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Keeping Desert King small enough
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John S
1020 Posts
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1
August 29, 2020 - 10:15 am

I read Rick Shory's article in the Pome news and found it to be really excellent.  Then I read his blog post and found it to be even better:

https://rickshory.wordpress.co.....n-the-pnw/

I had planned to grow a Negronne or Vern's Brown Turkey in its place, but now I'm going to follow my adaptation of his plan.

I chopped half of the tree this summer after fruiting. The other half will fruit next year.  Then I read his post where he said that summer chopping of the trees will likely kill them.  So now I'm going to chop the other half in one or two and a half years, during the winter. This will depend on if the half I just chopped has fruited the breba crop properly.  Then I'll be in my adaptation of his rotation of chopping half the tree every two years to keep it within reach to actually harvest the figs. 

Is anyone else doing something like this?
John S
PDX OR

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jafar
474 Posts
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August 29, 2020 - 11:42 pm

Thanks John.  I've had a few visits and conversations with Rick, but he hadn't mentioned his blog.  I'm quite enjoying it.  

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Rooney
466 Posts
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August 31, 2020 - 6:09 pm

I enjoyed that very much. Desert King reminds me of walks I used to take a long time ago when I would scout high end properties for what they would do with fruit trees. One of my favorite impressions of a fig brought me to an older lady that had this magnificent Desert King fig. I've seen several other figs that year in the Seattle area but none were in such good cropping as hers. As several more years passed by I noted her children would come by and hack it almost all the way back on about a 4 year cycle, which gives it the magnificent crop every 3rd and 4th year. 

I'm not sure how much in years they are good for in treating them that way. I know that when I moved where I am now and planted a Brown Turkey fig that when it gave me trouble fruiting I had remove it, then after no sign of life for maybe 6 years it is coming back again from old root sections, be it very slowly.

Desert Kings and fresh figs in general are so worth it if you can live up to the proper advisors. Thanks!

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John S
1020 Posts
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September 2, 2020 - 10:38 am

I will keep adding updates when I hack it back or notes its growith or fruiting.

John S
PDX OR

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Rooney
466 Posts
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September 4, 2020 - 2:26 pm

The other day I noticed very well tended figs so I went again this morning to meet volunteers and take pictures from two fig trees at the federal site (ie. as shown). These are at least as large and productive as any I'd seen yet. These volunteers are/were out there watering these federal gardens almost every morning which I think suggests the huge success and abundance going on there. 

The only single volunteers person that prunes both those beautiful fig trees is only there Tuesday and Thursday mornings. So for those of us further north as us in Washington we need not always schedule our driving times to see what the HOS gardeners are doing. ...these workers get busy around 9am, if (?) it helps anyone.

  <---- Zoomed in;
   a fig and a penny.

Click here for Gmaps -->

Historic Fort Vancouver garden site fig tree

...and garden pathways
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katwest
3 Posts
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September 4, 2020 - 5:25 pm

Super helpful resource - thank you! I have 5 figs in pots that I've been reticent to plant because of space issues. This will help!

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buzzoff
57 Posts
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September 6, 2020 - 11:34 pm

Severe Summer pruning of most trees.... Will kill them.

Not so, for figs.  I Summer butcher my multi-trunked figs, both Desert King & Lattarulla, after harvest, every few years.

It has never phased them.  

Last Summer I chainsawed most of my fig trees, at eye-level.

This year, they responded, by growing thick new upright branches,  about 6 or 7 feet of new growth so far.  Up to the roofline already.

Sigh,  makes me wish I had taken more off.

I.. I.. I seem to lack confidence.   I should have lopped them off knee-high.   As it is,  I will have a bumper crop of figs in a year or two.  But, a lot of them will be 20 to 25 feet off of the ground.   

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John S
1020 Posts
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September 9, 2020 - 1:24 pm

Thanks Buzzoff,

Great info.

John S
PDX OR

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Viron
225 Posts
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September 11, 2020 - 6:18 pm

Didn’t read the piece (or much of this discussion Wink), but just posted this elsewhere with regard to keeping the size down on figs.  I learned it from a fig growing master, Helen Webb, of Yamhill OR:

I had seven figs of two varieties in the foothills of the coast range, Desert King and Brown Turkey.  Learned and listened to a passed friend who was ‘the queen of figs’ in my area, to “let them clump,” or grow multiple trunks from the ground.

Figs are not grafted, so any ‘root shoot’ is identical to the upper growth.  Allowing them ‘to clump’ also allowed me to keep their size in check.  And, as my friend described, if an extremely cold snap hit, the outer trunks appeared to shield the inner, so the entire ‘tree’ was not lost.  

I’d advise allowing them to send up multiple ‘trunks,’ thinning some as needed; and to keep their size in check - and reinvigorate the entire ‘bush,’ occasionally remove the largest trunk by cutting it near ground level.  The remaining, often two to five year shoots will happily take over.  This method was especially helpful keeping the vigorous Desert King under control.

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John S
1020 Posts
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September 13, 2020 - 3:46 pm

I love it!
I remember you advocating this position, years ago.  I never saw a practical reason for it.  Until now. Great post.

John S
PDX OR

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Viron
225 Posts
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11
September 16, 2020 - 10:58 am

Thanks John Smile  I didn’t just keep my figs in check, I pruned at least a dozen others for family, friends, and clients.  I’d given away countless fig starts in the area, either Brown Turkey or Desert King.  

Talked with my father yesterday, he has an ‘out of control’ Brown Turkey, at the coast.  I described removing it’s largest, usually central stock (shoot from the ground surrounded by others of lesser size & age).  Told him to find some good twine or rope to circle the remaining ‘limbs,’ loop it around them a couple times - and cinch it up.  I’d leave them tied, to ‘bring up’ the outer branches.

The great thing is, you’ll have figs next year, usually lots!  Because the two to five year ‘shoots’ are ready to bear.  With additional sunlight & room, they will!  But, you won’t have to climb onto your roof or car to reach them Wink

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EugeTrees
2 Posts
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12
March 13, 2021 - 12:32 pm

Hi John and company, I have a dessert king fig and another side be side and tried at first to maintain a tree shape. But since birds and ants usually got to the top figs before me, I've been trying over many years to bring down fruiting branches. I've taken out some old trunks and encouraged an serpentine flow of branches close to the ground. It is an endless endeavor, as you all know. I usually prune in late winter but sometimes I just have at it, especially since these trees with their big fat leaves are next to my pears and raspberries.

Last August I was horrified to find two rats above me in these 15 feet shrubs, enjoying my produce. I'd protected it this year with a net, but, frankly, I'd rather share it with the birds. Yep, figs sure are tasty!

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John S
1020 Posts
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March 14, 2021 - 11:04 am

I am looking forward to seeing how this experiment works in year two.  I'm ok with having a lot of wood to take care of. I make biochar and I need wood for that.  Hopefully, it makes it easier to get the figs.

John S
PDX OR

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DanielW
Clark County, WA
458 Posts
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14
March 19, 2021 - 5:45 am

This is a great topic.

I am trying to keep my fig trees tall enough to annoy the deer, but short enough that I can stand on the ground for pruning and maintenance.  That seems to mean pruning cuts at about 5 or 6 feet above soil level.

During the winter I lowered the crowns of several fig trees, leaving about half of the wood for breba types but removing most wood that extends above 6 or 7 feet for main crop types.  In the future, I intend to keep them a bit lower than that.

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