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Rubus fruticosus

BlackberriesBlackberry Domination

Was control the need?
Does that make any sense?
Or, was it pure greed,
That prompted my fence?

Along the periphery of the yard there was a deep mass of blackberries. The kind of dark mass that in late July and early August here on Cape Cod makes you willing to risk bleeding hands and arms to gather the choicest berries.

The juiciest fruits, of course, are always those three feet into the thorns.

Those all the way into the thicket that had to be left for the birds or to just shrivel and fall off onto the ground to be devoured by ants. What a waste!

The cooperative farm that we belong to have well behaved blackberries. They are growing in straight lines and offering easy fruit to all. A three year old could get to every last berry. And, they are thornless. No danger to those of us on blood thinners.

BlackberriesWe couldn't make ours thornless - Monsanto hasn't developed a spray for that yet - but maybe we could control them a little more; just make them a little easier to get to.

We started by scoping out the patch at the end of the season - after the picking was done but before the bushes dropped their leaves for a winter rest.

Was there any natural organization to this mass of plants? Where were the dominant plants? Were there any inherent rows already formed?

We made a decision about where the rows and clumps would be and I put stakes on each end to define the rows.

We pounded the stakes (those five foot metal stakes that you can buy in any big box garden center) into the ground just enough to stay upright through the winter.

BlackberriesNext step was to wait for the late fall and early winter.

Once winter's dieback made access easier, I removed all the plants that were not in our rows, leaving trails between the rows for easier access. Then I pruned by 1/3 all the trailers that were in the rows and placed more stakes to form long corrals - eventual rows for our more controlled blackberries. I used wire to connect the stakes. The wires would contain the bushes and hold them up, allowing sunlight to enter for better growth.

Now we would be able to walk among the blackberries, picking to our hearts content.

Spring came and I adjusted the fencing, trained the extending bushes, and cut out all of the volunteers that did not understand where my paths were meant to be.

BlackberriesNow it is summer and it looks as if the experiment is on track to success. The blackberries are coming in nicely. If there are less this year, that will more than be made up for next year when the fenced bushes fill in.