Growing mulberry trees

As part of the legacy of Mulberry- Tree of Plenty, the team are exploring two different techniques for growing new mulberry trees in the hope that, if successful, the trees will be donated to local community groups and schools in the Bethnal Green area. A number will also be planted at the new UCL East site once it is ready for landscaping in 2023. 

Experienced arborist Russell Miller from Hackney's Tree Musketeers has kindly assisted with attempting to propagate some of the established trees. In March 2021, he took cuttings from St Margaret's House black mulberry tree and also from the black mulberry growing at Torrington Square by UCL's Bloomsbury campus. Black mulberries can be infamously difficult to propagate. However, the cuttings are being careful nurtured at the Tree Musketeers nursery and we will know if they have taken in early summer 2021.

East London resident Lou Barnell has been successfully growing black mulberry saplings for several years in her garden from locally harvested seeds. Recently she has kindly offered to plant some seeds from the harvested berries at St Margaret's House and, again, we are waiting in anticipation to see if they take.

 

If you are interested in trying to grow your own mulberry tree from seed you can follow her instructions:

 

  • Harvest ripe mulberry fruit in July or August.

  • Gently clean the flesh off the seeds by placing the fruit in a sieve, mash up with a fork and keep rinsing until all the flesh is off the seeds.

  • Put the seeds onto blotting paper or thick paper which has been soaked in sterilized water (you can use boiled or distilled water) then place in a sterile container, or plastic bag

  • Keep in the fridge for at least three months to create a ‘false winter.’

  • Check the seeds every two weeks to make sure there is no mold growing on the seeds. Change the blotting paper if you see any grey or red coloured mold on the seeds.

  • After at least 3 months the seeds are ready to plant.

  • Plant the seeds 1cm deep and 5cm apart into potting compost in a propagator.

  • Water and keep inside on a sunny window sill.

  • The seedlings should sprout after 1-2 months, or in the spring.

  • When they are about 5-8 cm tall, repot into an individual pot.

  • Keep indoors in a sunny position for the first 6 months and then gradually acclimatise to outside. Avoid frost.

  • Repot as necessary.

  • You should be able plant the sapling out when it is 3-5 years old.