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  • Modified Step-Over Espalier for Breba Production

    It's hard seeing so many main crop figs lost to our short zone 5 growth season. I was chatting about this problem with Kelby and thought I'd share an idea I'll be trying with the forum to get your thoughts. It's the idea of modifying the Japanese step-over espalier with 2 year whip maintenance so that it can produce a breba crop. You just cut off the second year whips and bend the first year whips to the ground before covering. Does anyone see anything I should watch out for in trying to do this? Suggestions for the best breba crop varieties to try?

    Here's a video that shows this pruning method to maintain the size of a Desert King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB0D_tuKgtQ
    I’m just trying to combine this pruning method with the Japanese step-over training so that brebas can be protected in ground in frigid zone 5 Maine. Hopefully then I can ripen the whole crop.
    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
    Greg, Maine, zone 5. Wish List: Green Michurinska

  • #2
    It would also be great to air layer all those 2 year whips before cutting them off , that way varieties that work well can quickly be shared/expanded.
    Greg, Maine, zone 5. Wish List: Green Michurinska

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    • #3
      The best breba crop variety is Desert King...

      Its possible to use the low cordon pruning method to protect 1 year old wood, but a modification of the pruning technique may also be required. My theory is, since the breba crop are figs that did not develop on 1 year old wood pruning the fruiting branches (verticals) in early summer after harvesting the ripe brebas may yield more undeveloped figs and a larger breba crop the following season. The goal is to promote vegetative growth in summer and harvest breba crop figs in the spring of the following year.

      In your diagram the first stage depicts an espalier with too many growing tips (fruiting branches), with that amount of vegetative growth main crop production would be limited. The espalier has to be "balanced" (pruned) to produce enough vegetative growth and figs within your growing season. For colder zones shorter cordons are required which also limits the quantity of fruiting branches and increases the quantity of ripe figs, keeping in mind the 30 - 60 - 90 day fig ripening rules.
      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

      Comment


      • GregMartin
        GregMartin commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Pete, trying to get the right balance will take a little trial and error. I'm wondering if this method might be best for figs that don't set a main crop to push all the energy into just new growth and breba figs. Are you saying that you'd prune off the second year growth right after harvesting to push all the growth into the first year whips rather than waiting for dormancy? I hadn't thought of that, but seems like a good idea.

      • AscPete
        AscPete commented
        Editing a comment
        You're welcome.
        Yes, its trial and error and a good starting point in colder zones is 10 feet long cordons. Yes, I would prune the 2nd year wood right after harvest to promote new growth and fruiting branches. Limiting the quantity of fruiting branches and figs will also help to produce more ripe main crop figs for Common fig cultivars.

    • #4
      Very interesting idea Greg. I had been trying to figure out a way to get a breba crop from in ground trees here. The obvious choice for a trial would be an English Brown Turkey I would think. Nero 600m might also work.
      My main concern would be rodents.
      Andy - Zone 6a Lat 39.9º N, Altitude 5390' Westminster CO ⚘ Scion List

      Comment


      • GregMartin
        GregMartin commented
        Editing a comment
        Andy, do you get many brebas to set on your Nero 600M? How do they taste? I'm still waiting on mine. I'm with you on the rodents worry.

      • aphahn
        aphahn commented
        Editing a comment
        Well, yes and no... It set a lot of brebas this year, but dropped them after the Mother's Day snow we had. I really haven't gotten much from Nero 600m yet, but what I have has been great.
        Planet fig claims it is a good breba producer, and I can see how that could be. It likes to set fruit late, so presumably there would be breba that carry over.
        It also has a bushy habit which might lend its self to step over pruning... Or it might not

    • #5
      That's really interesting. Thanks for sharing the information!
      May the Figs be with you!
      ​​​​​

      Comment


      • #6
        Hi Greg, I noticed in your diagram you have the new growth shoot starting at the base of the last years growth. That likely wouldn't happen thought would it? Wouldn't the new growth just start at or near the top of last years growth? I would think you might have to prune every other vertical just after dormancy so that in the spring half would be developing breba crop and half would be new growth from the horizontal cordon that would be the following years breba development.

        Tyler
        London, ON, Canada zone 6a

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        • AscPete
          AscPete commented
          Editing a comment
          Actually its easy to get the new growth (buds) to start at the base by simply pruning (removing) the growing tips and removing the bud suppressing Auxins, but it would produce too much vegetative growth.

        • GregMartin
          GregMartin commented
          Editing a comment
          This is something I'm hoping won't be too bad to manage, but we'll see when I actually do this. I was thinking that I'd want to prune back at the location for verticals such that two whips grow out. Initially I'd let them both grow for a season, then cut back one so that a bud remains and bend the other down....basically what you describe with pruning every other vertical. Then the next year I'd have the one year and two year whips growing. From that point on I'd just prune to maintain a replacement whip bud. As Pete said, we may get more vegetative growth than we wish and figuring out spacing will be important. I'm excited to see how this progresses.

      • #7
        I see no problem with it, you'll just need to take the right precautions to avoid mold and 4 legged friends. As you said, Adriano has that impressive specimen that he overwinters (apparently) without issue in what I presume is a similar climate.

        Might be worth trying out Filacciano Bianco as well/instead of DK. Gene Hosey stated it had the hardiest breba buds of any variety he grew. Other options are Grantham's Royal and Fioroni di Ruvo, not sure of any other San Pedro types that are available. If you wanted to go the biferous route, you mentioned Lattarula to me before, Atreano and English Brown Turkey types would also be good options.
        https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
        SE PA
        Zone 6

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        • GregMartin
          GregMartin commented
          Editing a comment
          Filacciano Bianco and Grantham's Royal are now on my want list!

      • #8
        Interesting idea, I'm very interested in your results as I was thinking of trying the espalier approach for main crop figs.

        I never thought about trying it for breba crop figs like desert king.

        How high were you going to mulch or bury the breba whips?
        Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)

        Comment


        • GregMartin
          GregMartin commented
          Editing a comment
          I was going to use 4-6 inches over the top of the branches. Robert Harper in CT covers his plants with bags of potting soil he picks up at year end move out sales and that works well for him...sort of the no shovel burying method. I'm planning on using wood chips that get raked out into a wood chip covered path that the figs are planted along. Need to add wood chips to the path regularly anyway, so I'll just have them do fig protection duty first. I'm also going to experiment with using biochar since it has good insulating properties. Biggest concern I have is properly protecting against my vole population. There are a bunch of good threads on this.

      • #9
        Greg,

        This is my current plan for winter protection of low cordons and espaliers, http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...rees#post37491 and could be modified to protect your horizontal fruiting branches.
        Click image for larger version

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        The prescribed insulation is Pine Shavings (animal bedding) due to its comparative high insulation value, light weight and low cost. As a reference the attached document has materials that can be used for insulation including soils... http://www.bae.uky.edu/publications/aees/aees-13.pdf . From the table 3 feet (36 inches) of Sandy Clay (15% moisture) is equivalent to 2.31 inches of fiber glass insulation (36 x 0.0641) or 1.4 inches of Cellulose insulation (36 x 0.037).
        Click image for larger version

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        For Vole protection the following strategies can be used, http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublicatio...94E/FS094E.pdf and
        http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnvoles.pdf with the insulation enclosure.
        Exclusion Wire fences at least 12 inches above the ground with a mesh size of 1/4inch or smaller will help to exclude voles from the entire garden. These fences either can stand alone or be attached to the bottom of an existing fence (Fig. 3). Bury the bottom edge of the fence 6 to 10 inches to prevent voles from tunneling beneath it. A weed-free barrier on the outside of the fence will increase its effectiveness.
        Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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        • #10
          Thanks Pete. I've been following your updates with much interest. Do you see any drawbacks with pine shavings such as pack down with snow or what not?
          Greg, Maine, zone 5. Wish List: Green Michurinska

          Comment


          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            You're welcome.
            Thanks... Yes, settling has been a problem for Pine Shavings when the initial coverage depth was shallow (6 inches or less), but was minimal with Pine Bark Mulch. Snow actually helps to increase the insulation value and helped create a frozen 'cap' when it melted and refroze. To overcome the settling of pine shavings a thicker depth, 12 inches was used and an installed 'gauge (stake)' was checked occasionally to insure that the depth was maintained.

        • #11
          Has anyone started a step down espalier yet and gone through the excercise of winterizing their trees? Just wondering and how many individuals are doing this.
          Malcolm - Carroll County, MD (zone 6b). Interested in cold hardy figs. Currently container growing, MBVS, St. Rita, Olympian, RdB, Beale, Sal's EL, UCD 184-15s and Desert King.

          Comment


          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, I've wintered over a few step-over espaliers, http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...7502#post37502 , from the topic linked in post #9.

          • smithmal
            smithmal commented
            Editing a comment
            Pete,
            Can you tell me what the enclosure was made out of? From the pic it indicates its 18" x 24" x 144" and you basically just prune off all your fruiting branches burying just the scaffold branches with pine shavings inside the enclosure right? What do you do with your pine shavings in the spring time?

            Just wondering how to do this if you had a continual espalier made up of 4 to six trees. I think I read somewhere that people would just cover the entire espalier structure with mulch so they'd have a mound of mulch at least 12" high spanning the length of their espalier. Would this work?

          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            Originally there were no enclosures the pine shavings were simply mounded over the cordon and yes the yearly fruiting branches are pruned back. The wire enclosure will be used to contain the shavings and maintain the depth of the shavings. Some of the shavings is left as mulch and some is air dried and stored for next season.

            Many forum members have pinned branches to the ground, weighted them down and covered with mulch, leaves and various other materials, http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...through-winter . There is no reason why it wouldn't work, but rodents protection should also be part of the plan. Good Luck...
            Last edited by AscPete; 11-10-2015, 10:27 AM. Reason: added link
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