Tag Archives: invasive species

Garden Nemesis: The Evil Himalayan Blackberry!

I’d sure like to have a word with the chumps who carefully packed seeds or canes or whatever they brought with them from the Old Country and then carefully cultivated new Himalayan Blackberry patches in land formerly unplagued by these monstrous beasts. Apparently, (at least according to the Royal BC Museum website) the fool who muled them here in 1885 was an American botanist! Surely a botanist should have known better?????

Expect to see a lot of this kind of action around here over the next little while...

Expect to see a lot of this kind of action around here over the next little while…

Yes, the berries are sweet and delicious and wonderful for making jam and pie (I believe that was the original motivation for import), but are they worth the havoc the dense thickets are wreaking on our native species? The stands of lacerating canes are so dense and vigorous it doesn’t take long to choke and/or shade out whatever might otherwise be growing (Garry Oak groves, for example).

Fighting the prickly canes is a miserable task. Anyone who believes plants can’t think (plot/scheme/have it in for us) hasn’t fought with barbed tendrils that wrap around you, entwining your entire body in search of exposed skin or, even better, loose hair, or even better than that, a key artery.

Blackberries be gone!

Is there anyone who is happy about this abundance of invaders? Indeed, yes – the goats! Unfortunately, the area we are clearing at the moment isn’t one that I can easily fence or we’d just let the goats come in and strip the canes. They happily wade right into the nastiest of thickets, noshing all the way and will eat all but the oldest, toughest stalks when given half a chance. After they are done, the hogs are great at using their powerful snouts to dig out the roots, which they eat with gusto. Such a shame this isn’t really a livestock-friendly area. Not wanting the creatures to be left out of all the fun, I hauled several wheelbarrows full down to the goat pen and they were happy to help us out with a bit of pre-compost processing.

Alas, it’s up to us humans to first hack the beasts off at the knees and then get in there and dig out as much of the roots as we can.

Chickens at WorkThe red layers love helping whenever we are out in the garden. They race over and see what we might have dug up. They are very good at taking care of slugs and bugs and also turning over the top layer of soil while fertilizing and are great to run through garden areas at this time of year when the annuals are done and there isn’t much they can damage.

Soon, though, when we re-seed the lawn and put in our new rockery they will have to move down to the poultry field with their fancy rolling house and take their place with the other birds. I’ll miss not having them so close to the house, though it will be great not tripping over six or seven at a time as they vie for the opportunity to untie my shoelaces and peck at my calves every time I go outside!

Too Cool to be a School

Shoreline WallA few weeks ago I started working on a lengthy project with some students at Shoreline Middle School. Kids from grades 6, 7, and 8 are working together to create a book that highlights all the cool, green initiatives going on at their school. It turns out, there is so much going on we might need to do a whole series of books! We certainly have our work cut out for us as we navigate all the usual steps taken to get from concept (“Let’s write a book about our school!”) to the day of the official book launch sometime in late May or early June when the kids will get to hold copies in their hot little hands.

If I were to try to describe everything that’s going on at the school, I would wind up with a book and not a blog post, so I thought I’d just mention a couple of initiatives that could be implemented just about anywhere.

In the photo above the kids are not being arrested or doing some sort of push-ups against the wall. We went on a walkabout together in our early information-gathering stage of the project and the school principal stopped us in front of this wall. A little farther along, closer to the doors, a couple of raised beds contain herbs used in the school’s soup and salad bar.

Shoreline Raised Beds


As we stood there looking at the wall, the principal asked what direction the wall was facing. Several kids knew it was a south-facing wall (I was impressed because, being directionally challenged, I don’t think I could have told you which way any of the walls attached to any of the schools I attended were oriented). Immediately, a lively discussion followed about why south facing walls are great as passive solar heaters and how you can plant heat-loving things (like herbs) along such a wall to extend the growing season.

What was also cool was the way that wall acted like a kid magnet. No sooner had someone said it was likely to be warm than the whole class surged forward and touched, leaned against, and pressed cheeks and foreheads to the building. When the principal commented that there was discussion afoot about planting peach trees along the wall, well, there weren’t too many nay-sayers in the group!

And so it went as we made our way around the school grounds inspecting the vegetable garden complete with hanging woolly pockets full of strawberry plants (sleeping, but still alive), the back forest, and the school field.

Shoreline CoyoteI had a bit of a shock when I glanced out the window and saw a couple of these coyotes out on the field! Turns out they are fakes, moved around each day in order to scare off the Canada Geese. They seem to be doing the trick because we didn’t see a single goose on school property all afternoon. I have the feeling that one way or another these guys will be featured in the book!

It was fascinating to see how all the earthy stuff (composting, rain barrels, growing vegetables, a camas bulb planting project, eradication of invasive species, etc.) was being recorded by kids taking photos with Iphones and digital cameras and making notes on their Ipads and other digital devices. I have to say I was impressed that by and large the digital tools were used to get the job done (collect lots of photos of our fact-finding mission) rather than send endless texts or watch cute cat videos. Can’t wait to see how things progress over the next few months! I’ll try to remember to post updates every week or so until the project is finished…