I left that straying branch! Its one plant I dread working with. Sorry that I don’t have a magic wand answer for you though – its a thug.

    • Hi Rosie and thanks for your empathetic words! Now I can see that it really is a thug wherever it settles 😦 It amazes me just how quickly it springs back if you miss a bit of it. However I read that it can grow up to 8cm in a day…so that does explain it a bit!

  15. Wish I had an answer for you. I’m not an expert…one thing I did learn from my Master Gardner class was the black tarp approach of smothering it out. Also, to get rid of weeds… I learned the newspaper trick of covering the area with 4 layers of paper and putting mulch on top. Sounds like the berries are a little tougher, though. I hope you find a solution. 🙂

    • Hi Amy and thanks for popping in 🙂
      I think I see black plastic or a black tarp in my future now! In the short term I am mulching the area with the newspaper underlay (this has been great for other weedy problems) as I’m pulling up the blackberry – I agree that it is unlikely to stop the blackberry, but it might slow it down until the weather cools a bit more and I can get out there and sort it properly!

  16. As lovely as blackberrys are, they are an absolute nightmare to get rid of. Here in Ireland they take over whole acers of land

  17. Blackberry is invasive here in the Southern US too. It grows all along the roadsides…I definitely wouldn’t want to start it in my garden. Sorry you’re having so much trouble getting rid of it 😦

  18. I hate blackberry. Back when I lived in the Adelaide hills, we had a block that was covered with it and we had the thrilling task of clearing it. It was a truly unpleasant task and we managed to co-opt friends in to helping in a one-day surge (in exchange for a couch).
    We actually got rid of almost all of it by hand pulling it out, but getting rid of that last 5% takes 10 times the effort! Our problem was really that a couple of the neighbours’ gardens are overrun and they don’t make any attempt to control it, so we periodically got reinfested. 😦
    Some of the weedkillers work – the ones that you cut the stem and paint onto the wound – but its one of those things you have to be incredibly careful with and I’m not convinced its worth the danger.
    Good luck!

  19. Thanks for the tips Karly! I think I’m almost there for the initial clearing…it’s just going to be a matter from here on in of being fast on to it before it creeps out from under cover again!

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