Pruning fig tree

sharona1949(8)January 13, 2010

What is the proper method to prune back my brown turkey and celeste fig trees? The brown turkey is 4 years old and the celeste is 3 years old and neither has been pruned in the past.

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I want to make it clear that there are many ways to prune a tree. My family were involved in commercial farming so I just happen to like that technique. Obviously people will have to fit trees to spaces and existing landscaping.

To get this look is relatively easy. Remove all suckers and low hanging branches. Remove all branches in the center of the tree. Along the remaining branches remove anything that is straight up, straight down, or crosses another branch.

The reasons I was given for pruning this way.

All wood and suckers not producing good fruit is a waste of money. Consumes resources like fertilizer and sunlight that could become profit.

Wood that is vertical has fruit that will be blemished from rubbing against the branch. IIRC: We were only allowed ~10% blems before the cannery would drop the price in half. If you had 5% blems, the price they gave you directly reflects this.

Branches that cross rub each other raw. This can introduce disease and insect infestations. Note this is probably not a problem for a fig but my family were fanatics about it. Wasted sap, bark, energy as the tree tries to repair itself.

Not sure if form follows function or function defines form. You end up with 3-4 main limbs hip high that grow at a steep angle and spread like a fan. The fruit is borne on laterals that are 'forced' by removing all the vertical and crossing wood.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 1:45PM
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A very NICE fig tree! I wish I could own one
just like that (NJ cold climate [not] permitting - also space).
My guess that anybody within USDA zone 8 [or warmer],
including you sharona1949) should feel like somewhat blessed by them fig gods.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 2:37PM
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WOW, Ricortes,

I had to stare at your tree for a long while, because it just looked so stout and strong. You talked of pruning methods to encourage a tree to be productive. Just how productive is this tree? And what variety? It is a beauty. Thanks for sharing with us.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 6:52PM
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ricortes that tree is truly a work of art. Thank you for posting the picture and the pruning advice on how to make it happen.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 7:23PM
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I have to give credit where credit is due. This is my son's next door neighbor's tree. My fig trees are still too young to show the results or where they are headed.

Pruning is about as controversial as rooting so you seldom see one pruner doing anything but picking out the mistakes in someone elses work. I want to say this job is as good as I've seen. My family farmed about 500 acres in prunes, apricots, cherries, and pears. I don't think anyone in my family or any of the workers we had over the years could improve on this job.

There is one thing I left out, always cut branches at the joint. If you leave anything other then a flush cut i.e. a 2-4" stub, it is referred to derogatively as an 'ethnic' flag. That is in my case another pruner would look at my work and if they found any stubs would say something like "What are you leaving all those Italian flags for?" Kind of good natured old school racial pruning superiority wag. Every country thinks they have the best pruners in the world.

The tree appears to be a Mission fig. Dark purple fruit anyway. Note I am something of a fig rookie here to learn so...

The tree produces a medium to heavy crops of fruit. More important IMHO is the size of the fruit is uniform, large, and blemish free. I'll try to remember to take a picture of it when it in fall with leaves and fruit. Possibly one of the things people may not want is the crop ripens over a 2-4 week period vs. maybe double that for a tree that is less uniformly pruned.

FWIW: Told/showed my son the technique for pruning because he had a badly neglected apricot tree in his front yard. Just doing the cut [low, suckers, straight up, straight down, center, crosses] and leave no flags. He did a pretty good job and actually got a complement or two. Ended up a decent crop of fruit but neighborhood ladies picked them before he got a shot at them. I think I managed to get 4-5 before the neighbors stripped the tree! The technique is geared to a slightly lower yield of larger fruit rather then a heavy crop of peanut sized fruit.

Some things will change figs depending on the variety and owner. For instance the farmer/crop method is used in part because of my family's selection of fruit, the main crop is 'on second year wood.' For figs the best ones are on the new growth so people often prune them back harder to maximize new wood. I'm kind of a knucklehead though: If it is any kind of fruit tree and I have a pair of shears in my hands, it will look like this. Kind of boring and monotonous when you think about it.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 2:34PM
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Rick thats a beautiful specimen.
I like an open canopy as such like you said very few blemished figs and also the sun really makes the color of the figs beautiful as well as it can hit the figs easily . Im italian but never heard that expression before you mentioned but nextdoor neighbor (hungarian) always said we made good ditch diggers (long story there)
Here are a few of mine that i grow in containers pruned in a similar fashion.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 10:44PM
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I like your work. You got them are off to a great start.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 2:10AM
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all of these fig trees make my mouth water !!!!! unbeleivable specimens...when I was in Italy, the fig trees on my family's property seem to grow so naturally and all look so hearty over the 80 or 90 years since my grandfather had planted them in Abruzzi ..Illinois is not the opportune environment to grow fig trees in the ground. Any ideas on pruning potted fig trees that have to be brought indoors( garage) during the winter monthe ie., appropriate time and season

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:09PM
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Hello -

Ricortes and Diesler -

Could you both please repost the pictures of the pruned trees discussed in this thread so I can see a couple of examples?

My trees are dormant now.

Is the best time to prune the top of the tree now or should I wait until spring before the buds open?


    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 9:22AM
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This year is the second time I have pruned the tree. The second year the figs were abundant, and looked good.Last year the figs barely produced and tiny black bugs got the good ones. What could deter the bugs. I really pruned it good this time, Do I need to cut limbs growing sideways, off?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:39AM
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