Illinois everbearing mulberry as a bush?

Sometimes after they fruit you can prune them hard and they will produce new shoots and fruits again. The more you prune the more shoots you will get. Tying the branches down to form the umbrella is another method. I’m kind of using a combo of both.

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With IE, the best you can do is force it to spread, top it when it reaches about 7-8 feet high and keep pruning it to make the growth spread over about a 30’-40’ diameter, this training is intensive and every year you must cut off those limbs that grow toward the sky. But after several years you can pick the majority of fruit as you walk under the tree.

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It’s a major project as @TNHunter and @DennisD said. I’ve tried creating a bush out of IE. When it was small I pruned it so it developed 5 trunks. To keep it sort of under control it required heavy pruning several times a summer when branches grow 8 ft. Last summer 4 times I brought large bundles of branches to my neighbor for his chickens to eat. Geradi makes more sense for a bushy mulberry unless someone has a lot of free time and a large space.

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Years ago, someone on the old NAFEX discussion list likened trying to control size of IE by pruning to trying to drink from a firehose. Probably not far from the truth.

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Thank you for all the replies! It sounds like trying to properly train IE is more work that it may be worth. I do have a dwarf everbearing mulberry, would using it as a rootstock possibly be an option to limit IEs growth?

If I remember correctly someone on this forum tried that and it didn’t work.
Edit: I think it was @BobVance how tried some varieties on Gerardi and it didn’t dwarf them.

You may try by top working the rootstock with IE; I suspect you could run into an incompatible graft situation so you could lose your rootstock if this occurs. The character of IE is the growth of the wood between bud nodes is simply not conducive to fitting a compact pattern you are seeking. Typical growth between bud nodes is 6-8”! So getting it to take on a bush character is not realistic. Again, If you have the space for a 30’-40’ diameter crown, probably the best way to grow IE will be to top it early and frequently until you have enough limbs just above your head height to train it to a spreading pattern. I trained mine thru the school of hard knocks by waiting too long to top it. Once I understood this tree can grow to be 60-70’ Giant, By the time I realized I needed to top the tree, the central leader was about 10” in diameter where I topped it with my chainsaw. Actually I was worried about killing the tree, but I sealed the wound with pruning sealer and using strong cords to tie each remaining scaffold down to prevent skyward growth. I managed to achieve a weeping willow type growth, that makes picking fruit a joy. However I still need to occasionally cut off the higher growing limbs.
Good luck, let me know if you use your dwarf.
Dennis
Kent, wa

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Thank you for this reply, very informative!

I will send you a pic of my IE tomorrow Adam, you can create a much better pattern if you top it in first year of growth forcing it to put out about 4-5 lateral shoots between 5-7’ above ground, all within easy picking height.
Dennis
Kent, wa

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Yes, the short answer is that grafting to a Gerardi does NOT dwarf the top. They keep shooting up at ~10’ per year.

The long answer:

I’ve also got a multi-graft “bush” mulberry which I’ve been trying to keep bushy through pruning. I gave up last year after it kept getting out of control.

So, last May I tried to graft a bunch of Gerardi scions to it, about 5-6’ up. Main problem was that I didn’t plan ahead, so I was harvesting partially leafed out scions and immediately grafting them. A few worked (very swollen bud was fine, but actual leaves was bad…), but it looks like I’ll have to re-graft some this year.

I’m not even sure this will be enough- it may be that grafting 6’ up is too high to start, as I’ll need to keep an eye out for any non-Gerardi waterspouts.

The metaphor is far from precise. It really isn’t that difficult to manage a single tree as a hedge. It is easier than trying to manage kiwis. You literally could use a hedge shear and just cut it about once a month, I bet, even 3 times during summer would be adequate to maintain a low and productive tree.

My weep training only requires a single session of pruning and bending down uprights a year. I have to admit, I’ve never started early enough to keep the tree under 10’, but I see no reason I couldn’t accomplish that if I started the second season. On my own property I keep trees inbounds (15’ tall and wide) with two prunes- one in mid-summer and one in late dormancy- no taping down of vigorous shoots. I bend a few quickly that can be pushed below existing branches to help keep trees vital. .Training them to a weep is a bit more laborious.

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I’ve done Illinois Everbearing and Kiwis . Kiwis are much easier to keep pruned.

I like to keep my trees small and I know mulberries this is hard to do. So I decided the best way was to limit root growth. So I tried a few in containers. That pretty much stopped them from growing fast. So much so I’m not getting very much growth at all. Last year about 6 inches only.

If you want more rapid growth, set the containers a bit into the ground and break the roots and lift pots every early spring. The extra work will be compensated by much less need to water.

That’s a good idea. Often done with figs.

That is how I manage my figs, and I get exactly the productivity I want. But I do it so I can store them in my well-house. I’ve never really managed trees for fruit that way but I do manage my nursery trees in 25 gallon pots that way and get early yield from dwarfed trees- that is dwarfed by rootpruing and pot restriction.

Figs and mulberries are in the same family so it makes a lot of sense.
Here is one of four trees I have in containers. I am going to have to put this in a plastic pot. It will be 4th leaf this year. From bottom of pot to top of tree it is five feet tall. Russian rootstock with three different cultivars grated to it. I leave it outside all winter.

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Adam,
Here are two pics of my 25 year old IE. First pic: generally an open center pattern yet many central limbs still want to grow upward. Second pic: where I topped it about 8 years ago. Wounds really too large to heal over. I need to reseal the exposed cuts again. By topping your IE early you can avoid such large cuts. Yet last year we harvested probably 80-100 lb of delightful fruit.

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Thank you Dennis, I really appreciate it! This is great and it does look like its very possible to maintain a decent size with proper pruning.

Absolutely, if I had a new 1 year old IE, this is how I would train it: I would top it about 5-6’ trying to get at least 5 -6 buds within the remaining top 1-2’ of the trunk, as each bud and branch grows out tie them down to force a nearly horizontal growth pattern at equal angles around the perimeter. If you have bamboo canes you could use twist ties to tie each branch to keep them straight as the grow out and to easily control how they grow. You want to allow only about a 10-15 degree angle above horizontal as each branch grows. Do not tip any of the main branches the first year, or so, allowing as much growth as your space allows. Once the main branches have achieved growth to your desired outer perimeter, tip them to encourage side branching. Once you have the desired pattern, during dormant periods, just before spring bud break, tie down all secondary limbs to fill in the empty spaces around the wheel. Continue this process each year and prune off those branches that insist on going straight up, to force any growth to fill in your empty spaces to assure sunlight absorption is maximized. Prune only during the dormant seasons to either thin out the canopy to allow new fruiting branches or to remove vertical growth. If you bark chip your space below the canopy you summer watering during fruit production can be cut in half. I water mine as soon as the summer drought hits about mid July about 3 times each week.
Good luck, IE is a great variety, friends visit us each summer to enjoy the treats. Let me know how it goes.
Dennis
Kent, wa

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