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February 13, 2016

QuestionWe need to know how far back to cut on the branches when pruning our fig tree this spring.  We remove all of the "suckers" growing at the base of the tree, assuming these are drawing nutrition away from the main areas that bear fruit.  For our pear tree, how far back should we prune back the "aerial branches" that grow straight up in the tree?  Both are old, established trees that have been shaped.

 

AnswerI would wait to prune the fig tree until we are sure we aren’t having any winter.  The past two winters have caused considerable die-back on many fig trees. If you prune now and we get severe cold, you could have more damage to prune off. It would not be harmful to wait even until early March to prune the figs.  Prune only as needed.  Some people try to keep them a manageable height to aid in harvest, but if you have a large tree, let the tops of the tree feed the birds, so they leave the lower fruit for you.  Pruning out suckers will keep it more in tree form, versus a fig bush.  For the pears, they are typically pruned with an almost Christmas tree form—taller central leader and the subsequent branches coming in lower.  Keeping it pruned to a height that you can pick from is helpful, but you may also need to thin out excess suckering or branches that occur within the tree as pears often produce too many new branches each season.  Excessive growth will cut down on air flow and can produce too many small pears, versus nice large ones. I would prune pears any time from now until the end of the month.


 

January 30, 2016

Question

My husband is eager to prune our crape myrtles and our fig trees.  I think you said to wait until February to do this. Please advise.

 

Answer

Since we finally have had some winter weather, I think it is important to wait until late February before pruning, especially to prune your fig tree. If you prune it too early, you expose more of the plant to potential damage.  The past two winters have not been kind to fig trees, and I would make sure they are out of the woods from winter weather before pruning.  I don’t think it is a bad idea to even wait until March, depending on what the rest of the winter brings.  I have seen many crape myrtles already butchered, and even when pruned properly you still have a more unattractive plant when pruned than when it is full of limbs.  Early pruning does expose more of the plant to winter injury should we get any severe weather, so tell him to be patient.


 

January 2, 2016

QuestionWe recently moved into a new home and we now have fig trees.  I was told that they almost died the past two winters, but they are about 10 feet tall so I guess they rebounded pretty well.  How tall do fig trees get?  I have never grown one and know nothing about them.  Is there anything I should be doing now that they are dormant to protect them from winter damage?

AnswerFor years we considered figs as bushes rather than trees because they froze back so often.  Then we entered mild winter weather and figs responded and we now have some that are easily 15-20 feet tall and some almost that big around.  The past two winters did cause some dieback, and a few died completely.  Fig roots are usually much hardier than the top-growth.  Figs also bear fruit on the current season growth so even when damaged you get some figs—just not as many.  We can keep our fingers crossed that winter weather will be milder, but if temperatures below 20 degrees are predicted,  adding extra mulch or covering may give you a bit more protection, but it is hard to cover a tree..


 

October 17, 2015

QuestionI have a 12 year old Turkish brown fig which is about eight feet tall.  Last winter it froze to the ground.  I wanted to get rid of it, but my wife asked me to give it a chance to survive. It did and now has a lot of figs on it.  Because they came on so late, I don’t think they will have a chance to ripen.  I would like to protect this fig bush this fall and winter.  Is there a practical way to protect it from freezing?  It is in the middle of my backyard

 

AnswerI believe you have a Brown Turkey fig—the most common grown in Arkansas.  When I started work back in 1980 we used to call them fig bushes, because they got frozen to the ground so frequently.  Then our winters became milder and we started getting large fig trees.  The past two winters were reminiscent of the 80’s and many trees took a hit with the colder than normal winter.  The beauty of Brown Turkey is that it can bear on the new growth as well as the old.  They have the potential to have two crops per year.  Your late season crop (in a milder growing location) could overwinter and be harvested very early in the spring, and then another crop would be produced which has larger fruits.  To answer your question about protection the best suggestion would be to build a cage around the tree—as large as you can manage both in height and width, then gradually start adding leaves into the cage.  Don’t pack the leaves in, just lightly fill.  In really cold weather—in the single digits—you could add an extra layer of protection by wrapping the cage with a sheet or even plastic.  When we are frost free, release the cage and rake up the leaves and your tree should be protected.  


 

(August 2010)

QuestionWe have a 15 foot tall by 18 foot wide fig tree. It's produced a marvelous amount of figs this year, but needs to be trimmed back. It's still producing a few small figs. Any suggestions about how much to cut them back and when? We, the birds, and raccoons love it.

 

AnswerFigs bear their fruit on the current season growth.  The best time to prune them is right before they start growing in the spring.  Figs used to suffer winter damage, and many years were frozen back by one half or more.   That hasn’t been the case in the past ten years or so, and now the figs are becoming trees, instead of bushes, but we still want them to get through the winter before pruning.  Pruning can be done if they are intruding into other areas, but if there is room for the large size I recommend leaving them tall.  Let the top figs go for the birds and you can harvest the lower section.

 

QuestionWe have a 15 foot tall by 18 foot wide fig tree. It's produced a marvelous amount of figs this year, but needs to be trimmed back. It's still producing a few small figs. Any suggestions about how much to cut them back and when? We, the birds, and raccoons love it.

 

AnswerFigs bear their fruit on the current season growth.  The best time to prune them is right before they start growing in the spring.  Figs used to suffer winter damage, and many years were frozen back by one half or more.   That hasn’t been the case in the past ten years or so, and now the figs are becoming trees, instead of bushes, but we still want them to get through the winter before pruning.  Pruning can be done if they are intruding into other areas, but if there is room for the large size I recommend leaving them tall.  Let the top figs go for the birds and you can harvest the lower section.


(June 2010)

QuestionWhen is the best time to transplant a fig tree?

 

AnswerIf you have a choice, I would do so in late February through early April. Figs used to be a bit winter challenged in Arkansas, but have fared much better in recent years.  Still, I would prefer it go into fall and winter with a strong root system and move it after the bulk of winter weather has passed. It is so hot and humid now that it would be a shock to the plant if it were moved now. It could be done, and if you kept up with the water needs, it could be successful, but it would be easier on you and the plant to wait until next year.


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