Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blackberry Plants and Patches

By Christina VanGinkel

When making decisions on what to plant in our garden this year, the subject of planting a patch of blackberries came up for discussion. One of nature's sweetest providers of the all important vitamin C (this was my husband's comment as he was trying tot talk me into planting a patch of these admittedly delicious fruit bearers!) they are also chalk full of other important vitamins and nutrients. The fact that they make delicious jams and pies and that one can literally eat them by the handfuls ripe off the bush, also does not escape me, yet I am being very resistant to the suggestion that we plant a patch of these on our property.

Part of my argument is that we have a wild patch of blackberries on our property already, and other wild patches in the surrounding area on county land that are readily available during season if I feel the need to pick more than what I can right on our own property.

My husband has argued back that having a managed patch would be nice for our children and grandchildren in the future. With the price of fruits sometimes so exorbitant, that one nearly chokes when they see what a small pint of berries cost at the local grocer, it makes sense that planting a patch now is the only smart thing to do. This is where I lose the argument, as I have to agree with him whole-heartedly. Therefore, what is my problem? Black bears of course!

I was invited a few years back to pick berries at a patch that a friend of a friend had. It was situated quite close to the house that she lived in with her husband and three young school-aged children. As we started picking, she kindly gave warning that we should be aware at all times, as we walked through the paths of the patch. Black bear were known to frequent the patch throughout picking season, and in her words, would not bother you if you did not bother them. However, that it was still prudent to be alert to our surroundings. As a person who has photographed many a black bear throughout the years, I had to disagree with her. Yes, most black bear are somewhat shy in the wild, but they can also be quite fierce and protective if they are feeding or have their young about, or for no good reason whatsoever. That the idea of black bear visiting her patch never entered my mind until she brought it up, escapes my sensibility, but it never did. One young girl was in a tree stand with her father several years ago, not far from our house, sitting over a bait pile of corn, deer hunting, when a curious black bear decided to crawl the tree to see what, or whom, apparently was in the tree. The young girl ended up suffering a severe bite to her arm, even though she and her father had in no way provoked the bear. I have also come across black bear when picking berries before, yet with that particular patch so close to her house, I can honestly tell you that I never dreamed it would be a problem.

When my husband asked me what the difference was if I picked blackberries from the wild patch already on our land, or from a managed patch, I did have a difference to relate, a huge one. The wild patch was overflowing with plants that were close to the ground, and it was easy to see at a glance what was around. The patch that I had visited was over my head high, thick, and difficult to maneuver in. The idea of meeting a black bear in it was enough to curtail my pleasure that day, and make me not ever want to pick from it again.

My husband has assured me that if we plant a patch, we will be sure to keep it well pruned, it would be much smaller than what the size of that one was, and we would not plant it directly by the house in the first place. A spot out towards the wild patch would probably be much better soil for it anyhow.

I have not totally agreed to the idea yet, but I am giving in. The idea of even more berries to harvest each season is almost too good to be true!

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