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I just planted two unnamed blackberry cultivars in a raised bed with rhubarb surrounded by flagstone. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now based on a remark about how they are a "nightmare to control" I'm having second thoughts.

  • Do they send out a lot suckers?

  • Can they be controlled by yearly hard pruning?

  • How far will the suckers extend? More than a few feet?

Edit: I cannot mow the plants down in a raised bed. Is it feasible to plant them in a bottomless pail so they only send new canes from the base of the roots and not send suckers under my flagstone path?

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Re your edit: they may take over the bed, but if you can mow around the base of the raised bed, you may be able to keep them contained. I don't know how far the suckers spread, but it seems like wild blackberry suckers must travel for miles. –  bstpierre Jun 7 '12 at 19:14
    
Thanks bstpierre. this makes it more important to contact the grower and find out what exactly I planted. The tag says "blackberry"; not too detailed. –  kevinsky Jun 7 '12 at 19:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are two dangers with blackberries:

  1. Suckers
  2. Seeds

I have tons of wild blackberries; it must be some kind of sick contest between them and the ragweed as to which is the top weed here. I don't know that much about cultivated blackberries, but I believe have seen "non suckering" advertised as a feature of some cultivars.

They'll apparently grow anywhere. I have a pile of rubble/boulders where nothing should be growing, but the blackberries love it. Here, I blame the birds for spreading seeds.

Mowing seems to keep them under control (not eliminated, just controlled). I say this, because I don't have them popping up in the middle of the lawn, or in fields that are mowed at least a couple of times a year. But at the edges of the lawn, fields, or areas where I can't easily mow, there are many blackberries.

(I don't want this answer to sound like a complaint, though. I usually manage to freeze a couple of gallons of wild blackberries in August, and that doesn't count the berries that don't make it to the freezer. I definitely prefer the blackberries to the ragweed!)

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I'm growing blackberries and raspberries in large pots, and they repeatedly keep trying to tip layer themselves into the bed of rocks (filled in former swimming pool) the pots are sitting on, despite the lack of water and nutrients in the gravel bed –  WebChemist Mar 10 at 3:32

It will probably depend on the particular cultivar.

Wild blackberries are extremely productive in spreading. I live on an Island nearly coated with blackberry.

They seem impervious to mowing, burning and chemicals:

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7434.html#MANAGEMENT

So, that doesn't bode well. :/

One recommendation from the site above is to mow, then roto-till the roots several times.

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re: tilling. I'd be afraid of creating 1000 little pieces of blackberry that will take root. The site says that repeated tillage controls them; I believe they're talking about regular tillage like you'd see in an ag environment. They sprout up in my garden beds all the time, but I can nick them out when they're tiny with just a hoe. –  bstpierre Jun 7 '12 at 19:12
    
The site states "One nonchemical option in the home landscape is the use of a rototiller to till the ground several times after the canes have been removed." I imagine that would be for existing stands that you'd want to get rid of (something I might have to do myself soon). –  DA. Jun 7 '12 at 19:27
    
Ah, I missed that on first reading. Makes sense, I guess you'd keep them from getting a foothold. –  bstpierre Jun 7 '12 at 20:28

Depends on where you live... where I live, it is too dry for them to be too dangerous... and the varieties that I have tried to grow for the last 2 years haven't done much yet.

I dug up about 40 Raspberry canes this spring and not one had major roots further down than 4-5 inches, so I wouldn't worry about trying to confine them if you have them in a raised bed and it isn't directly adjacent to a neighbors yard.

cons:
consider that the plants grown from a thornless blackberry seed may have thorns... the can spread quickly... they don't call them brambles for nothing!

pros:
they taste so much better than the berries that are available in a grocery store.

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