White mulberry trees

The proper soils for this tree are dry, sandy, or stony; the more stony the better, provided the roots can penetrate them. The situation should be high: low, rich, and moist lands never produce nourishing leaves, however vigorously the trees may grow. They are always found to be too watery. The same remark may be made upon the leaves of young seedling plums, which will not produce good or abundant silk, and are only proper when the worms are young, say in their first two ages. It may be useful to have a parcel of them growing in a warm situation, that they may come forward before large trees, and serve for early food.

Mulberry trees may be propagated by--1st, seed; 2d, grafting; 3d, budding; 4th, layers; 5th, cuttings; 6th, suckers.

The ripe fruit may be sown in drills, in ground previously prepared; or the seeds may be washed out of the pulp, and mixed with an equal quantity of sand or fine mould, and then sown. They should be covered about a quarter of an inch deep. The seeds will soon vegetate, if the ground be rich, and will live through the winter, unless the cold should be unusually severe. A quantity of plants from seeds thus treated lived through the coldest winters in the Middle Staes. In very cold weather the young plants may be covered with straw or long manure. The following spring thin the plants so that they may stand one foot apart at least. Seeds intended to be sown in the spring, or to be kept, should be washed out, as they are apt to heat or to mould, if permitted to remain in the fruit. Land destined for spring sowing should be dug or ploughed in the preceding autumn, left rough ail winter, and be harrowed or raked fine, as soon as the season will permit, and the seed sown in drills. The young plants must be watered in dry weather, and weeds carefully kept down. Weeds will not only stunt the growth of the plants, but cause disease in them, which may affect the future vigor and health of the tree. In the second year transplant them to two feet distance from one another, to give room for cleansing and dressing the land. When transplanting, cut off some of the roots, especially those that are ragged or decayed, and the tap-root, to force out lateral roots, and also the tops, at six or seven inches from the ground. When the plants in the nursery have sprung, strip off the side buds, and leave none but such as are necessary to form the head of the tree. The buds which are left should be opposite to one another. If the plants in the nursery do not shoot well the first year, in the month of March following cut them over, about seven inches from the ground, and they will grow briskly. They should be watered with diluted barn-yard water.

When the plants have grown to the size of one inch in diameter, plant them out in fields or places where they are to remain, and make the hole six feet square; trim the roots, and press the earth on the roots as the holes are filled. During the first year of planting out, leave all the buds which the young trees have pushed out on the top till the following spring, when none are to be left but three or four branches to form the head of the tree. The buds on those branches should be on the outside of them, that the shoots may describe a circle round the stem, and that the interior of the tree may be kept open; and as the buds come out rub off all those on the bodies of the trees. For several years after, every spring open the heads of the trees when too thick of wood, and cut off any branch which crosses or takes the lead of the rest, leaving two buds on the outside of every trimmed branch. Count Verri, of Italy, an experienced cultivator of the mulberry tree, recommends to leave only one bud at the end of every branch, preferring those which are outside and opposite to each other; and when three buds appear together to leave the middle one, which is always most vigorous, and to detach the two on each side of it. If the superior buds do not push well, the two next lower ones must be left. Every farmer knows the very great importance of dressing ground round young trees twice in the course of a year, and of securing them to stakes, to insure an upright, straight growth, and to prevent their being shaken by winds or levelled by storms. The trees may be planted at the usual distances of apple trees. The intervals may he cultivated in cabbages, turnips, or mangel wurtzel. The attendance necessary to Indian corn would endanger the young trees.

It is so much the practice in the United States to let trees take their chance for growing, after they have been planted, or sprung up from seeds or stones, that these particular directions may be disregarded. But let a comparative experiment be made with mulberry trees permitted to grow at will, and others treated as here directed, and the difference in their beauty and growth will be obvious. The advantage, in these respects, will be decidedly in favor of trees which have been attended to.

Without deciding upon the superiority of the various modes of propagating mulberry trees, it is thought proper to mention the great advantage of the mode of budding. In the year 1826, Mr Millington, of Missouri, "budded the white mulberry on stocks of native trees; and such as were done before July were forced out immediately by cutting off the stocks above the buds. Some of these buds made limbs more than two feet long by the 27th of October. The buds put in after the middle of July he did not intend to force out until the following spring. He thinks budding more expeditious and sure than engrafting, and when it fails does not injure the stock so much as this mode. Native stocks, to engraft or bud on, can be procured with ease; and the trees thus raised would not be liable to disease in their roots, like foreign trees: and these engrafted or budded trees would grow much faster, and furnish leaves much sooner, and of a larger size, and better quality. This will not be doubted by those who have observed how much faster an engrafted tree grows and how much larger its leaves are than those of a seedling tree."

Experience has fully shown that the leaves of the native mulberry tree produce good and strong silk; although not so fine as that from the white mulberry. Those, therefore, who have only the native tree, may begin their operations with it; and they will acquire a knowledge of the business of rearing silk worms, while the foreign species is growing.

Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information