Permaculture Projects

Mulberries, Mulch and Rainy Days

European Solidarity Corps Permaculture Project – Week 3 2021

Over the last few weeks we have been experiencing very wet weather with lower than average temperatures for this time of year, and so the ripening of the berries seemed to somehow creep up on us. The ducks let us know that the Mulberries were ready as they always enjoy the fallen fruit and start hanging around underneath the tree, although there’s always much more than they can eat. We recently lifted the majestic old Mulberry – Morus sp.tree in the home garden, as it’s lower boughs were making it tricky to walk around and the plants underneath weren’t receiving enough light.

Morus alba, lifted and thinned

Lifting involves removing the lower branches of the trees to above head height in order to access around the tree and provide more light and air flow under the canopy. All of the pruned material is chopped into smaller pieces and applied to the surface under the shrubs and surrounding plants.

A young Pear tree framed by a Fig – Ficus caricaon the right. Both trees seem quite happy in the understory of the Mulberry tree and you can see more details of this polyculture in the graphic below.

Mulberry are excellent plants for use in polycultures. They are tolerant of partial shade so suitable in the edges of an under storey of a larger tree, are not very nutrient demanding or competitive. They tolerate pruning very well and can be used for chop and drop plants grown between fruit trees or in hedgerows. If fruit production is priority they can be given a position in full sun and although they grow tall and wide, by lifting the lower branches as described above you can accommodate a range of productive and useful plants underneath them. For more on this incredible tree see our Essential Guide to probably everything you need to know about Growing Mulberry

The first crop of Rubus idaeus cv. – Raspberry are ready. These fruits form on the unpruned canes from last year. The pruned canes will produce fruit around late September

The Ribes nigrum cv – Blackcurrants coming along nicely this year. They seem to be reliable heavy croppers. We may need to replace one or two of the plants in the coming few years, as the yields will likely taper off as the plant matures to around 10 – 15 years old.

Standard breakfast in June

With the wet weather, the race is on to weed and mulch the areas around the trees and shrubs in all the gardens before the summer heat and dry weather begins. The size of some of the leaves this year has been remarkable, perhaps even rivalling the leaves of the Paulownia tree, and the first prize goes to Heracleum sphondylium – Hogweed.

Hogweed is a Biennial/perennial growing to 1.8 m high and in USDA hardiness zones 4 – 8.   It’s easily grown, and the leaves grow densely together.  Once in flower the bees and other beneficial organisms start to arrive in high numbers, which is why we tend to leave some plants in the garden, unless they are impacting surrounding plants growth or productivity, and then they can be used as mulch in the garden.

Heracleum sphondylium – Hogweed in flower, an excellent plant for invertebrate diversity
Adding the Hogweed leaves to Zeno, a productive annual polyculture


Another native biennial plant, Greater Burdock – Arctium lappa growing in the home garden. A very useful mulch plant with gigantic leaves that grow back very quickly after a cut.

The Mallow – Malus spp. flowers are in full bloom, adding a splash of cheer and attracting much interest from a range of beneficial organisms, including hoverfly’s, moths, bees and some beetles.


The ESC team have been away camping at Wake Up festival this week, where they planned to make a presentation of the project and the ESC initiative in general. Hopefully, they didn’t get too wet and enjoyed the experience :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button