Fruit and Vegetables

Prune the fig tree

Prune the fig tree

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Question: fruit tree

I have a fig tree. I want to know what kind of maintenance I have to do. Some branches are dry internally and the leaves are not bright green

Answer: fruit tree

Dear Michael,
the fig is usually pruned at the end of winter, when the buds are already evident, so as not to remove an excessive number; instead the dead, ruined and diseased branches are completely removed; the branches that develop towards the inside of the crown are also removed, making it impenetrable to sunlight and not very tidy. After flowering, in summer, you can trim the branches, shortening them a little, but in general it is better to avoid excessive pruning; if the pruning at the end of winter has already been quite vigorous, other prunings are avoided during the year.
The fig tree, like all trees of the genus ficus, produces an irritating sap, and from the cut branches, especially if large, produces a lot of them. To prevent the sap from striking your skin or eyes it is good to repair yourself when pruning this tree, and be very careful. In general, clothes are worn that cover the whole body (the sap can spoil even the fabrics slightly, so we avoid wearing our favorite shirt), a nice pair of gloves, and glasses that are also used when using the brushcutter; the fig sap is not toxic, but simply irritating, but if it comes into contact with the eyes or with the mucous membranes, it can cause important irritations, similar to burns; in such a case it is good to go to the emergency room and explain the events.
After having pruned the plant it is advisable to cover the cutting surfaces with pruning mastic, with fungicide, in order to avoid further sap spills and to prevent fungi and bacteria from entering the trunk; for this same last reason, it is good to use very sharp, clean and disinfected scissors and saws; if damaged or diseased branches are removed, it is good to disinfect with alcohol after each cut, to avoid carrying diseases from one branch to another. After removing the diseased wood, it is advisable to burn it.

Characteristics of the fig tree

The fig is a very interesting plant to cultivate, for the expert gardener as for the novice: it is a fast growing tree, resistant and very fruitful in almost all the climates of our peninsula. If you have a lot of space you can let it grow freely, but, intervening in the right season, it can also be contained until it becomes a medium-sized bush. Before planting we carefully evaluate the location, which must always be very sunny, and carefully choose the variety: we take into consideration our climate, the characteristics of the fruits and how many times a year they will be available.
Family, genus, species: Moraceae, Ficus carica
Plant type: Tree or shrub
Foliage: frail
Height: From 3 to 10 meters
Growth: fast
Exposure: Sun
Maintenance: average
Ground: calcareous
irrigation: Frequently
Soil moisture: average

Pruning of the fig tree

There pruning of the fig tree It is a rather delicate operation: it is very important to carefully choose the moment in which to intervene for the different purposes we want to achieve; it is also necessary to always cut the branches that will not be productive during the year. This last aspect is even more important as far as bifera varieties are concerned: by eliminating the buds produced in the previous autumn, we would lose all the spring harvest!
The fig calendar
System: March / November
Pruning: March-April / June-July
Collection: May-June / September-October

When and how to prune at the end of winter

Ficus carica begins to vegetate quite late compared to other plants. To perform a pruning in a workmanlike manner it is important to be patient and wait for the buds to swell. It is by observing their appearance that we will understand how and how much to intervene. Indicatively we will wait at least the end of March (in the South) or April (in the North). We will be able to cut freely, but making sure to leave different, consistent and shiny gems for each branch, more rounded than the others.
The main purpose will be to thin out the crown, opening its center. Guaranteeing a good passage of air and light is fundamental to avoid the onset of cryptogamic diseases and to allow the optimal maturation of the figs. We also carefully observe all the branches and eliminate those that are sick, broken or showing little vitality. It is also an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate the plant by intervening on the branches with darker bark: eliminating them will stimulate the emission of new and large jets.
We always follow the basic tips for pruning: we cut as much as possible upstream, leaving only a small collar to help correct healing. In this way we will also avoid a possible adverse reaction: the production of abundant sprouts which will give an unbalanced appearance and make the foliage even more dense.

Summer pruning

If our fig has become too large, we will have to intervene between the end of spring and the middle of summer, roughly between June (in southern Italy) and July (in the north). In any case, we leave very little time to the end of the first harvest: in this way the plant will still have time to produce new fruit buds and give us an abundant autumn harvest.
As an indication, we suggest cutting at least 5 leaf axils, starting from the apex.
In this period we can also intervene at the base of the trunk: every year a large number of suckers are issued. We can decide to eliminate them to maintain a perfect tree shape; alternatively, we cut the weaker ones and keep the maximum 3 new more robust jets that, over time, will help us in general renovation

Pruning for renewal

At times, much more drastic pruning may be necessary. It is the case of old trees (at least 25 years old) neglected or affected by important adversities. It is good to work at the end of winter to avoid major trauma during vegetative growth. We cut all the branches to ground level: the plant will need at least 2 years to fully recover and to produce some new fruit; however, we will obtain a completely renewed specimen.

Prune the fig tree: Pruning equipment

To get good results it is important to have good tools available. In particular, a strong, disinfected and well sharpened shear is required. For larger branches, instead, a hand saw or chainsaw must be used. We also use a stable scale or let us help to keep it firm.
Please note that by cutting the fig there will be the leakage of abundant latex: this liquid, in contact with the skin, can cause irritations even of serious entity. It is therefore good to wear gloves and work with thick pants and long sleeves. Ingestion or contact with eyes should also be avoided.


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