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Care Of Mulberries
Watering, Fertilizing, And Pruning
The mulberry is a hardy tree that thrives throughout the United States,
growing wild in the southern Appalachian forest region, and a number of
varieties can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit when
established. Aside from watering an established tree during dry spells and
turning over the soil in spring and autumn where it is not grown on a
lawn, it needs little care. Fertilization is not necessary on standard
trees, although a thick mulch of compost or leaves around a tree wouldn’t
hurt if and would keep the soil moist as well. As for pruning, standard
trees need only be pruned of dead branches that are causing overcrowding.
These should be removed or thinned out in the winter when the tree isn’t
growing and cut flush to the trunk, the wounds covered with tree wound
paint. The mulberry is a weak wooded tree and loses many branches to the
wind or from kids climbing in it, but its fast growing habit compensates
Mulberry trees purchased from a nursery do not need cross-pollination:
that is, there will be male and female flowers on the same tree. But some
trees, especially those gathered in the wild, will be dioecious, which
means that only either male or female parts of the flower are on a single
tree. Nothing can be done about this if the tree is a male except to plant
a female tree about thirty feet from it. If the tree has just female
parts, however, there are several solutions. There will likely be a male
tree in the locality that will fertilize it, or, in the unlikely event
that there isn’t one, a male tree can be planted. Or else simply cut
sprays of male bloom from a tree a great distance away, put them in
bottles filled with water tied to the female tree and let the insects do
Mulberries are extremely easy to grow and you can save money propagating
them rather than buying trees from a nursery. Either select a tree with
tasty fruit growing in the wild or impose upon a neighbor who has a good
named variety and try one of the following methods.
Seed Propagation - Wash seed from ripe
berries in late summer and store it, thoroughly dried, in a cool place.
Plant the seed in a cold frame in March, or out in the open ground where
you want the tree to grow in late April or early May, whenever spring is
there to stay in you area. Mulberry trees rarely fail to grow from seed,
but there are two decided disadvantages that make the practice
inadvisable: mulberries do not come true from seed and they take many
years to bear fruit when grown in this way.
If you see a mulberry tree coming up from seed dropped by birds in an
out-of-the-way place however, you might give it a chance and let it grow.
Mulberries will sprout up almost anywhere - in the midst of privet bushes,
against the foundation of houses, out of the cracks in concrete sidewalks,
and even out of the roots of other trees. I have a favorite reaching for
the sun on a forty-five-degree angle out of the roots of a pignut hickory.
It must be about seven years old, though I first noticed it a few years
ago, and it is beginning to bear small but tasty berries.
Small Cuttings - Well over 50 per cent
of small cuttings taken from mulberry trees will root and produce trees
identical in fruit and other characteristics. It is best to make cuttings
in early autumn from the shoots of the current year’s growth, though the
cuttings can be taken in early spring as well. Mulberry cuttings should be
about 1 inch long and have a heel of 2-year-old wood about 3 inches long
attached. Plant them in a shady pot with just two bud eyes showing above
the ground. In a year roots will have formed and the cuttings can be
transplanted to their permanent location.
Large Cuttings - This is the quickest way to propagate a
mulberry tree, though it is not as reliable as using small cuttings.
However, even large mulberry branches will root if inserted deeply into
the ground where you want the tree to grow. Tie the branch to tow stakes
to keep it steady and upright and cover it with a tarpaulin or other
protection for the winter. By the next autumn you should have a
fruit-bearing mulberry tree or bush. Make four or five large cuttings this
way to increase your chances of one rooting.
Ground Layering - Another very easy method. In late summer,
early autumn, or even spring, a strong young mulberry branch still growing
on a mother tree is cut shallowly on its underside and bent down to the
ground, where it is buried in a slit trench about 6 inches deep. The
branch can be held from springing back out of place by anchoring it with a
forked twig or a piece of sturdy wire. Make sure that the branch is bent
down as flat as possible and that bout 3 inches of the tip protrudes above
the surface of the ground. Then close the slit in the ground tightly over
the bent branch with a stamp of the foot. The injured branch will root in
a year or less and then can be cut from the mother plant and transplanted
to its permanent location.
Air Layering - Here a young branch
still on the parent plant is injured (slit or debarked) 10 to 12 inches
form its tip. Make the wound about ½ inch wide. Moist (not wet) sphagnum
moss is then wrapped tightly around the wound, which can be sprinkled with
rooting hormone, and a covering of polyethylene plastic is wrapped tightly
around the moss, this taped or tied closed at both ends. Polyethylene
plastic permits air to enter but confines humidity. It is very important
that the tie on the plastic be tight, however, as any rain that enters
will wet the moss too much and prevent rooting. Air layers made in the
late spring will root by late fall and can then be severed form the mother
plant and transplanted whenever you want them, or left on the plant until
Grafting - In addition to propagating
mulberry trees you can plant seed as previously noted to obtain sound
native stock and graft cuttings from higher-yielding or larger-berried
trees onto the stock. Usually this is a job for an experienced nursery
man, but if you want to try, graft or shield-bud the stocks by the general
methods outlined in any gardening encyclopedia.
If you want to eat mulberries, you’ll have to stay ahead of the birds.
Either pick the berries every day to forestall them, net the trees, or try
hanging up aluminum reflectors and noise-making devices to scare them off.
Netting mulberries is probably the best solution, but this is only
practical on smaller trees. Larger trees produce so many berries over so
long a period of time, though, that daily picking of the ripe fruit
assures plenty for both you and the birds. Bush trees and dwarfs can, of
course, be picked by hand, while an easy way to pick large trees without
using a ladder is to spread a sheet under the branches and then give the
tree a few gently shakes. This last method, used for centuries by Italian
mulberry growers, shakes ripe berries to the ground while unripe ones
remain clinging to the branches.
here for some delicious Mulberry recipes)
to the Berry List >>>