blackberries

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

PLEASE NOTE :
We do not endorse any answers from anyone in this forum except Peter Andrews himself.

Please remember, Natural Sequence Farming has to be tailored for your specific problem and to follow general advice may create more problems for you.

Moderator: webmaster

Post Reply
sam
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 7:47 pm
Location: Tarana

blackberries

Post by sam » Sun May 16, 2010 5:34 pm

I am fairly new to this so please be sympathetic to my ignorance. I have purchased a 100 acre property near Tarana, NSW. Currenly there are about 8 acres of blackberries maily in a valley leading from a large dam to the Fish river and along the river bank. They have been there for at least four years. I believe they may have done their job, and would like to slash them. IS this what I should be doing and if so when is the best time to do it? Also I would like to get some mulching happening on the property and of course tree planting. With the mulching I am not quite sure how to start or what to do. With the trees where can I go to get advice about placement and varieties. The property is currently ivided into four main paddocks and one river paddock. The land is very gently lsopping before dropping of at the end towards the river. the river padock is quite wide.

brettmtl
Posts: 40
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:42 am
Location: Victoria
Contact:

Post by brettmtl » Thu May 20, 2010 2:30 pm

Hi Sam and welcome to the forum.

Congratulations on your 100 acres and it is a very exciting time.
About the blackberries, are they holding the creek and river banks together?

Basically at the moment they are acting as the overstory and protecting the soil below. I have not personally dealt with blackberries, I would google and hopefully someone on this forum answers your question.

I have heard that you can plant trees in amoungst them and when the trees shade them out they will no longer grow.

Slashing would work well and then use them as a mulch, I would think that slash them before they fruit, though Peter might think otherwise.

The way I have gone about it is to mulch around each tree at a depth of 100 - 150mm, it really depends on how much mulch you have.

On tree selection advice is tricky. DSE will tell you to plant what was there 200 years ago, though this doesn't take into account the Aboriginal man made environment.

For me I would look at rainforest species. Where you are you have many options,

Check out
http://www.threatenedspecies.environmen ... ainforests

or google: rainforests of NSW for a full list of species

The reason I say rainforest, it that this forest type has a denser canopy, which provides greater shade and stores moisture and cools the landscape more efficiently than dry sclerophyll eucalypt woodland.

Even the word rainforest sums up their function.

You are blessed to have river frontage.

Good luck Sam and please keep us posted.

Cheers
Brett

duane
Posts: 1159
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:44 pm
Location: Central Coast, NSW
Contact:

Post by duane » Fri May 28, 2010 8:15 am

Sam

Check out this thread for more info
http://www.naturalsequencefarming.com/f ... .php?t=577

Brett's info is also positive.

Re mulching around trees:

The accepted practice is to place mulch in a circle around the tree.

NS teaches that you should place a crescent of mulch only on the high side of the tree so that water and fertility can be feed directly to the tree, using the mulch contour as a mini wetland, as per the Australian landscape . :idea: :idea: :idea:

Shirley Henderson
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 06, 2007 4:03 pm
Location: Thirlmere

Trees to plant

Post by Shirley Henderson » Mon May 31, 2010 7:56 am

Pittosporum undulatum and willows Salix babylonica (not illegal to plant this) I am bias about blackberry and other so called noxious weeds as I am coming to love them for the positive impact they have on the Australian environment. I am observing with an open mind and see areas full of weeds, restoring and nurturing our fauna, flora and soils. Every patch of blackberry, privet, African Olive, to name a few is a power house of life, protecion and natural processes at work. I will continue my observations and report along the way.
Shirley

sam
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 7:47 pm
Location: Tarana

Post by sam » Mon May 31, 2010 8:47 pm

Thanks all for your help. So to start I will slash where I can, mulch and plant a variety of shady trees and shrubs in the gullies and on the banks where the blackberries have been slashed. The idea being that the remaining blackberies in the sleeper part of the gullies will eventually be "shaded" out and overgrown by other plants and grasses?
Does anyone have an tips for wombats. In the lower end of my blackberry covered gully I have a huge wombat colony.They are gorgeous but hardly compatable with the horses.

Mike Hart
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:07 pm
Location: Bendemeer NSW

Re: blackberries

Post by Mike Hart » Sun Jul 04, 2010 10:22 pm

Hmmmm. Sam welcome. In our area and on our property we have a significant blackberry issue but on one level it is not a problem. Let me explain.

The blackberry is a great indicator of moisture and wetter areas and they struggle and do not progress where the land is drier, they are essentially a water loving thorny plant from the river areas of Europe. Thining NSF and taking into account what Peter had written about looking at the landscape, I carefully noted where the blackberries were as a guide to where water was accumulated or where it travelled more extensively in the landscape. On our property the plants were in greatest numbers and extent on marshy or soak areas which were collection points from the surrounding hills and we have three of these major soaks which all feed into our permanent creek. I calculated in one area the extent of them was about 15-20 acres of bushes 10-12 foot high.

First I have viewed the plants as friendly, they have kept the land together beautifully and stopped some really bad erosion points from getting worse, the outcome of years of stupid tree killing and clearing to have open pastures. They also acted as a cheap and effective barrier to animals getting to the creek and they trap a lot of material so build up the soils content of minerals and other good stuff.

Second, I have viewed the plants as a real problem because they provide harbor (hides) for rabbits which had been allowed to proliferate to very large numbers indeed, and rabbits are far more destructive than one can imagine in the looser granite soils we have.

The issue was the local Council who saw our purchase of the property as an opportunity to take on a problem that they had unsuccessfully managed with the previous owners for decades. We were immediately served with a notice requiring us to remove the weeds (and St John's Wort). After some careful legal research Council were told we had an appropriate land mangement plan and that we would employ methods approved under the Noxious Weeds Act to deal with them.

Effectively you have a number of options:

1) Burn them
2) Slash them
3) Poison them
4) Dig them out.
5) Plant trees as Peter suggests.

We have tried all five methods, albiet option 3 was a small trial patch.

Burning made them worse and did more damage to the sub soil and they bounced back healthier than ever although they were now small not big.

Slashing does the jobe but you have to keep at it and keep at it. We hired a contractor in who had a Bobcat with a slasher and he slashed blackberries for 3 days. They all grew back again small and more manageable but the grass also grew back strongly.

Poison is out. End of story as any herbicide is only a temporary fix and they will grow back again believe me. More significantly I am completely opposed to the use of herbicides of any description and will not allow them to be used on our land, except for two small trial patches to satisfy the curiosity of the neighbour who was also open minded enough about alternative control methods to lend me some. That was done and will never happen again, why kill everything else? it costs a fortune and is only temporary and at the end of the day unecessary anyway with careful land management.

Dig them out is my preferred method - Why? the blackberry root sytems is extensive and they form large hard root sytems and nodules below ground that have a tenacity to shoot new canes despite being hacked to death above ground, these are more mature plants and hence have been growing for a long time. We tried a number of small areas by hand with hand tools, it was back breaking hard work but the results were very good, no blackberries have returned at those selected spots.

We have good tree coverage on our property so there was little point in planting trees in the middle of the infestations due to the nature of the ground they grown on. Where the grow near trees they are kept in check and we will consider what if anything to do with them later. They are are formidable when they grow up and around the base of a dead tree, which is quite common on our land. We wish to keep the trees so will slash around them in due course. Some may get burnt along with the tree providing it is not habitat for wild animals and that is difficult to discern at times.

So the plan is now to get our own Bobcat and using a 4in1 bucket rip the big stand out of the ground roots and all, and mulch the residue. I intend to keep one long group that runs down a hillside, exploratory digging and the bobcat operator discovered that the ground is so wet underneath (water pools if you dig) that mechanical removal was not possible, so I am going to use a chain saw and a brush cutter and cut them into a hedge along the hillside. At least that way we have them controlled. Thisis classed as mechanical means under the Noxious Weeds Act and so Council cannot really force you to spray or do other action, if they wish, happy to argue the point in Court with them.

Rabbits we shoot, rip the burrows or fill them in. I think we are winning, we went from hundreds (a friend shot 75 in one afternoon) to probably a about a dozen left. The dog can chase and get the rest and those that pop up will be shot. No other way really.

By the way love blackberries to eat, so we want to keep many for jam and pies etc.

This is about all we can offer about dealing with blackberries.

Shirley Henderson
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 06, 2007 4:03 pm
Location: Thirlmere

Re: blackberries

Post by Shirley Henderson » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:44 am

Hello Mike, Thanks for that fascinating post. It is very good to hear that you are trying so many alternative methods and not giving up. In the reserve where I work I too have been observing blackberry. In one open area of the reserve which has mostly been a mix of native and exotic grasses Blackberry was prominent. Large patches, but as you said it was growing in the moister areas. Last August a fire went through and burned around 5 acres. The Blackberry along with everything else was burnt to the ground. I went back 1 week later to have a look and the blackberry had buds greening up and swelling and was obviously bouncing straight back. Also some of the grasses reshooting. A few weeks later the grasses were green and the blackberry had leaves. I checked the spot a couple of times after that and the shrubs and trees were coming back from the bases also.
Now I decided to have a look last week as I had not been in the area for a while, I found the blackberry up to half a metre now but the grass is taller than the Blackberry. I found Kangaroo grass Themeda australis covering a large area which was barely there before. I discovered half a dozen or more quails running through the grass which was a buzz for me because my aim is to support a natural habitat for wildlife and flora. There are foxes in the area too. I am wondering if the Blackberry is protecting the quails because as well as rabbits there must be many Australian native animals and birds that also use the Blackberry for protection. I am also told that foxes use the Blackberry. (2 pests but how many natives need it too). I believe once Blackberry has been burned it does not fruit (therefore seed) for 2 years so you have a slight advantage of control during that period. ***(Fruit production can be prolific with dense thickets producing up to 13,000 seeds per square metre of foliage. Seed has low viability (often less than 10%) and does not germinate in dense shade). BUSH INVADERS OF SOUTH EAST AUSTRALIA Adam Muyt.*** So probably ripping out plants may give way to seedling germination.
Also I have been observing the Blackberry next to the dam waters which is not doing much at all. It is mostly semi shaded and the waters have risen up and down over the last 3 years. That Blackberry I have only cut back from the pathways and I am asuming it is protecting the bank and wetland birds that nest near it. It has barely fruited and is sparse. It has attempted to creep left and right but is not finding much sun so is just weak and straggly looking. There is however some large Privet above one lot which instead of removing I have pruned back around the trunk to keep the shade for now. I am waiting to see if anything else comes up that can replace the Blackberry if I am to remove the Privet eventually. The Privet is also stabalising the bank so is providing a neccessity. Good luck with the Blackberry all. Just thought I would tell of my experience too.

Mike Hart
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:07 pm
Location: Bendemeer NSW

Re: blackberries

Post by Mike Hart » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:36 am

Hi Shirley, thank you for all your observations about blackberries in your area. One thing I forgot to mention about blackberry is that it not only reproduces by way of seed but has a very effective method of putting out long runners which will root and start a new plant usually several metres from the original plant ( I have seen several that have suckered up a new plant that were at least 5 metres from the original). I would not disagree that the plant is useful to lots of animal including natives, the green parrots and other birds in our area love them for habitat and food, as do the foxes. The fact that the birds eat them readily is why they are seeded far and wide and why we find them around the base of old dead trees. I think the closer your local climate is like Europe the more problematic they become. In our case we are a cool climate and usually relatively moist with good water, ideal conditions for this particular species.

The reason i actually detest blackberries, is not what they do, as from my observations they only replace what was destroyed or removed as a native species and do not seriously out compete the natives, unless landholders keep giving them the chance by clearing and poisons, it is that they are a hard and very thorny plant which even the cattle avoid and hence act as barrier to softer species of flaura and fauna. Striking a balance is the key, letting them do their job while the natural vegetation recovers then selectively removing them is the principle I would ascribe to overall in dealing with them. In our case due to the riparian areas we have, they will not be removed for a very long time and then gradually, they do too good a job and what native plants may have originally grown along the creeks and rivers we no longer know.

Shirley Henderson
Posts: 356
Joined: Sun May 06, 2007 4:03 pm
Location: Thirlmere

Re: blackberries

Post by Shirley Henderson » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:52 am

At some point the Blackberries at the reserve were sprayed twice about 3 years ago. They died off a bit then came back stronger than ever. Interesting thing is that a native blackberry used to grow at the reserve also. It is so similar to the introduced one that it probably got sprayed out. So it is possible that the areas filled with blackberries may have been filled wth the native rasberry. Mostly the same in habit and appearance but a bit smaller. I am still searching for that so I can resestablish it.
I know Blackberries can be a problem but like you, see their benefits and uses also. Management is required probably not total destruction as advocated by the law.
I look around at the hills here where I live and see a lot of cleared land with no trees (although it is nice here there are trees) but the cleared areas have patches of Blackberry. I often wonder why the Blackberry just grows in these patches and have noticed it is often gullies and I assume the wet patches where water is flowing underneath. I have see great patches also of erosion and land just falling away in huge patches. Isn't it obvoius that the landscape needs to be held together by plant roots. I dont understand how this is allowed to happen. Maybe I am unaaware of other reasons for this being allowed to happen. Please fill me in if anyone knows.
Shirley

duane
Posts: 1159
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 1:44 pm
Location: Central Coast, NSW
Contact:

Re: blackberries

Post by duane » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:12 pm

Shirley and Mike,

Great to read your contributions on this topic.

Blackberries have a special role in the landscape which was designed by Mother Nature.

It's role is to protect sensitive areas where water moves, from further damage by grazing animals.

These grazing animals like grazing where there is plenty of moisture because here the herbage is sweet.

If the area becomes overgrazed, the soil can be become subject to EROSION either as a headwall cut in a stream or gully which will run right up the creek and cause severe gully erosion.

The blackberries detect? this degradation and colonise quickly to stop and prevent further erosion. The big thorns on the blackberries are there for ONE reason and one reason only......TO PROTECT THE PLANT WHILST IT CARRIES OUT THE REPAIR PROCESS. If animals could eat the plant, it could never carry out the job Nature had designed it for. I am reliably informed that slashed blackberries will be eaten by stock once the thorns soften (someone might like to confirm this).

So, then there are TWO important considerations with blackberries. One is management of the blackberries and the other is the function of blackberries.

As both Mike and Shirley have stated, their observations show that blackberries perform an important role in protecting areas where water moves and subsequent erosion could proceed with deleterious consequences. "Striking a balance is the key....." is definitely the important message.

In the riparian zones, the blackberries do a great job holding the banks stable. By leaving them there, the plants will trap and collect floating debris when 'freshes' come along. This detritus ultimately breaks down and builds fertility for the next cycle. They are, in fact, primary colonisers, just like willows, except they colonise the banks and not the beds of streams.

They prepare the conditions for the secondary colonisers which could be privets, casuarinas, african olives...whatever seed is in the area or whatever seed is deposited there by birds and other animals, and these will grow in succession.

We have introduced more than 500 exotic animals, many of which we farm, many of which we call pests. We farm cattle, sheep, deer, goats, pigs, horses etc etc., and these animals have had a very detrimental effect on our landscape. And these animals have removed 000's of what might have been native repair plants. If we are going to continue to farm and keep these exotic animals (which we are) then we have to accept that we need the introduced repair plants to repair the damage these introduced animals have caused. The natives plants simply CANNOT do it on their own.

Like Mike and Shirley, we need to look closely at what these introduced plants and introduced animals are doing to our landscape and adapt management strategies that allow for co-habitation with the remaining native plants and animals.

Our landscape has changed irrevocably. We can never go back only forward with a new flora and fauna mix. Nature will ultimately find the balance. Man, if he does not learn from his mistakes, will only continue to see the landscape degrade.

Post Reply