...but jes' don't throw me into that brier patch!
Br'er Rabbit certainly made the brier patch out to be a foreboding place--and ours was no exception. We've got two rows of black raspberry canes, about 20 feet long. They were planted with enough room to walk between them, but that is no longer possible. We picked more than four gallons of berries this year, and there were many more deep in the thicket where we couldn't reach them.
Theoretically, a brier patch CAN be kept neat. The berries are borne on canes that sprouted the previous year. First-year canes grow upright. Second-year canes, heavy with berries, droop to the outside of the row and the berries are at a height convenient for picking. After harvest, the second-year canes should be cut off at ground level and removed, leaving only the canes that will fruit the next year.
In actuality, it's no fun to remove the old canes--they're prickly, and the muggy August heat is unpleasant--so they are frequently left to rot over the next couple years. The ground-level thicket allows weeds to grow, so the berry patch becomes crowded with grass, ironweed, goldenrod, nightshade, and 6-foot black walnut and ash trees. THAT'S a foreboding berry patch!
I'm working now--in the cool parts of the day--to remove the overgrowth. Heavy gloves and long-handled loppers are my friends, and I've made significant progress. The left end of the picture shows where I've cleared; the end closer to the barn is still a formidable bramble. One of my debris piles is in the left foreground.
Some of the canes I'm cutting out are still only in their first year, so next year's harvest will likely be a bit smaller, but, with increased sunlight and airflow, I think the patch will ultimately be healthier.
I've still got quite a bit more to do--but I'm almost able to walk between the two rows now!