Blackberry Plants aka The Backyard Zombie

Blackberry Plants aka The Backyard Zombie

It lives in our vegetable garden, trapped in a 2 x 16 foot area. It keeps attacking everything, and I battle it back.  Yes, I am talking about our thorny blackberry plant.   To me, blackberries sometimes seem as hard to kill off as a Zombie plague  in the movies.  Anyone who has ever lived with blackberry plants, probably knows what I am talking about.

Just when I think a blackberry plant is dead and gone, it springs back to life.  It stretches out its long gangly canes to slowly creep out away from the area in the garden that I try to keep it trapped in. Wherever it manages to touch soft soil, it quickly spawns another little blackberry plant.  And pruning or picking fruit from the thorny patch almost always results in a few scratches or thorny splinters. If I left it unchecked for a season or two, the blackberry would cover everything in its path, choking out all the other plants, and it could eventually turn the entire vegetable garden into one giant thorny blackberry bramble.  The only way to kill one of its little blackberry offspring (keep in mind this is coming from an organic gardener that hates using Round Up) is to dig it out, deep down and pull out every last bit of teeny tiny root.  Even then, they sometimes manage to resurrect.

Those same qualities that make blackberries seem like monsters, make them easy to propagate and keep alive where they are desired.  It might not seem like it from my description, but I really like Blackberries.  I just have a love hate relationship with them.  They are great for our area, and less fussy than raspberries.  They only need supplemental water about once a week during the hot months. They thrive in light shade or half day sun. The fruit is absolutely amazing. If you have only had blackberries from the grocery store, they are bland and mushy in comparison to a freshly picked organic blackberry, especially from one of the thorny varieties.   I grow 3 varieties currently, and of course it is the thorny one that has the best flavor.

Because of their invasive tendencies, I NEVER, EVER recommend growing blackberries to a novice or lounge chair gardener.  Despite wearing two layers of long sleeves and leather gloves, I still got scratched up in mid January when I did battle with the thorny blackberry in the veggie garden.  It is the one that really deserves to be called the Zombie blackberry.  It showed up the first summer when we moved here, as a tiny seedling, probably a seed was dropped by a bird.  At the time, I had no idea of the monster it would become.  Throughout the years, it has survived neglect, no water in years of drought, and what we thought was its complete destruction during our block wall construction in 2000.  However, in the Spring the following year, it came back to life.

My thorny blackberry was introduced to the block as a transplant by a neighbor, D, 4 doors down.  He said he got his original blackberry plant, a Knott’s Boysenberry, when he lived in Westminster 4 decades ago.  When he moved here in the early 1970s, he brought a daughter plant with him.  Since then, it has spread to a few other yards in the neighborhood, all on its own, by seeds, including our yard in 1997.   After I intentionally cultivated it for a number of years and shared the delicious bountiful harvests, two other neighbors on the block took divisions from our patch. I warned them ahead of time of the many headaches that went with growing blackberries.  Both K and C are avid gardeners, and they have managed to keep the berries contained.  Since all but that original neighbor’s blackberry came from a seed at one point, it is no longer completely identical to that original Knott’s Boysenberry, but it sure is yummy.  These days, most folks around here call all the blackberries found throughout our cul-de-sac’s backyards “Hanbury” berries or “Han-berries.”

5 thoughts on “Blackberry Plants aka The Backyard Zombie

  1. I’m in SoCal (zone 10) too – thanks for your great posts and photos on baba and hybrid blackberries! I was having trouble finding photos of the full size plants in growing and dormant seasons on the web. I’m trying to figure out where to put them. Can you give me some advice?
    I’ve got a BABA red raspberry hybrid and three blackberry hybrids olallie, marion and boysen. They are all of varying color between red-purple-black. Do I need to separate them?
    The baba label says 10’x10′ –is that right? Will one plant really be that tall? Wide?
    My back yard faces south-ish, and is enclosed in chain link fence. The east wall’s chain is blocked, so noon sun only, then late afternoon shade. The back wall faces south…lots of heat. The west wall is shielded from afternoon sun for the lowest 2 feet or so by cement bricks and chainlink above that.
    Where should I put them?

  2. Did you put hardware cloth or another “fence” down into the soil on all sides? My friend did that for gophers and it helped her berries from traveling.

    1. No. I have not used hardware cloth with my berry patch. I have used chicken wire in areas I was afraid the chickens would dig newly planted items up or damage fragile roots near the surface. But as a gopher deterrent for berries it makes a lot of sense.

  3. I grew up in the NW (but now live in SD) and the best blackberries were what we called the “wild mountain” blackberries. Small clumps of bushes with compact dense blackberries that were half the berry size (and smaller seeds!) of their more bountiful cousins. My Mom still hunts them out and picks both varieties. When I go home for a visit she makes me a pie or sends a jar or two of jam home with me. Thanks to 911 and airport security, I once had to check my jars of jam and nearly missed my flight (I was originally going to do carry on), nothing but nothing, was going to part me from Mom’s homemade blackberry goodness!

  4. I am in trouble because I have 3 Triple Crowns in the ground, and 1 Black Satin…..on deck in containers waiting to go into the ground are, Marionberry (thorny), Ollalie Berry (Thorny), Kiowa Blackberry (Thorny), Arapaho Blackberry, Natchez Blackberry, Thornless Boysen, 3 Baba Raspberries, and 2 Ouachita Blackberries. I don’t really have the space, but they are all going in. I have a tendency to over do somethings, but my family will like the side effects of my passion. 🙂

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