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Chop and drop weeding/thinning on wood chips mulch

 
Posts: 5
Location: Elverum, Norway, sub-arctic to temperate zone
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Is this a good idea?

I have a patch of raspberries and thought while thinning and weeding them just to use the cuttings as mulch between the rows.
I have already mulched with wood chips.

Thanks for any insights.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I chop and drop onto the woodchips I plant in and it works well. I haven't noted any problems.
 
Tord Helsingeng
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Location: Elverum, Norway, sub-arctic to temperate zone
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Thank you for your reply!
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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You're very welcome.
 
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That's what I do; I see my garden beds (originally created with wood chips) as compost piles. Once I harvest the veggies I cut the plants at the base and spread them on top, when I cut the grass I add a small layer, etc. I never pull the plants out, because I don't want to disturb the root system. Heck, I even will leave some veggies to decompose on the pile (I see it as a form of respect for the reproductive efforts of the plant world). Sometimes I get crops that volunteer this way; it's nature's way to surprise me!
 
gardener
Posts: 6686
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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When chopping and dropping Raspberry or Blackberry, be sure to let the canes dry out completely before putting anything on top of them.
When we first started clearing Buzzard's Roost (we had two acres of wild Blackberry canes mixed in with Sumac, small hickory and oak trees) we were chopping and piling canes.
It was only two weeks before we noticed the chopped canes were sprouting new growth.
Now we chop and dry the canes before using them in mulch or putting into composting heaps, no more Blackberry sprouts from the chopped canes.

We use the chop/ drop a lot and still have around a half acre of canes growing. It takes a full season of chopping, each time the little buggers sprout back, to get the roots to die from exhaustion.
We don't let them go for long, once they show up we whack them down (some areas we do it once a week, when the rains don't come it can be three weeks before re-sprout).

The dried canes make great mulch and they decompose well in the heaps too. They have increased several nutrient levels in our compost, such as; phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
These are the main increases that I can attribute to just the Blackberry canes through chemical analysis.
 
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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My only concern would be prickly unclear paths. Are you planning to walk where you will be chopping and dropping? I have found that the more obvious the paths are, the better. Visitors are likely to step into the beds if the paths look lumpy and prickly.
 
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Location: Spain (Gredos, mountains in central plateau)
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Hi! I recently started working on an old piece of land that used to be an apple orchard but was abandoned for 25 years. It is 1000 square meters big and it is completely covered by blackberry bushes and wild roses (rosa canina), some of them 2 meters high. One cannot even enter the place, that is the density.
I started clearing it and found myself with a huge pile of thorny branches and leftovers that i really dont know what to do with. As you mentioned in this post, i dont want them to re-green, and i feel the ammount is to much to mulch it (i may be wrong).
Have you got any idea about what i could do, or maybe know a better post to ask this question?
Thank you!!
 
pollinator
Posts: 213
Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work and you will have to keep clearing it as both will regrow from the roots left in the ground for a long time.

Quick answer:  Rent a goat!  (No really, they will clear it nicely.  Not sure what they'd do to your apples, though.)

Rose and blackberry brambles shouldn't regrow after being dried.  For my much smaller infestation I pull a large barrel's worth, chopped a few inches long, leave it in the barrel for a week or so, then dump it in the compost heap.  If anything's sprouting it goes back in the barrel until it dies.  It would probably be much better as mulch than compost.

I think the consensus of the forum is that there's no such thing as too much mulch, especially as you're wanting to suppress the roses and blackberries.  Also, the smaller it's chopped up, a) the smaller the pile will be and b) the faster it will break down to an even smaller pile.  I'd even rent a wood chipper if feasible.  If not, IIRC Dale Hodgins uses a machete to whack his piles down smaller.

What's your plan with the land?  Do you want to restore the orchard?  Grow annuals?  Something else?

Good luck!
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I don't like using old canes as mulch.

1) I garden barefoot, a lot. Prickles = not good
2) The canes - unless manually cut to short lengths - make other weeding harder, especially the bindweed which is a problem for me. I need to be able to pull long root sections through the mulch.
 
Alicia Sandz
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Location: Spain (Gredos, mountains in central plateau)
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Morfydd St. Clair wrote:Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work and you will have to keep clearing it as both will regrow from the roots left in the ground for a long time.

Quick answer:  Rent a goat!  (No really, they will clear it nicely.  Not sure what they'd do to your apples, though.)

Rose and blackberry brambles shouldn't regrow after being dried.  For my much smaller infestation I pull a large barrel's worth, chopped a few inches long, leave it in the barrel for a week or so, then dump it in the compost heap.  If anything's sprouting it goes back in the barrel until it dies.  It would probably be much better as mulch than compost.

I think the consensus of the forum is that there's no such thing as too much mulch, especially as you're wanting to suppress the roses and blackberries.  Also, the smaller it's chopped up, a) the smaller the pile will be and b) the faster it will break down to an even smaller pile.  I'd even rent a wood chipper if feasible.  If not, IIRC Dale Hodgins uses a machete to whack his piles down smaller.

What's your plan with the land?  Do you want to restore the orchard?  Grow annuals?  Something else?

Good luck!



Thank you! Yes, i see it is a lot of work and not very efficient... I was planning to contact some neighbours that have cattle to see if they would like to spend some time in there.
There are two old apple trees that have some sprouts, but the rest are fallen and dry. My plan is to experiment with agroforestry, plant different types of fruit trees and annuals. I am in no hurry.
While I find some cattle to clear the orchard, i need to do something with the canes, i agree that having the ground fully covered with thorns is not my idea, so i will try to make compost out of them somehow. I need to make some space so animals can at least enter the place...
I dont know why i was hoping that there would be some other way to transform all that material in an easy way. I am a dreamer... Any idea about how much it would take to decompose if i just chop and make a huge pile?
Thanks a lot for your answers!!
 
Morfydd St. Clair
pollinator
Posts: 213
Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Do cattle eat brambles?  I wouldn't think so, whereas goats eat everything.  But if you can get cattle to eat this, that would be great to know - keep us posted!

Because a) you aren't attached to anything in currently there, and b) the ground is completely infested with brambles, I think the standard advice would be to get hold of as much cardboard as possible, lay several layers over cleared ground, and cover it with whatever organic material you can scavenge.  Eventually the cardboard will break down, by which time the roots underneath will be (one hopes) exhausted.  If you want to plant while it's still breaking down, poke holes through just large enough for your plants and watch for weeds like a hawk.

A less permie way would be to use black plastic over your cleared ground for at least a season.  Pull it up and plant normally.  It exhausts the roots like cardboard without needing so much external input and ideally you'd be able to re-use the material in new regions as you clear them.  But, you know, it's plastic, ugly, can and will tear, and eventually sunlight will disintegrate it.

The bramble material will transform by itself!  It will just take a while!  Make sure the brambles are dead, put down either barrier against the soil (to keep things from growing through your pile), and make a big pile.  Water it.  Pull any weeds that try to infest it.  It will rot down to half the size in a year.  The center will be crumbly mulch (though sadly I think thorns are the last thing to stay intact) and add the outer stuff to a new pile.  Of course this works faster in summer, but it sounds like you have time.

You should put your general location in your profile so we can give more specific advice.  
 
Alicia Sandz
Posts: 3
Location: Spain (Gredos, mountains in central plateau)
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I didn't know that cattle don't eat brambles, i should've guessed since i believe this piece of land was at some point part of a farmers cooperative who were taking their cattle to the diferent pieces of land in the cooperative, and apparently the cows didn't go any further than 6 sq meters into my place...
I had heard about the cardboard/plastic option before but i am not sure how it would affect my soil, there are some young oaks growing here and there among the brambles and they have been covering the soil with nice leaves for at least the past 10 years. The land hasn't been irrigated but it is kind of moist, so i feel very optimistic about the soil quality/microorganisms. There are some small wild greens growing there as well (i found some asparagus too). My location is in the iberian peninsula (Spain) in the mountains located in the central plateau (Gredos) at 1200 m height. Hot and dry summers, with chilly nights, and cold and not too rainy winters, but frost and the rare occasional snow.
Considering how that pile of organic matter would disintegrate, i was thinking about piling it along the outer walls/limits of the plot to contribute to the already existing "bramble walls" and avoid the entrance of what i believe may be a boar from the adjacent lands.
I will keep on my search for goats and maybe a wood chipper in my area!
 
pollinator
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Location: Gulf Islands BC (zone 8)
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My goats do a goid job of keeping brambles I have cut back from getting out of control again. They are not so effective at clearing major canes but will eat the leaves for you.
If you do find some goats to help you, keep an eye on them to make sure they are not chewing the bark off the apple trees. Given time they will happily girdle apple trees. Depends what else they have to eat. They may or may not take an interest in the trees. You could wrap the trunk with hardware cloth up to six feet or so to be absolutely safe. Lower if they are smaller goats.
 
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