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  • Fig Tree Height In Pots

    This year for the first time I'm looking forward to reaching up to pick figs. Next year I might need a step ladder to reach upper figs on a handful of trees. These trees are in pots, stored in garage through winter. Thinking further, I realize that while I can't easily increase square footage of storage, there is unused storage space going up. Limbs toward ceiling should mean more fruit in season. But how tall is too tall for growing trees in pots, and for picking? Limits are ceiling and step ladder heights?

    Tall fig trees in pots. Especially tall trees. I wonder about the joy or pain in it. Wind tipping concerns could be managed. Birds could be a problem. I wonder if a step ladder coupled with very tall fig trees in pots could serve as the equivalent of 2 or 3 standing-reach trees in pots.
    Tony WV 6b
    https://mountainfigs.net/

  • #2
    Taller fig trees doesn't automatically mean more production, also larger taller trees will usually need larger containers.

    IMO, creating a trained and pruned shape will create a more productive tree. Since most doors are 7 feet tall I've set the maximum height of my potted trees at ~ 6 feet, the permanent branches (mains and scaffolds) are pruned to be inside this limit, while the yearly fruiting branches are allowed to grow past and are pruned back for storage. Attached is a picture of the "trained" scaffold branches of one of my taller trees, there are only a few fruiting branches. The ends of all the scaffold branches should have been pruned last fall (or late winter) to promote budding along the entire scaffold for the selected fruiting branches, but I'm conducting a simple "breba" experiment, so they will be pruned back in early summer. By fall each scaffold (6 total) will have at least three (3) yearly fruiting branches, each capable of producing 6 to 12 figs per season. The picture currently depicts a tree that's allowed to grow and set figs on the tips of the established branches, similar to your idea of the "Tall" tree.
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    Figs are produced on new growth so allowing the tree to grow tall will usually only create more unproductive older branches. Also as you note tipping and protection become more of a problem.
    Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      Pete, maybe I confused matters by writing "limbs toward ceiling." I don't mean allowing low limbs to grow toward the ceiling/sky. By "tall tree" I envision limbs pruned from top to bottom for fruit but allowing the sole or main trunk to go untopped to an unusually high level, thereby creating especially high scaffold and fruiting limbs. High limbs because they originate high (on the trunk), not because they are especially long or tall with a low origin. Stella, Emerald Strawberry, RDB, VDB and other cultivars with fingerlike leaf margins and/or scant foliage coverage, I see these as prime candidates for such tall and possibly somewhat narrow structure, because sunlight should be able to filter through the upper branches to the leaves of the lower branches, and wind would find less of a wall of leaves to push against.

  • #3
    Like Pete has stated...tall doesn't always predict production. For the last few years I've been running tests of smaller, 4 gallon, SIP's which grew well for one year but dumped the second....literally a near death experience...one such fig was just "released" to the wild and planted in our vegetable garden....it has been successfully resescutated and has begun throwing some healthy side shoots. I won't be restricting my "second children" anymore.

    I had been of the opinion that I wanted to be planting full sized trees, for maximum production....a reconsideration has been underway thanks to the valuable input here on the site and F4F site....I'll be prunning them lower from now on...partially in anticipation of some grandchildren and introducing them to figs at their level.
    Ross B. Santa Rosa Calif zone 9b, wish list: CdD Blanc, Igo, Palmata, Sucrette, Morroco, Galicia Negra

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    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      These are good cautions against tall relatively unpruned fig trees. I saw a video early on of a tall narrow fig tree essentially unpruned that had virtually no figs on it. Lot of wood, lot of height, no figs. Since then I've typically tried for compact bushy type trees. However, given the delight of looking up at growing figs, and with limited space, I've taken to wondering if I can continue that dense fruiting structure up. With care and caution, I'll see what can be done. If nothing more, I think I would enjoy for aesthetic purposes having a couple very tall, maybe very big fig trees around.

  • #4
    I let one tree go totally unpruned for 4 years and it is about 7' and a really nice shape, looks like there are 100+ figs showing so far. It has adopted a nice mature growth habit with stout lateral branches and short internodes. I thought I would surely need to prune at the end of this season but the tree has only gained about 6" so I might just leave it alone.
    .

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    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds good. Is this tree in pot or in ground? If in pot, I wonder how long it would continue to fruit before root binding takes a toll. I've also wondered if it is effective to drive a spade down into pots before root binding, thereby root pruning without depotting, leaving the severed roots as the new potting medium and nutrition upon decomposition.

    • hoosierbanana
      hoosierbanana commented
      Editing a comment
      Just moved it up to a 25 gallon root pouch, I did some root pruning so that could account for some of the short internodes. It was in a wide shallow home made fabric container last year, maybe 15 gallons and it grew great, but dried out too fast. The fabric containers have been great at producing a nice fibrous root system with no circling, although there is usually a mat of roots at the bottom that needs to be sliced off.

  • #5
    here is a nice guide

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    Wish List -

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    • #6
      Tony,
      The picture that came to mind when reading the OP was of Tall Spindle Pruned Apple Trees, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqZPQV9l9jA , http://www.hrt.msu.edu/assets/PagePD...Spindle-12.pdf , they're usually topped at 9' or 10' tall.
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      Although its developed for apple trees the technique has many concepts that can be applied to container grown Fig trees.
      The apple trees are grafted to dwarfing rootstock that forms small shallow root balls which creates the need for permanent staking, since the potted fig trees also have a small root ball this is another similarity.

      I've also posted this Columnar (Spindle) Fig Pruning diagram. http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...1779#post11779
      Click image for larger version

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      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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      • #7
        Pete, that picture is very much what I had in mind. In fact, my tallest tree, an RDB a little over 6 feet, is currently supported by 2 bamboo stakes, though not because it is in danger of tipping but due to the rapid growth of this 1 year old RDB that cannot currently properly self-support its top trunk and some branches. I guess it would become a spindle tree that can bush out during growing and ripening season.

        At the moment, the tree looks absurd, like a scarecrow strung upon a rack. Once it's properly pruned and filled out in a year or two it should have more presence. Soil to top, it's over six feet, or 7.5 feet from bottom of pot. I can imagine this tree getting a lot taller and filling out well in future years.

        As it is, there are at least 5 dozen (60) main crop figlets on the tree, with seemingly more to come, and a lot of time to ripen this early variety. These are actually 2nd wave main crop. Because I woke the tree early inside there are a few 1st wave main crop figs that could ripen later this month.

        If I can ripen 60+ figs on a 1st year absurdly gaunt RDB, is it too much to think that in future years a fleshed out RDB at twice the height could ripen 1,000 figs? (or more) [Edit: The following morning a more thorough recount of the figs revealed about 80 figs, mostly figlets, on the tree.]
        You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
        Last edited by mountainfigs; 06-11-2015, 09:56 AM.
        Tony WV 6b
        https://mountainfigs.net/

        Comment


        • #8
          Here she is from the shady side so you can see the branches. Click image for larger version

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          And a view of the tippy top. Click image for larger version

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          OMG is that a scale!!!!

          The tree did nothing the first year, then grew a healthy sucker to 5ft, which branched (I may have pinched) the next year and grew about another foot taller per year after that. This is a mystery tree from Bass, so no need to prune for cuttings and I am glad I didn't mess with it.
          .

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          • mountainfigs
            mountainfigs commented
            Editing a comment
            Nice strong tree. Get branches on the lower half and maybe double your crop, no?

          • hoosierbanana
            hoosierbanana commented
            Editing a comment
            I have been hoping for some buds to show up... Leaving those suckers for now to fatten up the base of the trunk and might try training one into a mini tree.

          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            Brent,
            To get buds on the lower main trunk simply prune the ends off all the branches above (before bud break in the spring). It removes all the auxins and results in bud break at most nodes. Then rub out the unwanted buds. All the thin branches (4 new scaffold branches) in the photo in post #2 http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...1984#post21984 were achieved with this pruning method.
            Last edited by AscPete; 06-10-2015, 09:44 PM.

        • #9
          If you let them get tall you will surely need large containers. Some of these are almost 10 ft. tall and loaded with figs. They are in 40 gal containers.
          You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 5 photos.
          Art
          Western Pa -6a

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          • mountainfigs
            mountainfigs commented
            Editing a comment
            Art, nice spread of trees, and greenhouse. Those trees look like they arrived from a savanna somewhere. I can picture a lion lying under them. Any bears ever visit?

            As for container size, so far I'm drawing the line at 15 gallon, and prefer smaller. But most of my pots have holes drilled in them and are embedded in ground which, only guessing, may effectively triple the actual size.

            Do birds get any figs, and do you pick from a stepladder?

          • kubota1
            kubota1 commented
            Editing a comment
            Knock on wood, I've never had bird problems. I did have a bear that would tear my bird feeders down. I don't feed the birds anymore.
            I used to put my trees in mulch and really liked that style. I just hated digging and cutting the roots of 150-200 trees every fall. So my plan is to get rid of a bunch and just have larger containers.

          • Taverna78
            Taverna78 commented
            Editing a comment
            Wow!! BELLE!!!! All I can say

            BELLE BELLE BELLE

        • #10
          40 gallon!!!!!

          Do you have an oger that moves them for you Art?
          Last edited by COGardener; 06-10-2015, 08:33 PM.
          Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

          “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

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          • #11
            Ha ha. It's not fun. These pots have a handle on each side, so my wife can sorta help me. Also I have a loader with forks. I had to go big or they just blow over. I have large rocks on top of my 20 gal containers and they still blow over.
            Art
            Western Pa -6a

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            • #12
              Even with two people moving them. .. man oh man. Either your wife loves you or she is building up some black mail.

              Have you thought about anchoring the pots to the ground. Just don't trip on the guide wires.
              Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

              “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

              Comment


              • #13
                That's something that I've considered. Once I thin the herd that's what I might do.
                Last edited by kubota1; 06-10-2015, 09:01 PM.
                Art
                Western Pa -6a

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                • hoosierbanana
                  hoosierbanana commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Hey Art, I want to make some tricked out jumbos that I can manage myself onto a pallet (25 gallons is pretty much my limit now since I pile them onto a truck in and out of storage), but need to find some stronger fabric... anyway the thing about them is they slide really easy because there are no hard edges to dig in. I just shimmy them onto a rectangle of ground cover with the handle (a loop at the base would be awesome so you could move them short distances like you would a stack of crates using a big hook), and I can drag a 25 and a 10 behind me across bumpy terrain and it is a good workout but not too hard on my joints. I have dragged like 100 gallons behind my car on ground cover with a 1" x 2" support and some ropes.

                  Also, I like containers that are cube shaped the best, they are just little wider than high since the sides end up round instead of square. They are really stable and there are always lots of short roots that stick to the ground like velcro with fabric containers, they even sound like velcro when you pull them up.

              • #14
                Brent, I have thought about doing something similar. I like the idea of someday having them on their individual pallet.
                I know what you mean about the cube shaped container. Ever since I installed the decorative stone, I've had issues with tipping over. It was nice when the mulch and roots would usually support the tree.
                Art
                Western Pa -6a

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                • #15
                  I should have taken a picture. I just came in from tipping those 40 gal pots back up. Probably 100 trees tipped over.
                  Art
                  Western Pa -6a

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                  • kubota1
                    kubota1 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yeah, I've given some thought to that. I live on top of a hill with no windbreak. The upside is that I've got full sun from 7am until about 9 in the summer.
                    I got caught up in collecting so many varieties. I'm getting rid of loads of giant trees this summer.

                  • AscPete
                    AscPete commented
                    Editing a comment
                    You could also try growing them as a shorter "Bush form" with the scaffolds closer to the soil line... it could reduce their height by 1/2.

                  • kubota1
                    kubota1 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    That might be my only option. I'm not getting any younger. I just love to see these large trees. It's just not practical.

                • #16
                  One simple option that might help would be to abut the pots, say in rows three pots wide. I do this successfully with a short row of pot-light citrus trees in a sometimes very windy spot. Your trees seem sparse enough that the limbs should not interfere in doing so. Most of the fruit would still be reachable? The line of pots in the middle especially should never tip and if tipping did occur it might only be a small fraction of the pots. Going further, if you had boards with spikes that you pounded down into the roots/soil 3 pots across, then I suppose nothing might tip. Though the limbs might blow off!
                  Tony WV 6b
                  https://mountainfigs.net/

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                  • #17
                    Art,

                    Another thought is to pound in stakes at the ends and middle of your rows the width of the pots. Then stretch and tension metal rope down the stakes creating an alley between the metal rope for the pots to lock into. Something along the lines of what nurseries do with their
                    tall trees.
                    Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

                    “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

                    Comment


                    • #18
                      There are many solutions to the tip over problem some more complicated than others. IMO, a simple solution for large plants in rows are Removable Bollards, they can be removed for easy access to the pots for relocation in spring and fall. They are used as anchor points for the rails or cables. I've used T Fence posts as the anchor points (Bollards) in the past...
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                      There are also similar commercially available systems "Tree Collars" that uses high tensile cables...
                      http://treebag.com/high-caliper-tree-collars/
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                      To solve my tip over problem (in 5 gallon containers) I simply reduced the maximum height of the trees to 6', the 4' tall Bush form trees didn't have any issues to begin with.
                      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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                      • #19
                        Have you thought about digging them into the ground 12 inches or so? Cut a few extra holes around the base of the pot and then put in a hole 2X too big. I fill the extra space with mulch. It will put roots into the mulch and help hold it down. This might solve the anchoring problem.

                        Comment


                        • AscPete
                          AscPete commented
                          Editing a comment
                          A 40 gallon container holds approximately 6.2 cubic feet of mix, filled with a lightweight mix its ~ 240 lbs of potting mix alone. IMO, lifting in and out of the 'hole" to transport the pots to and from storage would also require additional lifting equipment
                          Last edited by AscPete; 06-14-2015, 12:04 AM.
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