Blackberry vines may be sprayed in spring, but never the fruit

Every August, I go blackberry-picking, typically along Jacksonville Highway, the Greenway or by the Little League fields. Recently, a friend told me that blackberry bushes in the city are sprayed. Is that true?

— Natalie D., Medford

Natalie, it's the end of blackberry season, which typically runs from late July through September, and our guess is you've already gathered all the blackberries you need and are fork-deep in blackberry cobbler.

Your friend is right. Some blackberry bushes in city parks and along the Little League fields, the U.S. Cellular fields and select parts of the Bear Creek Greenway are sprayed every spring, but don't let this ruin your dessert. They couldn't be certified as organic, but Parks Superintendent Dobey Elliott assured us the berries are still safe.

"We do use some chemicals (typically Roundup or Crossbow) on the blackberries (vines)," said Elliott. "Our preferred method is to cut the cane and swab the stumps.

"We usually do this in early spring, and we never ever spray or do anything to the blackberries when they are flowering or fruiting, other than maybe cut them down."

Earlier this year, the City Council also gave Eagle Point goat herder Ern Russell the go-ahead to let 32 of his herbivores chomp their way through 7 acres of blackberries along a 1,500-foot stretch of Bear Creek in U.S. Cellular Park, according to a story published earlier this year.

"Once the goats defoliate the blackberries, we go in and cut the cane down," Elliott said.

Goat are cheaper than chemicals, can eradicate blackberries and other invasive species along waterways such as Bear Creek, where the city can't spray, and could reduce the amount of chemicals used in the future.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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