Mulberries

The fruit of the mulberry is rarely found in shops, so growing your own is largely the only way you will get to enjoy this juicy, tasty treat. Apart from being good to eat, trees make an architectural feature thanks to their spreading habit and crooked, gnarled shape. Tolerant of a range of soils, mulberries can be grown against walls if space is limited.

Mulberries

Grow

Ensure that the young tree does not dry out in its first few seasons. In late winter, apply a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore or fish, blood and bone at a rate of 70g per sq m (2oz per sq yd). In spring, apply a mulch of organic matter such as well-rotted manure.

Pot grown trees; before growth re-starts in spring, pot the tree on each year into a slightly larger container.

Prune standard and half standard mulberries when they are fully dormant; about a month after leaf fall. This should prevent sap bleeding from the cut surfaces. Each winter remove badly placed shoots that interfere with the shape of the tree. Remove any that appear on the trunk below the framework and those that are dead, broken, crossing or over-crowded.

To train as an espalier against a sunny, sheltered wall, plant a two to three year old tree and train in the usual way for an espalier. Once established, prune side shoots that arise from branches and stem back to three or four leaves to produce short fruiting spurs. This needs to be carried out in late summer, just as growth is slowing down.

To train as a bush, cut down the leader to about 1.35-1.7 (4½-5½ft) in winter, just above some strong side-shoots. Use these to develop a framework of 8-10 branches, as for bush apples. Minimal pruning will then be necessary.

Plant

Mulberries like deep, moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil that has been improved before planting. Plant both bare root and container grown trees in the spring, staking it to prevent wind rock.

Ideally, try to find a specimen that is part-trained. This will create a well-formed tree more quickly. Allow 5-10m (16-33ft) in diameter for the tree to develop its spreading habit.

Alternatively mulberries can be grown in containers filled with a good loam-based compost, such as John Innes No 2.

Common problems

Birds

Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.

More info on Birds

American gooseberry mildew

American gooseberry mildew: This fungal disease causes a powdery grey and white fungus on leaves and stems. The mildew can also appear on the fruit, causing problems with ripening.   

Remedy: Avoid planting in low-lying or enclosed areas or with poor air flow and prune for an open shape to improve air circulation.

More info on American gooseberry mildew

Harvesting

Mulberries can take as long as eight or nine years to produce fruit after planting. The main picking season is between August and September. Gather mulberries by shaking branches over a sheet spread on the ground, but wear gloves to avoid the fruit staining your hands.

Varieties

Morus nigra ‘Wellington’:Heavy crops with a good flavour.

Morus nigra ‘Chelsea’:Large and succulent fruit with an intense, rich flavour.

Morus nigra AGM:Excellent fruit, attractive good looks.


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