Less Noise, More Green: Blackberry bushes, it's time to move on, but its not you, its me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blackberry bushes, it's time to move on, but its not you, its me.

Blackberry, urban farming
There was definitely more than a little hubris happening when I planted three blackberry bushes in a small space between a row of rhubarb and my neighbor's fence. I was sure I could control their growth and still have a bumper crop of berries. Of course I was wrong on both counts! Not only was I not able to control the bushes spreading into my neighbor's yard but they swamped the rhubarb and sent out shoots into all the surrounding beds! When all was said and done, the yield was not justifying the growing bramble jungle. It was time for them to go.

My friend Cyndee has plenty of room for her blackberry bushes.

When you only have a small space to grow food in, every plant has to earn its keep. No slackers allowed! After visiting my friend Cyndee's garden and seeing her beautifully pruned and trained blackberry bushes, I realized I didn't have the space to dedicate to blackberries, even on a smaller scale. Even after pruning and support, my bushes needed more room and attention than I was willing to give.

removing blackberry bushes
Even after pruning and support these bushes are out of control. Somewhere under all that is rhubarb.

Over the years I have tried growing lots of different plants. Some of them thrive and blend seamlessly into the garden, while others just don't work in the space, sun exposure, or garden design. I don't like removing healthy plants but the process is all about learning which plants are going to be happy and in turn will make you happy. It's kind of like dating! When its not working any more its time to say goodbye.

removing blackberry bushes, urban farming, gardening
Blackberry root and shoot
Blackberry bushes are not easy to remove. Their roots grow quickly, running just under the surface of the soil and sending up shoots every few feet to form new plants. The first step was cutting down the canes so I could see where all the shoots were. Even with gloves and protective clothing, it took an hour of battle with the thorns to make head way. Eventually I emerged blooded and scratched but triumphant!

removing blackberry bushes, urban farming, gardening
Blackberry root with multiple shoots
Removing the root system involved digging around each shoot, cutting the root on either side, then pulling up the root in both directions. You can see from the photos how long these sections of root were and all the shoots along the length.
removing blackberry bushes
Blackberry crowns

The crowns were the last to go.
There are my rhubarb plants!

I'm sure I have missed some of the roots and will have to keep an eye out for rogue shoots in the spring. What will I grow in the now empty space? I'm not sure, but the rhubarb will be happier and happy rhubarb makes me happy. 

Blackberry flower
See you in the garden,


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  1. Oh man, that looks like it was quite a job. I went with thornless blackberry bushes, so even if they get out of control, it won't be painful to cut them back. I also put them in the middle of the lawn (in a raised bed) so that the mowing around them should also keep them in check. I hope it works. But I'm tackling the removal of holly bushes, which I think is going to be even harder to do. Anything that has thorns or spines is just no fun to try and control and/or remove.

    1. One of the bushes actually was thornless but it was still a mess. Planting against my neighbor's fence was not smart for several reasons and not being able to get all around the bushes is one of them. You are wise to plant in the middle of your lawn. I just chose a really bad location to grow them. Good luck with your holly bushes!