Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Since we moved in, I've been trying to kill the blackberry vine that grows between the sidewalk and street, reaching out thorny tendrils to catch unwary commuters. Every few months, I chop it back to the soil and rip out any roots I can find. It always grows back.

The blackberry is incredibly invasive and almost unkillable once it's established. This may have something to do with a friend's confusion about the front yard. "Wait. You planted blackberries? On purpose?"

Ladybug, diligently patrolling the blackberries for aphids.

Here's the redeeming thing about blackberry plants: they make blackberries. And I like blackberries a lot. The ones in the stores these days seem to have been grown for sturdiness rather than flavor, which doesn't stop them from being absurdly expensive. And although I know a lot of "urban foragers" are happy to harvest the thickets under the BART tracks, I worry about what the maintenance guys are spraying them with.    

So last spring, with the help of some friends, I planted five blackberry plants and six raspberries in our front yard (I also like raspberries a great deal). Not having any idea which varieties would do best in my yard, I just got one of every bare-root variety that Berkeley Hort had in stock. The nursery guy said he liked the way I roll.

One of the new raspberries.  
We didn't expect berries the first year, but got a dozen or so. They were damned good, though I forgot to pay attention to which plants produced the tastiest fruit. I also neglected to water them much, figuring that this would encourage them to develop deep roots and build character. All that good stuff. Only two raspberries survived, but four blackberries did, which just goes to show you.

The survivors spent the winter sending out runners. In theory, these should bear fruit this summer. Unless they're trellised and diligently monitored, they will also root and spread until the plants take over the entire property. So after picking up and planting a few new varieties (including the "Loch Ness" blackberry – I'm a sucker for amusingly named produce), I put up trellises, tied the runners up, and gave everything a good watering.

Trellises made from salvaged hardware, branches from the eucalyptus tree we had to take down, and my favorite brown twine. If I do this again, I need to learn to tie the right kind of knots.