Grow Your Own Berries With Less Work

MulberryMany berries are considered “superfoods.” They’re also delicious. However, if you’ve tried to grow some of the more common favorites, you know they aren’t always easy.

Some years back I visited my pastor friend Phil as he tended his strawberry patch. Bermuda grass had crept in, along with various other irritating weeds, and he was patiently working his way through about a 20′ x 20′ square.

At that point, I’d never seen anyone grow strawberries at home in any kind of scale. Usually I’d seen them here in there in barrels or in pots on back porches, providing the owners an occasional berry in passing. Pastor Phil, however, was regularly getting a few buckets of berries a week… and allowing friends, family and parishioners to pick what they wanted.

I told him I was impressed with the scale of his strawberry patch and how productive it was.

Phil shook his head. “I like the berries… but not the work. It’s just not worth it. This is probably the last year for me. I’m going to just mow it from now on.”

I was horrified.

Mow down such an amazing patch of berries? Why would anyone in his right mind do that?

A few years later, I tried my hand at growing a big patch of strawberries. I planted two 4′ x 10′ beds with a variety recommended for my area. I dug in manure and compost, mulched and watered them well, weeded as needed and basically slaved away for a year to get a few measly gallons… when I got any. The sun wilted the berry plants during the day and critters stole the strawberries at night. After two years of working at it, I gave up on my low-yield berries and planted the beds with vegetables.

Phil was right. It was not worth it.

Have you been in that situation? Have you grown strawberries and gotten frustrated? Or tried blueberries but had problems with pH? Or planted blackberries only to fail on the upkeep?

If so… today’s article is for you. Today I’m going to teach you how to grow your own organic berries with less work than you ever thought possible… thanks to one amazing tree.

Introducing the World’s Greatest Berry Factory

Isn’t that photo beautiful? That’s a look upwards through the branches of a mulberry tree.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Mulberries are a TREE? What about this???”

“Is everything from our childhoods a lie? I mean, next thing you know we’ll discover that ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ isn’t actually about the Black Death!!!”

Sorry. They’re trees.

The mulberry isn’t a bush, unless you have a dwarf variety. It’s a mid-to-large-sized tree that can produce remarkable amounts of berries.

Taxonomically, mulberries can get a bit confusing. There are “white” mulberries – Morus alba… “black” mulberries – Morus nigra… and “red” mulberries – Morus rubra. Unfortunately, you can’t tell them apart very easily, since the colors aren’t actually attached to their fruit in any meaningful way. (If you want to learn more on the confusing world of mulberries, check this post out.)

All you really need to know about mulberries is that they make lots and lots of fruit. Enough so that you can stuff gallons of organic berries in your fridge and make berry smoothies all year round.

Mulberry trees will grow from New York down to Puerto Rico. I’ve seen them in Ft. Lauderdale and in England. If you live almost anywhere in the US, chances are you can grow one.

YoungMulberry

This “6th Street Mulberry” tree has only been in the ground for a year and I got it from a cutting in a pot, thanks to the Edible Plant Project.

As a fruit, the mulberry is much like a blackberry but generally sweeter. The leaves are also apparently edible, though I haven’t tried them yet.

If you have a male mulberry tree, it will only bloom and you won’t get fruit. If you buy a selection from a nursery, however, and it says it’s a “fruiting” type, then you’ll be getting a female. If there aren’t any male trees to pollinate the tree, it will still make fruit – they’ll just be seedless.

Some mulberries are very easy to start from cuttings, some are not. If you find a good tree to snag some cuttings from, try and see how you do. I’ve gotten mixed results that seem to be related to the time of year. Mine never want to take when they’re about to fruit – my guess is that they’re too interested in producing berries.

If you decide to start mulberries from seed, be aware that they take a long time to fruit. We’re talking 8-10 years. Cuttings will usually fruit in one year, however.

Young mulberries grow really fast. I have two trees in my yard that both started as 18″ bareroot seedlings three years ago. They’re now towering (and I do mean towering – one of them is at least 20′) over my head, not to mention that they’re currently loaded with fruit.

For the prepper who is planning long-term, having a source of no-care berries is a win-win. Mulberries, with their quick move into production, will beat your other fruit trees by a couple of years, making them an excellent addition to your orchard plans.

In my nursery, I tend to sell out of mulberry trees once people either taste one… or hear how incredibly easy they are to grow. As a bonus, they’re great for chicken runs, since your birds will gobble berries as fast as they fall.

If you want to grow your own berries without all the hard work, get a mulberry tree. These are easy-to-grow berries that can easily be managed organically.

Come to think of it… maybe I should mail one to Phil.

About David Goodman

David Goodman is a naturalist and hard-core gardener who has grown his own food since 1984. At age five, he sprouted a bean in a Dixie cup of soil and caught the gardening bug. Soon after, his dad built an 8’ by 8’ plot for him and David hasn’t stopped growing since. David writes a regular column for Natural Awakenings magazine in North Central Florida, posts on the Mother Earth News blog, owns a nursery of hard-to-find tropical edibles and grows roughly 1.5 zillion plants on his one-acre homestead. In mid-2012, he launched www.thesurvivalgardener.com as a place to share his ongoing experiments with tropical and temperate crops. He currently has over 20 intensive beds, multiple field plots, over 100 fruit trees, two food forest projects in different climates and a series of ongoing experiments in-progress - all of which bring him closer each day to complete food security. David is a Christian, an artist, a husband, a father of seven, a cigar-smoker and an unrepentant economics junkie. Visit his daily blog here: The Survival Gardener Follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/DavidTheGood

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2 Responses to “Grow Your Own Berries With Less Work”

  1. Michael Says:

    Is mulberry found in Puerto Rico

    Reply

  2. Michael Says:

    And if it is where can it be found

    Reply

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