Briar Patches Are For the Birds!

Red-Tailed Hawk--large bird of prey.
Red-Tailed Hawk--large bird of prey. | Source

It started out to be a leisurely day with lots of sunshine and crisp temperatures. I was minding my own business flying around looking for a suitable nesting spot or two, when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a hawk! My heart began to race; and the blood pumped hard into my chest and wings. I flew as fast as I could, but knew I would not be able to outrun this predator.

Cardinal in flight!
Cardinal in flight! | Source

Close Call!

Frantically I looked around for a safe harbor. There in front of me was a beautiful thick tangle of thorny branches! I skillfully maneuvered between the prickly stems and found a spot on which to land. With my beak wide open I started to pant; trying not to let the anxiety overwhelm me, I looked around for the hawk. To my great relief the hawk was flying away. This briar patch saved my life. Come to think of it, this would be a wonderful place to build a safe nest!

Thick tangle of briars provides cover and protection from predators, as well as a good food source for wild birds.
Thick tangle of briars provides cover and protection from predators, as well as a good food source for wild birds. | Source

When I Was a Kid

There was a huge briar patch between my parents’ property and the boggy swamp beyond. It hosted blackcaps, wild red raspberries and chokecherries. For the birds it was a source of protection from all kinds of predators. For them and us it was also a gold mine of late summer sweetness. With our pint baskets in hand, my brothers and I picked the juicy black and red raspberries for Mom to make into wonderful jam and pies.

Ripe Blackberries.  Yum!
Ripe Blackberries. Yum! | Source

It took weeks for our dark-red stained hands to return to their normal color, but we didn’t mind. I can still feel the warmth of the summer sun as we skillfully avoided the thorny canes (after years of practice and many scratched arms and legs!) to find the ripe berries. But most of all I can remember the amazing flavor of the homemade berry pies.

Female Purple Finch in raspberrry bush.
Female Purple Finch in raspberrry bush. | Source

There were so many birds that sang and called nearby. It was such a large patch that there were plenty of berries for the birds as well as the neighbors. The birds didn’t seem to mind sharing this marvelous bounty with us. Hundreds of birds flew in and out of that area every day from early spring right through mid autumn.

Do You Love Berries?

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Raspberry Patch Fairy made by my Mom a long time ago.
Raspberry Patch Fairy made by my Mom a long time ago. | Source

Here in the woods there are briars out back on the hill at the edge of the forest. I’m glad I decided to let them ‘do their thing’ because they have attracted cardinals, titmice and brown thrashers as well as robins, and juncos. Even though the Japanese beetles are also fond of those wild berries, the cat birds make short work of them for me!

Part of my briar patch in very early spring.
Part of my briar patch in very early spring. | Source
Source
Raspberries planted next to a fence make for easy access by humans and birds!
Raspberries planted next to a fence make for easy access by humans and birds! | Source

If you have only a small space, you can plant a briar patch.

If you wish, you can install the berry bushes next to a length of fence or at the base of a trellis. Nowadays there are thornless varieties that produce very tasty fruits from summertime into the fall season. It is best, though, to plant native varieties. They have adjusted to your particular climate; plus the birds are used to looking for those native berry types. Your county Cooperative Extension Office can help you with that; or consult a local nursery that sells berry plants and bushes.

The major requirement for a good crop of berries is sunshine and well-drained soil rich in organic material and or compost.

So Many Varieties of Raspberries!

Raspberry Variety
Color
Thornless?
Zone
When Berries Ripen
Cumberland
Black
No
4-8
early July
Darrow
Black
No
4-8
mid July to fall
Black Hawk
Black
No
4-8
mid July
Triple Crown
Black
Yes
5-8
mid June to August
Dewberry
Black
No
6-9
early June
Jewel
Black
No
5-8
mid July
Bristol
Black
No
4-8
mid July
Allen
Black
No
4-8
early July
Chester
Black
Yes
5-8
early July
Illini
Black
No
4-8
mid to late July
Killarney
Red
No
4-8
late June
Purple Royalty
Red
No
4-8
late July
Caroline
Red
No
4-9
mid June to fall
Durham
Red
No
4-8
mid July to fall
Latham
Red
No
2-8
early July
Canby
Red
Yes
5-8
mid July
Heritage
Red
No
4-8
mid June to fall
Fall Red
Red
No
3-8
early July to fall
Taylor
Red
No
4-7
early July
Fall Gold
Golden
No
3-8
mid June to fall

Organic soil mixtures are available at your local garden center or online; or consider making your own using the Dirt Farmer’s excellent recipe. Leaves collect naturally under my plants as the deciduous trees lose their foliage in the fall. But if you don’t have leaf mold, you can certainly mix in your own compost, or use grass clippings, sawdust or pine straw to continuously organically enrich your berry patch soil.

Do Not Use Pesticides or Herbicides! You will not only poison the insects, but the birds, and eventually us. All that toxic stuff ends up in our water. If there seems to be more bugs than your birds can handle (which is rare by the way), opt for non-toxic alternatives.


My Favorite Non-Toxic Pesticide

is what I call bug juice. Collect ¼ to ½ cup of the insects that you want to eradicate. I use a yogurt container that has been washed, rinsed and dried. I have a large dowel that I use, which accomplishes the same thing as a mortar and pestle does for grinding up herbs in the kitchen. Make sure the insects are ‘smunched up' (that’s a technical term); add water, cover and let the mixture set for a day or more.


Stinkbug!
Stinkbug! | Source

I want to add a caution here: if you have a stinkbug problem, this is probably not something you want to do!

Strain the bug mixture through a sieve that has very tiny holes, then pour your bug juice into a spray bottle. This works very well on the plants that these particular bugs are bothering. Best of all, there is no fear of poisoning anything, including yourself!

Pruning is a necessary task to insure your bushes produce high crop yields and behave themselves. It’s not hard, but a little judicious planning is essential. If you are using berry varieties with thorns, ensure you dress the part. Wear heavy gloves, and cover your arms and legs for maximum protection.

My well-worn equipment for pruning raspberries.
My well-worn equipment for pruning raspberries. | Source
Prune old dead canes to the ground, and discard them.
Prune old dead canes to the ground, and discard them. | Source

Once berries are all done for the season and the weather turns cold, use hand-held pruners or long-handled loppers to cut the old dark brown dead canes to the ground. Then cut just the tips of the new growth so that those green canes are only 6 to 8 feet long. I have a black plastic trash can that I use for the cuttings. After chopping them up into 4” to 6” pieces, I throw them in the trash can, cover with a lid and leave it in the sun. Occasionally I throw in a shovel full of dirt. Eventually the cuttings break down into usable compost. I have had no errant sprouting using this method.

Raspberry plants are already 'greening up' .
Raspberry plants are already 'greening up' . | Source

Sprinkle an organic fertilizer over the area where the roots of your plants will benefit from it, then cover with about 4” to 6” of organic mulch. In the spring your plants will be raring to produce an abundance of sweet and juicy fruit for your feathered friends, and you!

Scarlet Tanager.
Scarlet Tanager. | Source

Berry-Loving Birds

Birds that are frugivorous (love berries) include: Carolina wrens, thrashers, catbirds, blue jays, towhees, robins, titmice, thrushes, woodpeckers, tanagers, grouse, pheasants, turkeys, flickers, cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks, bluebirds, orioles and tanagers to name a few.

Woodpeckers have a sweet tooth as well as a penchant for bugs!
Woodpeckers have a sweet tooth as well as a penchant for bugs! | Source

Birds that love the bugs (insectivorous) that love berries include: catbirds, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, bluebirds, robins, juncos, thrashers, thrushes, grouse and many more!

If you want to retain some rights to your berries for yourself, you will have to cover those plants with netting; that is unless you have a huge berry patch! Be sure the netting or bridal tulle reaches all the way to the ground. Those berry-loving birds are sneaky and will find a way into the patch if you skip this step!

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Do You Have a Raspberry Patch? 20 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

We have about 30 feet of raspberries along one fence and what a bounty they give us each year...and the birds do love that area. Great tips here, Pearl! Thank you!


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Lots of childhood memories for you. We had a berry patch when we lived in Houston and it grew wild out of control. You did a lovely job and made me want to jump into the hub and pick some berries. VOting up++ and pinning.


DIYmommy profile image

DIYmommy 3 years ago

This lens was beautiful and engaging. I loved your pictures! This article seamlessly transported me back to a time reminiscent of my childhood, as I can relate to many things you wrote about here.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Another wonderful gem ;beautifully presented and so well informed. Here's to so many more beautiful hubs from you. I vote up and you have a great weekend Pearl.

Eddy.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Billy, I should have known you'd have a bounty of fresh berries ready for the pickin' when the summer rolls around! Thanks for feeding the birds as well as yourself a naturally sweet and healthful dessert. Bravo!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Carol, what a nice comment! I'm glad you enjoyed reading this, and feel free to dive in to my virtual berry patch any time! Your votes and pin are so very much appreciated, as are your supportive comments. Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend my friend ;)

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

DIYmommy, thank you so much for stopping by! What wonderful comments; I have a feeling we are kindred spirits. Great childhood memories have a way of quietly following us into adulthood, don't they?! I'm glad you liked the photos as well. I enjoyed your visit, thank you!

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Dear Eddy, thank you for your very supportive comments. You are indeed a loyal friend whose encouragement lifts my spirit with every visit! I hope your weekend is peaceful and enjoyable, my friend.

Pearl


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Great material, Connie, as it is truly bird time now, and the berries will be here soon enough. I also recall picking blackberries and raspberries with my mother for pies, tarts, and jam. Oh, those were the days!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Deb! It's funny how many of my childhood memories are connected to the birds in some way. They were a source of fascination year round; always something interesting happening. Like watching the hawks wheeling around looking for updrafts on a warm summer day; finding a nest full of robin's eggs; watching a baby bird fly from the nest for the first time. Good memories!

Thanks for the visit and the great comments, and most of all your friendship. ;)


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

Voted up, Awesome, useful, beautiful and interesting. One thing I am learning about you is that your articles are jam packed with knowledge and information. Your passion for wildlife and Mother Nature are abundantly clear in your writings and I love that passion you share with all of us.

As a young boy I would pick strawberries on a large farm in North Syracuse in order to earn some pocket money. One year I was apparently eating too many berries that had been sprayed with pesticide and by the end of the day my bottom lip was swollen so big it was if I had been pummeled by Mohammed Ali. The moral of that story is the importance of washing food grown on large farms.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

pagesvoice I'm so glad you stopped by! Thank you for such lovely and supportive comments. I'm glad my love of nature and all things wild comes through in my articles. I know you and I share that same love and passion for this glorious State of New York, and especially this Southern Tier region and all that it has to offer.

You brought back memories of our wild strawberry patch with your story about picking them for spending money, and ending up with a fat lip! June was strawberry pickin' time at our house, with wild strawberries and ice cream or strawberry shortcake for dessert every night of the season! It took about an hour with my Mom, my brothers and me plucking berries to find enough for all of us, but it was a lot of fun. Commercial berries now don't hold a candle to that old-fashioned flavor! I do remember that there were more than a couple of times that little garter snakes would slither over the top of our sneakers. We were constantly on the lookout for them, especially my Mom! That tells you there were no pesticides in our wild patch, luckily.

Even now I am vigilant about washing commercial berries because of the overuse of pesticides. It seems to me that it is a common practice to use a sledgehammer when a flyswatter would do! Your story has a valuable lesson to us all. It also gives a very good example of why I am so much against the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. I think a lot of the diseases present in our society today stem from the toxins and preservatives in our foods. We need to get back to the good old days when everything was non-toxic and homegrown!

Thanks for making such a dreary day a whole lot brighter; and of course for the votes, all of which are very much appreciated! ;)

Pearl


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

It is always a pleasure to visit, Pearl. Oh, and by the way, it is 3:00 P.M. and it started snowing about one hour ago. Ugh...how am I ever going to start my artisan lettuce plants?


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

pagesvoice, it started snowing here about 1:30pm. Grandma always said the last big snowstorm of the season was on or around St. Patrick's Day! She usually started her cold weather crops on April Fool's Day--she lived in Millerton, Pa, just across the border; and that was her way of 'fooling' the weatherman!

We seem to be on the same wavelength. I was just wondering how I'm going to get my peas planted in this frozen soil? New York State winters are always something to be experienced, aren't they?! Maybe next week we'll be in the 60's? Hopefully we'll both be able to get our crops in soon! In the meantime, enjoy a peaceful day ;) Pearl


Vickiw 3 years ago

Loved this Hub, but I was thinking how glad I am that the birds don't attack my thornless blackberry. I have written a Hub about that! Funny isn't it when we discover others with the same interests? Can't believe I didn't see your Hubs before! Lovely photos, and great information. I have many berries in the yard, and get great pleasure from them.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Vickiw, I'm so glad you stopped by! It's nice to save a few berries for ourselves, isn't it?! I have loved both berries and birds since I was old enough to pick the berries and watch the birds.

Thank you for the supportive comments and for your visit. I am very pleased to meet you here. I shall be along soon to check out my new kindred spirit's hubs!

;) Pearl


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi Pearl

Thanks for sharing this. This is packed with info we berry lovers need to know.

This also took me back to the blackberry patch of my youth. I have written about them in my Virginia hubs.

I so remember the stained fingers but did not mind at all.:)

have a lovely rest of the weekend...Angels are on the way :) ps


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

pstraubie, I'm so glad you liked this article! By the way, angels arrived late this afternoon--thank you! Yes, I just wish I could go back to those carefree berry-pickin' days. I can still smell the grass and those wonderful ripe black raspberries. I decided to order several raspberry plants to add to the wild patch I have already. There should be plenty for the birds and me, too! ;) Pearl


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

We had a huge black raspberry bush/tree across the street from us when we lived in Philly. I used to eat them and also made warpaint from them when I was pretending to be Bravewarrior.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 2 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Shauna, so you painted your face with the beautiful color purple of black raspberries--awesome! My bushes attract a bunch of different birds in the summertime. One of them is the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of my very favorite birds. Titmice, jays and cardinals also relish this berry treat, as do I!

Thanks for stopping by to see me, Bravewarrior ;) Pearl

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