The mulberry has the distinction of being a thoroughly satisfactory town fruit tree; it will produce good crops of mulberries where other trees fail on account of smoky conditions. In bleak districts in open country it needs shelter, to break the blast; a sunny position is to its liking.
The fruit is excellent for dessert and for preserving, and as it has a habit of dropping when ripe the tree might well be planted on a lawn, ripe mulberries coming to less harm when they have grass to fall on. It is commonly grown as a standard.
Ready for Use. Ripening date varies between late August and late September.
A moist but well-drained soil suits the mulberry best. If the ground is thin and dry, or chalky, stony or clay-like, a large planting hole should be got out and filled with two or three barrow-loads of more suitable soil. If this is not possible, the ground should be dug deeply and old manure, or leaf-mould, or rotted material from the soft rubbish heap, mixed in very plentifully. If the ground is clay-like, in addition to one of these enriching materials old lime rubble, or sand, sharp grit, or small charred woody stuff from the garden bonfire should be worked in to make the heavy ground more porous.
When and How to Plant.
March is the best period to plant a standard mulberry. The roots are brittie and have to be handled carefully when being spread out in the planting hole. Fine soil should be worked between them, and when they have been covered with a good layer this should be trodden firm. Planting, staking, and other details are explained in the section THE ABC OF PLANTING.
Until it becomes completely established a young tree must be watered liberally whenever rain holds off in the period between early spring and late summer.
To encourage the formation of fruiting spurs in a young tree, side shoots not wanted to form additional branches should be nipped back to five or six leaves in summer and winter-pruned to within about four buds of their base. Fruit is also produced on short young side shoots. The older tree will look after itself, though it may occasionally be necessary to cut back an awkwardly placed branch or remove a bit of dead wood. Explanation of pruning and training operations is given in the section THE HOW AND WHY OF PRUNING.
The mulberry is most easily increased by cuttings, I ft. or so long, planted half their depth, in the open, in October. Shoots for this purpose should be cut through immediately below a joint, and may be planted in dibber-made holes each with a good pinch of sand or sharp grit at the bottom to encourage rooting. Soil should be rammed hard around the planted cutting, with the boot heel. At the end of twelve months it should be well rooted. Growth is, however, very slow, and to obtain fruit in a reasonable time a well-formed tree should be purchased.
Gathering the Fruit.
Mulberries should be gathered before they become squashy ripe – before they are quite black. Quickest method is to shake the fruit off by jerking the branches, with clean sheets of newspaper laid out on the ground to catch the mulberries as they fall.
Preparing for Table.
For dessert purposes the stalks should be removed and the fruit piled on a dish lined with mulberry leaves.