The mulberry ( bitten ) is a very interesting fruit-bearing plant, although often overlooked and relegated to “small fruits”. It has behind it a long tradition in peasant agriculture of the last centuries, in particular because, compared to silkworm cultivation, its culture has only been in disuse for a few years.
This tree produces sweet and tasty blackberries, it is part of the Moraceae family and can be classified into two main species: black mulberry ( morus nigra ) Yes white mulberry ( white morus ), which are differentiated by the color of the fruits.
Aesthetically it is a very pleasant plant, which with its globose foliage can show itself in the garden, but giving a harvest of fruits, excellent also for cakes and jams. Growing it is not difficult, even with organic methods it is worth deepening the discourse by analyzing the different tricks that allow this plant to be managed in the best case, from planting to pruning.
Plant a mulberry tree
The right soil and the right climate
The right time to plant
Fertilize and irrigate
Insect pests and diseases
The mulberry is a plant of Asian origin, in Europe its spread has found particular fortune due to the role of the leaves in feeding silkworms, an economic activity that has particularly affected certain regions of Italy, such as Como and Brianza, helping to publicize this tree. Its culture dates back thousands of years before Christ, it is even mentioned by Confucius.
It’s a plant very long lasting , which can reach significant dimensions, especially in species producing white mulberry trees. It has a particularly developed root apparatus, which makes the mulberry resistant to atmospheric agents and able to withstand drought relatively well.
The foliage tends to be globose. even unpruned and is dense with branches, often irregular in shape. The leaves, like those of other plants in the garden, fall with the onset of winter cold to regrow the following spring.
The blackberries it produces are actually false fruits. : botanically, it is a sorosa, of which only the central part is the botanical fruit, then covered by the pulp in small drupes. In appearance, blackberries are very similar to blackberries, although they are usually more elongated. But make no mistake: there is no relationship between the two species, rather the mulberry shares the berry family with the fig tree.
The flowering of the mulberry is not very showy, it occurs in the axils of the branches of the year and the plant is self-fertile, it produces monoecious flowers. There is therefore no difficulty in pollination, which is carried out simply by the wind. Even a single plant is able to bear fruit on its own.
As you have anticipated, have your main species, the morera blanca and the morera negra, aunque son muy similares en cuanto a su characterísticas botánicas, vale la pena dedicar unas palabras a cada una, destacando su especificidad, à fin de orientar la eventual elección on what to plant in your garden .
And we also have two ornamental type cultivars:
Chinese paper mulberry ( Broussonetia papyrifera ), is also used to make paper pulp.
The osagus mulberry ( Pomiferous maclura ), native to North America.
The white mulberry ( white morus ), originating in the Far East, is the one that takes on larger dimensions, if it is not maintained with the appropriate pruning cuts. It has smaller leaves and the fruits it produces are a nice pale color. White berries are less tasty than black berries, but they are nevertheless a pleasant and sweet fruit. It has greater resistance to low temperatures, so it may be preferred in cold climates.
The black mulberry ( morus nigra ), is a plant native to Persia, it looks a lot like the white mulberry but its dimensions are a little more contained and its fruits are more precious. Mulberry leaves are larger and therefore more decorative. The infusion of the leaves of the black variety has antibiotic properties and the pulp is used in cosmetics for its soothing effect on the skin.
If historically the white variety was always preferred, since the silkworms loved the leaves of the white morus more, now that the blackberries are planted for ornamental purposes or for blackberries, the morus nigra, which is experiencing a new spread.
Grow a mulberry tree
If we want to taste the delicious fresh blackberries, it is better to have a plant in the garden or in our orchard. This fruit is very little preserved and it is very difficult to find it on the market. So let’s see where, when and how to plant this kind of fruit.
the sixth floor . When choosing the place where to place our tree, we must take into account its future development and leave at least 5 meters free around the black mulberry and even 6 meters of space for the white mulberry. The mulberry can also be grafted on dwarf rootstocks so that it grows like a stump or a bush, in these cases of course the distances are reduced, these are situations that are used in professional crops, in the case of home orchards the tree is generally preferred in a classic globe or pot shape.
In the Po Valley, blackberries were often planted to mark the boundaries of agricultural land or along irrigation canals. The mulberry tree was even used as a guardian of the vineyard, a technique called “vine maritata”, referring to the embrace between the grape plant and our mulberry tree.
plant propagation . the mulberry can be propagated by cuttings or propagated from seed , the first hypothesis is probably the best, both because it preserves the original variety and because it avoids having to wait several years before the germinated plant has grown sufficiently to enter production. It’s usually best to go to a nursery to buy the seedling flat or bare-rooted, ready for transplanting. This way you can choose selected varieties more disease resistant and very productive.
The right soil and the right climate
Mulberry plants are very adaptable in terms of climate and soil , its extraordinary root system is able to find resources in various soil conditions and ensure plant health. Optimal soil is fairly loose and rich in organic matter, avoiding excess clay that smothers the soil and standing water that can promote disease.
From a climatic point of view, it tolerates temperatures even below zero and has no problem living throughout the Italian territory. The white mulberry is the most resistant species, but also the variety of mulberry can well stand even planted in northern Italy. . Requires a sunny location and possibly sheltered from the wind which can dry out during the summer.
The right time to plant
Being a plant that loses its leaves during the winter, its activity stops and certainly the best thing for a transplant is to take advantage of this period of stasis, in a way that is compatible with the climate and in particular with the soil conditions. . It is certainly not possible to work and plant a mulberry tree with frozen or too wet ground.
In fgeneral The month of February at the end of winter, is the most favorable period for planting, but from November to the vegetative resumption of spring, planting can still be done.
Planting a mulberry tree isn’t difficult and it’s not much different from what you have to do with any fruit bearing plant, without going into detail on how to plant a tree, you proceed to dig a hole of a good size (about 50 cm per side and depth), in which the seedling will be placed, ensuring that it is at the appropriate depth and height. At the time of planting, it can also be used to enrich the soil with fertilization, based on compost or mature manure.
Cultivation of mulberry
Manage this plant to harvest excellent blackberries it’s not hard at all , after having planted it, it can also be left alone, relying on its hardiness and the few disease and insect problems that affect this tree. A few simple precautions, such as proper pruning and regular fertilization, will ensure satisfactory productivity.
food and water
We can manage the soil through the controlled grazing technique, which minimizes the work of the grower to a few sporadic grass cuts during the year. Although wild grasses take up water resources, this is well compensated for as the ground cover reduces transpiration. The mulberry has deep roots and is able to find its own water for most of the year, requiring irrigation only in very dry periods . However, when the plant is young, it still needs to root deeply and take more care with periodic irrigation.
Fertilization, on the other hand, is very useful. without going crazy looking for the right nutrient formulation for specific needs, we can add mature manure or compost every year , to be incorporated into the soil at the beginning of winter. It is a complete organic substance from a nutrient point of view, able to replenish the elements that the tree uses and which we then remove by pruning and picking the blackberries. The maceration of nettles in fertigation can be another useful enrichment during the summer period.
Insect pests and diseases
There are not many adversities that affect the mulberry tree, both because the plant is naturally resistant, and because it is no longer widespread, the specific pests do not proliferate, which rather happens to crops which grow more intensely. From this point of view, all the so-called “minor” fruits lend themselves very well to organic cultivation, as they are less attacked by pests.
At the disease level , the only important thing is a good agronomic practice that helps in prevention, especially in soil management and pruning, ensuring the circulation of light and air inside the roof. One of the most common problems is mulberry fersa caused by a pathogenic fungus (Mycosphaerella morifolia) and recognizable by the brown spots on the leaves, which contrast with the collection and removal of dead leaves in autumn, and with copper treatments in spring (Bordeaux pulp) to stop the spread of spores.
What harmful insects there are possible attacks of aphids and scale insects, which can be combated with self-produced infusions of nettle, garlic or chilli, or with treatments based on neem or Marseille soap.
Mulberry tree pruning is not particularly difficult: the main work is to maintain the shape and size of the tree and this species is particularly cut-resistant so that it can withstand even rough intervention.
Assuming a classic way of growing in a pot or a balloon, we take into account that the foliage of the mulberry tree tends to be thick inside, with crossing branches. Disciplining this aspect and thinning it out is definitely the first important guideline to consider when trimming. Learning to prune is not easy and deserves dedicated maintenance, which we will discuss in more detail.