I was recently asked another question about pruning mulberry trees. MP writes:
My husband ____ and I have a very small yard and cut down some weed trees over the last couple of years. We left the Mulberry tree thinking it would be pretty to have in our yard, but it has grown straight up and with no lower level branches, bears fruit at 12 feet above the ground.
As you can imagine, when the fruit drops, it makes an unbelievable mess on our patio. We want to keep the tree, but keep it under control. There are no branches below 12 feet, so it can’t be picked. Can we cut back the trunk to 6 feet and let it grow from there? It will look very unusual and weird, but we will benefit from being able to collect the fruit from it.
Happy to talk about this at your convenience, and appreciate any advice you can offer.
Here is a photo.
A beautiful tree, but just look at that mulberry mess!
“Very nice. That is the native “red mulberry,” AKA Morus rubra.
A friend of mine chainsawed her big one right to the ground and it grew back multiple stems, which she can harvest from as she wishes. I recommend you cut it back very far, even to just above the ground, but do it in late winter/early spring, before the sap starts to rise. You should have the highest chance of tree survival then.”
If you have a temperate climate, the best time to prune a large tree for shape is during dormancy. If you were to prune this tree heavily in the middle of summer, it would try to grow back and might not have the time to harden off the new growth before winter set in. Then the new growth would freeze, probably killing the tree.
Coppicing trees is usually done before the spring and even large trees often regenerate just fine from the loss, though this varies by species. I would cut this mulberry right to the ground, then select three or four of the new shoots to be my new leaders, keeping them under control. If you cut the tree too high up, it will easily get back out of picking distance.
You can learn more about pruning a mulberry tree here.