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Vermont Garden Journal: Growing Mulberry Trees

mulberry-tree-piers-nye-flickr-20150701.jpg
Piers Nye
/
Flickr
Mulberry fruits are delicious and are making a splash in the natural food world. They are considered a superfruit, higher in antioxidants than blueberries.

This fruit tree is native to China and the leaves are used in the silkworm industry. It’s also the topic of a children’s nursery rhyme, which actually was started as a song sung by female inmates as they exercised around this bush in the prison yard. Yes, it’s the mulberry.

Mulberry fruits are delicious and are making a splash in the natural food world. They are considered a superfruit, higher in antioxidants than blueberries. But most people think of mulberries as a huge tree with black, staining fruits.  While some mulberries can grow 50 feet tall and many have black fruits, there are lots of variations.  The best types for our climate are the native red mulberry, imported white mulberry and their hybrids. The white mulberry was introduced in colonial times to feed the leaves to silkworms and has escaped into the wild. By the way, the name of the mulberry is not reflective of the fruit color. For example, a white mulberry can have red, white or black colored fruits.

So what to grow? We grow ‘Illinois Everbearing’ a non-invasive, self-pollinating hybrid with black fruits. It’s very hardy and prolific at a young age. To keep its size manageable, we summer prune the branches annually. For a smaller tree, try the weeping mulberry. It stands only 10 feet tall and will produce some fruits.

If you don’t like the black fruits because they stain everything from the deck to your dog, try a pink-fruited variety such as ‘Sweet Lavender’.  You can use the birds love of mulberries to your advantage. To keep birds off cherry trees or blueberries, plant a mulberry tree on the other side of your property. They’ll be so many fruits, even the birds can’t eat them all, so you’ll still get some.

And now for this week's tip, keep slugs and snails away from your plants with beer traps, iron phosphate organic baits, crushed seashells, and raw sheep's wool. Slugs don’t like the sheep’s wool due to its scratchiness.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about poison ivy. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Resources:

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com.

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