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  • The unglamorous part of figging: root pruning

    Being that it was 41F outside today (which qualifies as summery around here), I decided to get a head start on spring tasks by root pruning for the first time with my reciprocating saw. Let me say it was not as easy as I expected. It did not cut through roots like butter, although maybe I will use the larger blade next time, I started with the 5 inch blade because I had more of them in case it dulled quickly. Here is the saw and the tree before I started.
    Rafael
    Zone 7b, Queens, New York

  • #2
    Here are some shots while I was pruning 1-1.5 inches off the top, bottom and sides. I may have massacred the poor tree. Trimming the sides was difficult. Yes, I did this all by myself.
    Rafael
    Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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    • #3
      Finally, here is the repotted tree with new soil, agway pine fines and lots of dolomitic limestone pellets added, ready for fertilizer and topping (not for another month or so).
      Rafael
      Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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      • #4
        Come on Rafael, you know that was fun. LoL
        newnandawg 7b Newnan, GA

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        • #5
          How often do most of you root prune? If you were going to drastically up pot, would you still root prune to remove the shape from the only old pot and encurage new root growth.
          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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          • #6
            Looks good. I find it interesting, you leave much more of a void at the top of the pot than I do. I always try to fill it as full as possible, knowing it will settle some and also I want to get as much volume out of the container as possible for the roots. Not knocking you here, just wondering why you take that approach, is it weight or maybe because you can fill the top with water quickly and move on to the next tree while the water soaks in? The water part is the only downside for me, I don't mind the weight.
            Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
            Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!

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            • #7
              i'm interested in the answer to Scott's question, "do you root prune when you up pot". I have more than 12 figs that need to be up-potted this year and I was wondering if they should be root pruned or not.
              Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)

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              • #8
                Scott: for large containers I understand one should root prune after 4 years and then every 3 years after that. This tree is 3 seasons old but it is vigorous so I jumped the gun. I think it is probably not necessary to prune a small container tree before up-potting, say 3-5 gal, not necessary to prune.
                Rafael
                Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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                • #9
                  Cal:

                  No offense taken. This was actually my first pruning, so I do not have a method or approach. The container in question is very deep, also I expect to add a layer of rabbit poop and worm castings, plus spring fertilizers, and then a topcoat of fafard 52, that is why there is room. For different pots, I will take a different approach, but for now this was the only tree I pruned this year. Next year will be hell, no doubt.
                  Rafael
                  Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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                  • #10
                    How about a two year old in a 15 gallon pot with some roots showing out the bottom going into a 25 gallon?
                    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
                      Check out the roots when you up-pot. If it looks really root-bound you may want to trim a little. But if it is not that bad, I say let it go into the new pot.
                      Rafael
                      Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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                      • #12
                        Which is what I had in mind, just checking.
                        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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                        • cis4elk
                          cis4elk commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Scott, the other thing you can always do when up potting younger trees with aggressive circling roots is use a box cutter(or whatever) and cut the roots on both sides especially if they are really concentrated. Basically making 2 halves but only cut an inch or so deep, you can see by Rafael's pics that the roots really mostly build up on the outer layer. The severed portions will decay and shrink back a bit allowing healthy new roots to come through and do their thing.

                        • COGardener
                          COGardener commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Which is what i do with potted plants from nurseries.

                        • cis4elk
                          cis4elk commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I kinda figured you knew that, but thought just in case..

                      • #13
                        I find that what I do with roots during the uppotting depends also on the media . If the soil is the same , I just move the fig to the larger pot and cover with soil, roughing the rots a little. If the media is very different ( perlite to the real soil), I try to remove as much perlite as possible so the soil around the roots and further away is more the same. It makes difference while watering , more even moisture in the pot. Often, I trim lightly the very bottom of the roots so they start growing outwards. Basically, as you create a vase shape on top of the tree by pruning, you enhance the root bushiness by root pruning.
                        USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: De la Roca, Lampeira Prush, Bass’ Favorite Fig, Raspberry Tart, Cavaliere

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                        • #14
                          Rafael,
                          Thanks for sharing the Photo sequence and info...
                          Nice looking tree!
                          Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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                          • #15
                            If I see any roots circling at all when up-potting, I always run a utility knife vertically down the rootball in four locations to prune the circling roots.
                            Steve
                            D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
                            WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

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                            • #16
                              I am sure that was not easy to root prune. Good job. Do you also need to prune the branches?
                              Shailesh, Pennsylvania, ZONE 6B

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                              • #17
                                Good job, Rafael! I was just thinking the other day I should bump up a few plants. But then I remembered all my soil is in the shed frozen solid.
                                https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
                                SE PA
                                Zone 6

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                                • #18
                                  I use and old rusty Shark Saw and it goes through like butter. Any hand saw with fine teeth does a good job.
                                  .

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                                  • #19
                                    Is there any damage you can do? This will be my first year root pruning into five gallon.

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                                    • #20
                                      For root-pruning, I almost always completely bare-root the trees. There are many problems that might go unnoticed if not bare-rooted. Having bare-rooted several hundred fig trees, I've seen and written about a lot of them. Some of them are not alleviated by trimming the outsides/bottom of the root mass. Some varieties needed root-pruning / potting up much sooner than others. In some containers, the growing mix collapsed before the tree needs attention. Also, bare-rooting gives me a lot more control over the roots which stay and the roots that go.

                                      I, like Calvin, like to maximize the volume in my container. If one has a 17"D X 15"H container (15 gallon Root Pouch) and trims 2" around and 3" off the bottom of the rootball, the volume of new growing area for the roots is only about half the container. I do not know that it is necessary to bare-root every time, but every second or third time should be mandatory. I've also found that each variety grows roots at varying rates.
                                      Littleton, CO (zone 5b) - In Containers
                                      N.E. of Austin, TX (zone 8b)- In Ground.

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                                      • #21
                                        Bijan, how exactly do you bare root? Do you flood the rootball with water??
                                        Rafael
                                        Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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                                        • #22
                                          How I bareroot a tree:
                                          1 grab a hose with a spray nozzle.
                                          2 grab a few beers
                                          3 Squirt the hell out of the roots until clean enough to re-pot.
                                          4 put re-potted tree in shade and throw away empties.

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                                          • #23
                                            I use a pair of bamboo chopsticks. Start from the bottom and center of the rootball. I try to hollow out the center a bit to undermine the growing mix as i work up the sides.
                                            Littleton, CO (zone 5b) - In Containers
                                            N.E. of Austin, TX (zone 8b)- In Ground.

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                                            • #24
                                              I think a little clarification is necessary.

                                              From a commercial nursery, bare-rooting is usually difficult (the worst tree I ever bare-rooted is the one in the car with me in my avatar picture). I use chopsticks, pruning shears and usually a hose with a sharp spray head on it. Once, the tree is bare rooted the subsequent bare-rooting is easier. I use a pine bark/perlite/expanded shale mix. The mix usually falls off pretty easily using my fingers as a comb even 3 years down the road. For root pruning my method goes a little like this:
                                              • Determine the container size for the tree (sometimes it is going back into the same sized container). This determines the length of the roots
                                              • Cut the roots so they are about 2-4" (depending on the size of the container) from the side of the container. Think about grabbing long hair ponytail style and cutting.
                                              • Remove any roots that are damaged and/or girdling each other.
                                              • Remove a handful of the thickest roots (maybe a few less if some were removed in the last step.
                                              • Partially fill the container with growing mix in a mound so that the basal flare is just below where you want it in the container.
                                              • Place the tree on the mound and fill one side (1/4-1-3 of the way around) with growing mix so it holds the tree upright.
                                              • Start filling in the rest of the container, using chopsticks to pull the roots through the growing mix
                                              • Once filled, go back through the 1/4-1/3 of the container with the chopsticks. You basically want to comb the roots so they are straight.
                                              • Pull up slightly on the trunk so the basal flare is where you want it, then go through the roots with chopsticks to fill in the voids that were just created
                                              • Refill the container with growing mix even with the basal flare.
                                              • Water, then wait a few minutes and water again, then wait a few minutes and water again.
                                              • Top off the growing mix so it is even with the basal flare.
                                              Littleton, CO (zone 5b) - In Containers
                                              N.E. of Austin, TX (zone 8b)- In Ground.

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                                              • #25
                                                That's a lot of work! Are you pruning back the top at the same time?
                                                Ed
                                                SW PA zone 6a

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