[NAFEX] Illinois Everbearing mulberry

Ken Litchfield litchfield.ken at gmail.com
Wed Sep 2 17:22:18 EDT 2009


It's too bad you took out your mulberry tree. You could have pruned it for
dwarfing and fruit productivity instead of vegetation.

We have the Illinois Everbearing, Pakistani, Persian, Weeping, Contorted,
and another that may be a variant on the Illinois (no problem rooting any of
them). All respond quite well to "false spur" summertime pruning. As the new
growth comes out in the spring the berries are produced at the beginning of
that growth. The ends of the branches quickly grow whiplike for several feet
within a month or two from leafout. Cut all these new whips back to about 1
- 1.5 feet if the branch is 5+ feet long. The result should be that the base
of the whip is stimulated to branch from each remaining leaf axil. These new
branches, as many as there are leaf axil buds, will be long whips soon that
should be clipped similarly when they are 3+ feet long. Sometimes you can
get 3-4 summertime prunings all season long. Your tree will be considerably
smaller, more compact and way more fruit productive the following spring,
plus they often produce berries all summer long on the new growth that
sprouts from the base of the whip similar to spring berries, whether they
are an everbearer or not. During the winter, or anytime really, you can thin
out the branches if they are too shady or conglomerated to pick easily. If
the last summertime pruning is made about 1-1.5 months before the dormant
season they will use the last bit of growth to make short strong spurs for
lots of fruit (Or flower buds that may or may not get pollinated on other
kinds of fruit trees. The mulberries are all female and produce their fruit
without pollination but this pruning applies to other other fruit trees
too.) at the beginning of the spring season.

This also works well with any rosaceous fruit tree like apples, pears, and
cherries that make natural spurs, plums that sort of make natural spurs, and
peaches, nectarines, and apricots that can be tricked into it with this
summertime pruning method. Whips can be shorter before pruning back like
maybe 3 feet down to 6 inches. It works well on blackberry primocane whips
(8' down to 5'), and single late spring early summer pruning for raspberry
primocane whips and goji berry whips (5-6' down to 3-4'). It also works on
persimmons. almonds, goumis, and, with modification, citrus.

This pruning makes a very much more short, stocky, and muscular tree that
can support much more weight of fruit tighter to the trunk's center of
gravity compared with lanky tree tips of long whips that snap easily. That
leverage situation doesn't matter much with berries, but with fruit it can
snap branches easily when they are loaded with big fruit. I like to try to
keep the tree canopy between 4 and 8 feet high, above deer and within
harvest and maintenance range. It is far easier and safer to harvest and
maintain a tree that is 20' broad and whose umbrella is no higher than what
can be reached from a 2 step ladder or the ground. If your space is smaller
then it can be pruned to fit that. Once the shape of the tree is developed
most of the "whip" energy has been distributed to many smaller production
branches. It is basically bonsai without the root pruning.

We have about 230 fruit trees on about three acres all, except one old
apricot, being younger than 10 years. The time required to do all the trees
works out to about 1-3 days 3-4 times a summer. Not all the trees grow at
the same rate so most of the pruning is evening cool temp puttering stuff
made even more puttery by eating ripe fruit while wandering through the
orchards. There are also vegetable beds and grapevines scattered around. We
mulch heavy with free wood chips to hold the winter rains and mostly dry
farm everything during the summer since we have so many summer water issues
here in the Bay area of Northern California. We don't spray except for a
little sulphur on some peaches, plums, and nectarines in the spring if
spring rains bring out the peachleaf curl. We have most of the cherries
under a 2x2" wood framework box that is about twelve feet high and able to
encompass six cherry trees, a few of our goumis, raspberries, blackberries,
and a few other things. It is basically an exclusionary aviary and the
netting has been over the trees for two years without looking like it is
going to go bad anytime soon. It gets a little touchups and restapling just
before cherry picking season.

Thanks Ken

Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 01 Sep 2009 17:34:29 -0500
> From: "William C. Garthright" <billg at inebraska.com>
> Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Illinois Everbearing mulberry
> To: North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <4A9DA175.5080203 at inebraska.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> > Finally tasted some Illinois Everbearing mulberries the other day & they
> were really lovely.
> For what it's worth, I just cut mine down. I had a couple of minor
> problems with it (these might not be a problem for you), and one major
> one. The minor problems were (1) some regular winterkill and (2) it
> wanted to grow like crazy, while I wanted to keep it in a compact spot.
> But the reason I cut it down is because I never once got a ripe mulberry
> from it. Ordinary mulberries produce a lot of berries all at once, so
> the birds can eat a bunch and still leave plenty for me. But this one
> produces a few all summer long, so the birds got *all* of them before
> they ever got completely ripe.
> And the tree is so vigorous that it would have been almost impossible to
> net (and it would be hard to keep netting on a tree all summer, anyway).
> I finally decided that it just didn't make sense to keep it.
> As an aside, I'd like to try a dwarf mulberry there. But the only one
> I've ever heard of is the Geraldi Dwarf Mulberry from Edible Landscaping
> (in Virginia), and I've had trouble with that nursery and that
> particular variety. Does anyone here know of a dwarf mulberry available
> elsewhere? And what in the heck dwarfs the Geraldi, anyway? It's
> grafted, but the rootstock seems very vigorous (judging by the results
> when the top of my last one died).
> Bill
> Lincoln, NE (zone 5)
> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 01 Sep 2009 17:44:45 -0500
> From: "William C. Garthright" <billg at inebraska.com>
> Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Illinois Everbearing mulberry
> To: North American Fruit Explorers <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <4A9DA3DD.1070700 at inebraska.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> > *Supposedly* mulberries can be rooted - their 'cousin' the fig is easy to
> propagate that way - but I've never had any success with dormant-collected
> cuttings,
> That's a shame, because the wild ones grow like weeds around here -
> literally - and I've had nothing but trouble trying to grow named
> varieties. I thought about trying to find a good-tasting wild tree and
> rooting a cutting from that. (Since they vary so much in taste, there's
> a good chance I wouldn't be too happy growing a seedling at random.)
> Of course, I'd still have the problem of them wanting to grow too big,
> but I like the idea of pollarding.
> I've already got more fruit than I can possibly eat, but I do love
> mulberries. And now that I've cut down my Illinois Everbearing Mulberry,
> I've got the space to plant something else...
> :-D
> Bill
> Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

> Message: 6
> Date: Wed, 2 Sep 2009 02:21:36 +0000
> From: Joseph Richardson <joe_r_richardson at hotmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [NAFEX] Illinois Everbearing mulberry
> To: <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Message-ID: <SNT113-W480B31D0166F0D9ED14D76C8F00 at phx.gbl>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> I don't how they normally come from the nursery but I managed to root about
> a dozen cuttings this summer under mist using hormodin.
> Joseph Richardson
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