Homegrown: Blackberry vine, winter lawns

I planted a blackberry vine beside our mobile home ... and now I have a blackberry vine growing from one end of our mobile to the other end. We have put Ortho weed killer on it but cannot seem to kill the vine. What will kill it and how do we do it? The vine has been growing for four years and is drawing snakes and mice. Help!

— Charlotte in Northern California

I think that if blackberries weren’t so good to eat we would consider them the scourge of the earth. They really can be an invasive nuisance in areas where the winters aren’t too cold.

Here in western Colorado, they tend to behave themselves because our cold sort of holds them in check.

Since that won’t work for you, there is a product that will get rid of them. What you need is a brush killer that contains the herbicide Triclopyr, also known as Garlon. There’s a Fertilome product called Brush and Stump Killer that works well.

Fertilome is a national brand that you ought to be able to find at a nearby independent garden center, but I think this herbicide also is available from other household pest control companies.

There are a couple ways to use it. You can mix it with water and spray it on the foliage. This will probably take two or three sprays three or four weeks apart to do the job.

You can also cut down the plant and paint the product full strength onto the freshly cut ends of the canes. It will be absorbed and taken down to kill the roots of the plant. The advantage to this is that you usually only have to do it once.

Be careful when using this product, it’s pretty potent. You never want to get it on any desirable plants as it will damage or kill them as well.

Don’t spray when it’s windy and just get the spray on the foliage, wetting it well but not soaking it so that it’s dripping off the foliage all over the place. If you’re using it full strength to paint the cut ends, don’t dribble it on the soil, as the herbicide can sterilize the soil for up to a year and may adversely affect other desirable plants you may have in that area.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a scary, dangerous product, it isn’t, but use a little caution and a lot of common sense when you use it.

I’ve heard different things from people about how long to leave my lawn over the winter. What’s your advice?

— Keith

At this point, most folks already have tucked in their lawns for the winter. However, if you’re working on your yard now, it’s best to leave it a little long.

Some folks think that they should keep the grass short to prevent molds over the winter, but with our climate, that’s rarely a problem. Winter mold is usually only a problem in areas that have extended periods of snow cover.

Maintaining a longer lawn is an advantage for us here in Grand Junction. Since we don’t have a lot of winter moisture, but do have lots of sun and very low humidity, the ground dries out more quickly which can damage our grass.

Longer lawns will provide a type of mulch layer which cuts down on evaporative loss and maintains moisture in our soil. Through the season, it’s good to have your grass 2–3 inches tall. Through the winter you should leave it even a little longer.

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Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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