My question is about fig trees. When do you trim them or is it even advisable to do so? What is the best way to care for them?
Fig trees are the delight of many gardeners and when the fruit begins to ripen, it is easy to see why there is so much interest in them.
These fruit trees are small in stature, but will produce an abundance of fruit if you give them proper care. The key is to remember that they hail from the Mediterranean and so they appreciate similar growing conditions.
Hardiness – Figs are reliably cold hardy in zone 7 and southward. They can survive winter temperatures down to 15 to 20 degrees F. You can grow them north of zone 7 if you provide them with winter protection or grow them in containers that can be stored in a garage or basement. Celeste and Brown Turkey are particularly cold hardy varieties. The roots of a fig tree are more resilient than the branches, so if an unusually harsh winter zaps the tree back to the ground, don’t panic. It will most likely come back from the roots.
Light- Warmth and plenty of sunlight are important for good fruit development. Plant your fig in an area that will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. In northern regions it is good to select a warm microclimate, such as against a south facing brick wall, where the tree will receive ample light and heat. In areas where summers are exceptionally hot, give your fig protection from the afternoon sun.
Water – Figs need consistent moisture and well-drained soil. Soggy soil often results in split fruit and a plant that has dried out will produce rock hard fruit that never fully ripens. Apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch under the canopy of the tree to retain moisture and keep the roots cool. When applying mulch keep it about 12 inches away from the trunk to prevent rot and pest problems.
Pruning – Established fig trees tend to resent heavy pruning. If you have a tree that has grown out of control it is best to reduce the size in stages. Although it is okay to prune during the growing season, severe pruning is best done in winter when the plant is dormant. Start by removing dead, diseased and damaged wood. Next select about 1/3 of the branches that you would like to remove. Cut these back to the main stems. Repeat the process the following winter. If you just can’t stand it, the tree can be cut down to a 2 to 3 foot stump and it will sprout again. The following season after fruiting, thin the young branches to control the shape.