intro / blackberry control

hi, i'm new. i just moved into a new construction home in Snohomish, WA - in the convergence zone (yeah, that means it rains even more here than in Seattle), that's USDA zone 8a, i think. i'm on a mostly level, one acre lot, with no landscaping and some sparse grass. i'm slowly bringing things together, aerated and reseeded the lawn, scattered some nasturtium and poppy seeds in the "beds", planted some summer bulbs and the obligatory "foundation plantings", and have been slowly acquiring fruit trees for the front drive. i'm a first time homeowner, so all of this is new territory for me. i'm of the low maintenance gardening school, and i don't want to spend a lot of time weeding.
my problem is that my yard backs up to something called a "native growth area". that would be wonderful, except that the area is completely overrun with (non-native) himalayan blackberry. and because our yard has such sparse grass, the "lawn" is now *full* of blackberry sprouts. i've been trying to get them with a scuffle hoe, but an acre is a LOT of land to hoe.
do i have any hope of keeping my yard free of these invasive vines? i can't kill anything in the "native growth" area, so they'll constantly be sending out runners and spitting out seeds, and whatever else they do. i've read that they can reproduce if you just drop a branch on the lawn. is there any hope for me? i've been having nightmares about "Still Life with Woodpecker", by Tom Robbins.
tia -kelly
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wrote:

You cannot kill the non-native blackberries in the "native growth" area? Is the "native growth" area yours or a community "park" I've been to Washington.. only Elma .. down by Olympia, and the blackberries are everywhere, and they're evil and anything that can root will root in a rain forrest. I lived in Yamhill Oregon, which would seem like a desert in comparison to northern Washington .. and we had slime mold growing on the floors anywhere there wasn't traffic.. ick.
I would think that the first place I'd go is to the County Extension agent office and take a sample .. not that they'll not know what you're talking about unless what YOU have is something different than the stuff that grows along the roads.. and talk to them about your situation, can't kill the stuff close but not in your yard "proper" and they'll probably know the best approach as it's a universal problem in Washington and Oregon West of the mountains.
Janice
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I would have thought you could "Spot treat" the young shoots with a hormone brushwood killer without harming the rest of the native plants, do this in the evening so that there is no chance of vapour getting to other plants.
--
David Hill
Abacus nurseries
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correct. the problem is that along with the invasive blackberries, there are native "cascade" blackberries, salmon berries, and t(h)imble berries, all of which *are* native. and you can't kill one without the other, because they grow completely intertwined with eachother. the area is not a park, it's a "protected wetland" because when the homes were built in my area, this area was where all the rain water was directed to. with the boggy conditions came some cool native wetland flora, birds, and other animals, so it's now "protected". it's really a mess.

thanks for the suggestion, i think i'll do this.
-kelly
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If you can tell the foliage of one species versus the other (and I really would not know the difference between himalaya and cascade, but I do think you should be able to tell the thimbleberries at least), an efficient method to kill only the canes you don't want is to go around with a small paint brush and a bottle of roundup. Touching one or two leaves with the paintbrush, dipped in straight roundup, is usually enough to kill the cane. I do this mostly with poison ivy, and after several years my 4 oz bottle of Roundup is still more than half full.
This said, be careful what you wish for. If the blackberries give plenty of quality berries for four to six weeks, I would be very motivated to tolerate and even develop them (like, make paths in there that could allow you to harvest more). After all you are planting fruit trees, right? And those could go wrong for any reason.
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they're actually quite easy to tell apart. as far as i can tell, the himalaya have green three leaf clusters and grow in a great bushy mass, the cascade have reddish multi-lobed leaves (at least they're red later in the summer), and trail on single vines through the himalaya bushes. thimbleberries have fuzzy leaves that look like maple leaves, and grow in tall canes. i may try this selective roundup idea, but i fear it could take years.

the himalaya have fair tasting berries, probably not worth trying to harvest. the cascade have extremely sweet berries with way too many seeds (they'd make wonderful jam). thimbleberries i think are an acquired taste, and i've never been able to get to any salmonberries before the birds eat them all.
but yes, they will all attract birds, and birds are good.
-kelly
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not true. When you touch a leaf, the whole cane goes (try to do it when the weather forecast is no rain, else it could wash off). Unless you have tens of thousands of square feet... one thing to keep in mind is that this method keeps the area shaded (as the good canes continue to grow and prevent seeds from taking). If you were to weedwhack the patch, you would lose the good guys AND himalayas would come back. You are just helping the good guys win the competition. If you decide to do it, now is the best time, with a second tour in a month to finish off those that escaped the first round. Next year in the spring you should be able to see the shoots from the roots that survived. Hit those as well. After all, you can turn a field of weeds into a lawn just by mowing.
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Himalayan blackberries are pervasive in all parts of the PNW, so know that you are not alone in this plight.. You need to maintain a buffer zone between the "natural growth" area and the cultivated portion of your garden by keeping the blackberries cut back and nothing planted for at least 6 feet. If you could fence off the area, that would help considerably, but if that is not possible, routinely maintaining this open space will prevent the encroachment of the vines onto your property.
Dealing with the shoots that pop up is another matter. Birds (and no doubt the new construction activity) spread the seeds which can germinate years after ripening and falling. If you routinely remove or treat with a brush-killing herbicide, you will get them under control. 'Blackberry and Brush Blocker' is an acetic acid based formulation that has proven effective. It temporarily changes the soil pH so that growth is stifled, but this will apply to any vegetation in the area. Use it BEFORE you plant anything ornamental in this area. The plants must be in active growth and it can take upto 6 months of periodic treatment. The soil will also need to be neutralized before replanting (use lime and a soil test). Otherwise, non-specific herbicides like RoundUp or Finale painted full strength on the emerging shoots will help.
The good news is you have a ready source of delicious berries right off your backyard. As unpleasant and weedy as the vines may be, the berries in August are hard to beat - just think of all those pies, jams and cobblers you can make!
pam - gardengal also in the PNW
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i'm not interested in fencing it, but the open space idea has inspired me a bit... i'm starting to invision a border strip of small rocks... hmm, i'll have to think more about this. thanks!

this sounds like it will kill any chance of having a lawn this year. :-) i really need some grass or something out back. otherwise the yard is all mud and my dogs get filthy. will any grasses stand up to this treatment? it doesn't need to be a beautiful bluegrass lawn, we've currently got a pasture mix out there (ryegrass, fescues and red clover).

this has been our weapon so far. we've gone through three gallons of roundup this month.

this is what i keep telling myself. that and the brambles make a decent deer barrier.
-kelly
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fence them in well...otherwise they tend to wander over to neighbours' yards and eat THEIR blackberries and other more cultivated items. ;p)
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I second the goat idea. My sister in law in the PNW has 15 acres and has a bad blackberry problem, but she has gotten in under control by putting a moveable fence around smaller areas & sending the goats in. They love the tender cane shoots and will totally defoliate the mature canes. After the canes have died, she does a controlled burn on the area and then replants, transferring the moveable fence to another bramble-infested area. The next year she sends the goats out again for bramble-shoot cleanup. She has been able to gradually re-introduce native species in as the areas get cleared of brambles.
Philosopher

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