Mulberry tree care
The ancient mulberry tree is much loved for its delicious fruit, expansive boughs and astonishing longevity. It’s also the theme of one of our favourite nursery rhymes ‘Here we go around the mulberry bush’.
The oldest mulberry tree in Britain is rumoured to be more than 470 years old, and whilst we hope your tree will live to an equally ripe old age, you can look forward to enjoying its deep purple fruits in the meantime
Many of the oldest mulberry trees dotted around London are assumed to be relics from an attempt by King James I to start a silk industry. It’s been suggested that the idea floundered because the trees were black mulberries, which are sadly not favoured by silkworms, which prefer to munch on tastier white mulberry leaves.
Mulberries are large, delicate berries which bruise very easily and don’t travel well, so you will rarely find them for sale. All of which makes growing your own even more rewarding!
Choose a sunny location with free-draining and moisture retentive soil. Mulberry trees spread out generously as they mature and can grow up to 10 metres in diameter, so if you are planting yours in the garden, make sure it has plenty of room to expand.
Dig a hole twice the size of the root-ball. Spread the roots as you place the mulberry in the hole and refill the hole to the base of the stem with a mixture of soil and compost. Press the soil down gently with the heel of a boot. For the first few seasons it’s wise to provide a sturdy stake to support the establishing trunk and encourage strong root growth.
The trees can also be grown in containers for 10-15 years. Use a loam-based compost and each spring, pot on to a slightly larger container just before the new growth starts.
Planting your mulberry tree in the centre of a lawn is also a good idea if you have space as the soft turf provides a gentle cushion for freefalling berries.
It is important to ensure that the young tree does not dry out, especially in the first few seasons. Our mulberry trees can be planted all year round, but if you are planting in the spring or summer, water especially well in the first few months and more frequently if the weather is particularly hot or dry.
In the spring treat the tree to a generous helping of mulch or well-rotted manure. Towards the end of winter, feed the tree with a general-purpose fertiliser.
Only prune your mulberry tree in the winter when it is fully dormant. Remove shoots that appear on the trunk below the main framework, and any dead, broken or random shoots that interfere with the overall shape. If any healthy low-hanging branches need support, hammer a forked stake under the branch on which it can rest.
Mulberry trees usually produce their first full crop of berries between 6-10 years after planting. In the late summer the fruit deepens in colour from raspberry red to deep purple and is generally ready to be picked during August and September. Just remember to wear gloves if you want to avoid the intensely coloured juice staining your hands!
There is nothing quite like fresh mulberries, picked off the tree and still warm from the sun, but if you are lucky enough to have a bumper harvest, we heartily recommend making a simple mulberry jam, our favourite accompaniment to a traditional afternoon tea.