High Density Fig Tree Planting?

thisisme(az9b)January 11, 2011

I have already cut down seventeen trees and I still have more trees than I have places to plant them.

I have read a lot about high density fruit tree planting popularized by nurseries like Dave Wilson Nursery. However I have never seen a discussion on high density fig tree planting. As far as I know its never been done.

Has anyone here every planted more than one fig tree in one hole or multiple fig trees within 1-2 feet of each other?

If you have what where the results?

I posted this in the fig forum too but no one has responded yet.

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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I had a row of figs at 2.5' spacing. It works OK provided you thin enough. Don't keep many scaffolds or you will have plants that are too dense and only want to grow up. I never got great production from those figs but they were in too much shade and I blame it on the shade not the spacing. Last year I moved them to a new spot since we were doing construction in that area and I spaced them at 6' so I would get more figs from them.

Scott

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 7:52AM
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calistoga_al

I only have one fig, a Brown Turkey, I keep low enough to do all the picking and pruning from the ground. It is 15 years old and about 10 feet diameter. I can not, even with the help of the blue jays, use all the figs. I have trouble visualizing such trees three feet apart. Al

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:55AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Too bad I moved mine or I would go take a picture for you Al. It looked like a hedge of fig limbs. Figs often look like limbs coming out of the ground here, because when they die back in the winter many shoots come out the next year.

thisisme, I also remembered that I did a couple 4-in-1 plantings which I still have. I rooted four different figs in one pot, and just planted the thing out directly. So now its a fig bush with four trunks coming up out of the ground. One of these 4-way figs is in fact in a row of 3' spacing so thats less than a foot per variety. This may end up too tight as it grows out, I find that with 3' spacing that two major scaffolds is about all there is room for. But the plant is fruiting already and hopefully I will know which varieties I want to save and which to remove soon. One problem I have had on this guy is the vigor of the four varieties differs considerably and one in particular wants to grow over the others and has needed repeated pruning back. The 2.5' spacing planting was much easier to manage (once I learned how much thinning needed to be done).

Scott

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 2:51PM
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thisisme(az9b)

Thanks for posting Scott. All my other trees are in 30"X30" raised beds with 4' of space between the outside edge of each bed. With one tree in each hole the plan was to allow each tree to get no Taller than 8' and no Wider than 5'. There are no trees front or back so the roots have room to roam. They are all planted in full sun. I realize it may take some pruning to keep the more vigorous varieties in check. I also realize in some cases one or two may choke out the others no matter what I do. I am out of room though so I am willing to take a little risk. The trees I would be planting would be rooted cuttings. Do you think this is something that may work with as many as four trees per raised bed? Or should I limit myself to two or three?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 5:39PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

thisisme, It depends how desperate you are and how willing you are to thin out some varieties in a few years. My experience is that figs need 2-3' row-foot minimum per variety long term. If you had 3 per bed that would be 3 figs every 6.5' (count both the bed length and the space between) which would be 2.17 feet per fig. So I would say three at most for long-term and you could cram in more for the first 3-4 years if you were committed to thinning varieties eventually.

Note that this all also depends on doing a good pruning job; it took me several years to figure that out. Thinning cuts are particularly important because they reduce leaf density. Heading cuts can just cause more branching and more crowding. If starting with three you may even find you want to thin to two plants per bed at some point. I made several such adjustments when plantings were proving to be too dense. Note that you do have an advantage over me since you have more sun and less humidity so your figs will be able to tolerate greater density.

Scott

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 6:20PM
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thisisme(az9b)

Thanks Scott thats all I needed to know. I have no problem picking winners and losers and will cull what needs to be culled. I took out seventeen trees to make room for better varieties this year. I know the difference between a heading cut and thinning cut. Even so I think there is still going to be a lot of pruning in my future.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 7:43PM
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MrClint

My two fig trees (VDB & Blackjack) are still young and will be kept somewhat small. They are spaced about 4' apart facing south with full sun.

Follow the link below that leads to a video of figs (among other things) espaliered in a high-density planting. Enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: High Density Landscape

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:08PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Cool video, those are impressive espaliers! If I was starting over I would consider doing some espalier plantings.

thisisme, I was looking at my records and one of my 4-way figs is in fact a 5-way in a row of 3' spacing and two of those varieties fruited last year. So that makes me think you could start out with as many as 6 varieties per spot. With my 5-way I originally rooted them in a circle around the edge of a large pot and let them all grow outward (I pruned off any inward-growing branches). The one thing I would not try to do is add varieties later, its hard to add to a close planting since the new thing will never be able to compete with its taller siblings. If you end up with too many and you don't have one you want to toss, just wait until dormant season, prune the crowded ones out and re-root them all over in a new spot. Right now I am going through my dense plantings and moving around several varieties for this reason. Its too bad figs don't graft more easily, its a lot easier to move other kinds of fruit. I tried a few fig grafts and all failed.

Scott

    Bookmark   January 14, 2011 at 10:39AM
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thisisme(az9b)

mrclint I've seen that video and posted a link to it several times. In that video they do not show multiple figs in one hole.

This DWN video shows three figs in one hole but its experimental and the spacing is further apart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo3_u08CwdY

Thanks Scott, I think I will go with four per raised bead with one in each corner.

Here is fig tree that was grafted onto by a member in the fig forum. http://i159.photobucket.com/albums/t158/axierx/00096.jpg

Here's a link to a good PDF on how to graft a mature fig tree by the same person who posted the photo.
http://ishare.sphorium.com/fb/link.aspx?id=5236da12-eef5-40fb-9d8a-b83c51fba24a

    Bookmark   January 14, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Thanks for that grafting link. I needed to do grafts of dormant shoots since that was all I had and that guy also had no luck with that kind of graft. It looks like green grafting is the key. Grapes are similar, they are hard to graft dormant but easy with green wood.

Four per raised bed should work well for several years without much sweat, you will have 2' between each stem which will make it a lot easier than my 5-way which had them 6" apart. Please post how its working in a few years.

Scott

    Bookmark   January 14, 2011 at 2:21PM
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MrClint

thisisme, sorry that I offered something that you already knew. Hopefully someone else might find espaliers, pleaching and other forms of high-intensity planting of value. I just didn't pick up that planting in one hole was the only form you were interested in. I won't make that mistake again.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 1:44AM
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thisisme(az9b)

mrclint I really like that video but my orchard space is roughly 120'X40'. There is room for 40+ 8' Tall 6' Wide trees plus berry bushes and my vegetable garden. All but seventeen spaces are taken and all my trees have been here at least one year in pots. Not one of them has been pruned as an espalier. I just don't see any advantage to putting espaliered trees in the same row as my none espaliered trees. Not only would it reduce production and mess up the aesthetics of my orchard. I would have to add posts on either side of each tree since they are in between trees that are already planted making it more difficult for me to access the back side of the trees to prune, spray and pick fruit. Don't take it personal; its not an attack on you or espaliers. Espaliers are great for tight spaces where no other system will work. However I don't have a tight space. I'm just trying to fit more trees into the space that I have.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 1:48PM
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thisisme(az9b)

mrclint there is one more thing to keep in mind. The whole idea is to increase the number of varieties in my planting. Planting one espaliered tree in each 30"X30" raised bed does not increase the number of varieties in my planting? Planting four new trees in each 30"X30" raised bed gives me a four fold increase in varieties.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 2:16PM
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persimmonbob(6b)

This is the resullt of cutting-down my figtree's to the ground this past spring. They produced a lot of fruit last August. This spring i will only keep the stronger shoots and also prune one inch of the remaining tops. I like figtree's to have their space,their roots could be very long to say the least.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 7:29PM
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thisisme(az9b)

Point well taken persimmonbob. I'm sure I will see some suckering from the mature trees I chopped down. I will see some from the varieties I eventually cull from my new plantings too. My thinking is that if I keep the suckers cut down the roots from the remaining trees will eventually choke them out.

I had something very similar happen to a tree I lost in a storm in my front yard.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 10:51PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

This is what I was talking about above when I mentioned the many-trunked figs found in this area. You could get something looking like this by rooting 30 or so different varieties of figs in one pot and get a 30-way bush :-) Of course I am joking, that is too dense, but it shows how the idea of many stocks coming from the ground in a close spot is something that also happens naturally. One of my figs died back last winter (not from the cold but from being moved) and it came back with about 20 suckers. I pruned out all but about six of them and will prune out more in the next few years.

Scott

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 9:03AM
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calistoga_al

I find this thread very interesting. The thought of bearing fruit on vertical suckers is something I have always thought was impossible. I hope someone who grows figs like this will post a picture of the "tree" with figs ready to harvest. Al

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 10:30AM
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thisisme(az9b)

Al figs will grow on a fig tree whether its grown as a tree a bush or a thicket. I found these photos of fig trees that might help you see the end result of doing so. Did not see any with figs but trust me when I say such trees do grow plenty of figs.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 11:38AM
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calistoga_al

Thanks for posting very interesting pictures. These bushes of figs are several years old and though they may have once been suckers they are now multi-trunk trees. I was thinking they were frosted to the ground yearly and so never got beyond one year old. Here we never frost enough to affect figs and a newly planted fig will not be expected to fruit for several years. Al

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 11:51AM
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