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  • Has anyone used this method for growing figs?

    This is probably not a new method to some of you but it is to this newbie.

    The method: drilling 1 1/2" holes all around the pots and burying them in partially composted wood mulch. I tried this method last summer and had good results. The pictures are from last November after the first frost, zone 7a. I moved them to a greenhouse to overwinter. I see mostly pros, not too many cons to doing it this way:

    Pros:
    - Allows for more root growth and therefore less watering. The tree is basically growing "in ground" and the available moisture will be much more consistent. This is by far the biggest advantage.
    - I prune the roots flush with the pot before winter storage so it is not necessary to de-pot to root prune. I'm not sure if I can completely skip normal root pruning but I'm hoping I can. Time will tell.

    Cons:
    - I have to bag each pot with a trash bag to retain moisture over the winter. Not a big deal.
    - Harder to keep them from being soaked during a rain storm when the figs are ripening.

    All in all I like this method. Has anyone else used it?

    Click image for larger version

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    Steve - Clarksburg, MD zone 7a

  • #2
    Yep. others mentioned it so after seeing your great photos I will give it a shot here.
    Z8A NC SANDHILLS

    WISH LIST BURGAN UNK, ZAFFIRO,

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    • #3
      It just shows you how much even large pots restrict the growth.
      Don, Danmark

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      • #4
        I put about 4 inches wood chips around the base and let the bottom roots come out into the ground. It sucks come storage time. Had to walk around each pot with pruning shears so I could move them indoors.
        Volcano, 7a VA

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        • Sparky
          Sparky commented
          Editing a comment
          It's a bit easier with a tractor but it still took some doing to break them loose

      • #5
        Using the mulch is a nice idea. It certainly makes beautiful roots.
        Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
        http://growingfruit.org/

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        • #6
          Some of my trees in 5 gallons pots had roots growing from the bottom on their own, I agree with advantages you listed.
          MJ
          Chicago Zone 5a/5b

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          • Sparky
            Sparky commented
            Editing a comment
            I had a cutting in a 1 gal pot grow 5' in one summer and root into the ground. I had to do surgery to remove the pot after digging up the root ball

        • #7
          Sparky, Nice looking trees! Am wondering when you remove so many dormant roots if it is necessary to remove top growth as well to keep the tree in balance?
          Ed B. West Coast of Michigan L.P. 6a/6b

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          • Sparky
            Sparky commented
            Editing a comment
            You have a good point. Since last summer was the first time I tried it, I'm not sure if pruning the top growth is necessary. I was planning to do some pruning anyway to try to improve their shapes so I'll see how they do this spring with a modest amount.

        • #8
          How is fruit production? With all that extra growing room and nutrients do you just end up with vigorous growth and little fruit
          Actively seeking any and all varieties
          #Sharing is caring
          Courtenay, BC 🇨🇦 zone 8a

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          • Sparky
            Sparky commented
            Editing a comment
            Quite good overall. The one with the exposed roots is a Celeste and was an in-ground fig until 2 years ago when I dug it up and potted it. It had never produced anything until I tried this method last summer. I got at least 120 figs from it. The Brunswick did well also. The other two, not as well but not too bad. They are 2 year old Brown Turkeys (I think) and they fruited later than the others. It was my first "successful" season, but I don't have much to compare it to yet. Surprisingly there was not excessive top growth. We'll see how they do this year. Looking forward to getting some of my new cuttings rooted to see how better varieties will do.

        • #9
          Would this work for cuttings too?
          I was thinking of placing some tree pots in a big container maybe 20 or 30 gallon filled with composted wood mulch as a trial to see if it would simulate a similar result with unrooted cuttings.
          Central Ga zone 8a

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          • Sparky
            Sparky commented
            Editing a comment
            Not sure how well that would work. Maybe try it on a smaller scale to test. You would have to be able to remove the cuttings from the tree pots after they root

          • Figman86
            Figman86 commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks I would cut the pots if needed. I’m definitely going to try it on some young 1st year trees

        • #10
          Very nice results, and I keep learning how inventive so many fig growers and gardeners in general are. I think you will still need to do an out of pot root pruning at some point, but it will probably be a lot less frequently. Thanks for the great photos.
          Tony. Pickens county, SC zone 7b
          WL: Angelo's Dark: Azores Dark; Brooklyn White/Dk; Florea; Golden Riverside; Lattarula; LSU Early Improved Celeste;any of the Maltese or Italians; Napolitana: Tiger Panache

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          • #11
            Wow. Finally something reinvigorating my passion for figs at this time of year. Bravo. This is fantastic. Definitely a leg up from semi burying the bottom 4 inches of a pot. I cannot do this now, but definitely at some point in the future. I'm sure it could even be improved to allow for more heat.
            Zone 7A - Philadelphia
            Flavor Profiles & Variety List / Facebook / YouTube / Blog

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            • Sparky
              Sparky commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks Ross. I used your advice when selecting fig cuttings this year since we are both East Coast zone 7. I am currently rooting Smith, VdB and Malta Black. Thanks for all the videos!

            • FigsforRomeo
              FigsforRomeo commented
              Editing a comment
              I agree with Ross. But my concern for colder regions is the mulch pile may create a cooling effect on soil temps which may delay ripening.

              I was planning on trying a variation of this for the upcoming season for 50+ 25 gal. pots to alleviate dry rootballs due to sun and lack of water.

          • #12
            Do you end up pruning off the root growth from the holes or do you rebury the pots as is in the Spring?

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            • Heavy2600
              Heavy2600 commented
              Editing a comment
              +1 on this question. You said you cover the pots with a plastic bag. Does this maintain enough moisture to prevent root desiccation? I'd be curious if the old roots hanging outside the pot continue growing and put out additional roots the following year. Like Ross pointed out, a big pile of above ground dark compost probably heats up nicely.

            • Sparky
              Sparky commented
              Editing a comment
              I prune the roots off before bagging. The color of the mulch is lighter than the black pot so I think it keeps the roots cooler than they would be if just in a black pot, plus they are somewhat shaded by the leaves above. I should take a temperature reading this summer to check.

          • #13
            I would be concerned after a couple of years of removal/pruning most fibrous roots through the air holes … what would happen to the tree when only left with a big crown and tap roots... will it react negatively for not being able to feed itself adequately …?
            A positive Action requires a positive Vision - Ami B. Toronto, ON.

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            • Sparky
              Sparky commented
              Editing a comment
              I am going on the theory that they will regrow a similar root system every year. Plus they will always have roots in the pot. I will post again this fall with more pictures so we can see how they respond.

          • #14
            I am doing some variation of this technique with some of my container fig trees. The difference is that the container is just dug in a couple inches into the ground or is simply sitting directly on the ground. In both cases the roots invade the soil pretty quickly and the tree gets quite a bit of its nutrients and water from the ground.

            Here's another variation. Lou from NJ, now a member on this forum, puts trees into 7 gallon root pouches with an impermeable bottom and holes in the side. He buries these into holes just slightly larger diameter than the root pouch and so that the depth of the soil in the pouch is right around that of the surrounding soil. He uses a machete to cut the roots along the side of the root pouch in the Fall and stores the trees in an enclosure over the winter.

            One question I have about your technique is whether you fertilize any differently than you would if the roots stayed inside the container. You might imagine the decomposing wood chips would use up nitrogen as they decompose and thus there might be a larger requirement for nitrogen because of this?

            Here's another "pro" to this general technique - once the roots are invading the surrounding soil it is very unlikely the fig tree will blow over during a storm.
            Steve
            D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
            WL: Madeira Island Black, Coll de Dama Mutante

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            • Sparky
              Sparky commented
              Editing a comment
              I suspected that many people out there might be using some form of this technique. My pots are probably bigger than they need to be. In the future I will probably go with smaller pots for my young trees to make them easier to handle come late fall. As far as fertilization, last summer I fertilized 2 or 3 times with a granular organic fertilizer on the surface of the pots only. I'm still trying to figure out my best fertilizer/watering regimen. It will probably take a couple of more years to see what works best. I have heard that the decomposition of wood chips uses available nitrogen but I'm not sure how much that affects me in this case since the lower roots do find their way into the soil below, and also what I'm using is not fresh wood chips but a combination of chips, small branches, some leaves, basically what you get when you grind up brush, branches and small logs. Plus it is already halfway composted. I'm not sure how much difference that makes. Maybe some others with more knowledge of soil chemistry can chime in also. Everyone has given me plenty to think about.

            • Rewton
              Rewton commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes, that sounds better. The proof is in the pudding - if the leaves on your trees appear healthy and they produce fruit then the they are getting what they need.

          • #15
            I will be doing this with all my figs this year, going to use med pine bark and make raised beds and filling with pots and bark.
            Myfigs:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...QMA/edit#gid=0. WL: I 258, violeta, RDB, Black Ischia, Raspberry Latte, Malta black, Figo Preto, Galacia Negra, Black Zadar. Spokane, Wa. Z6

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            • #16
              Let us know how it goes
              Steve - Clarksburg, MD zone 7a

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              • #17
                Sparky .... After watching Ross's video, about your post this morning, I went back and reviewed this post. Were the results any different in your square pot as far as roots leaving the pot through the holes? I have been thinking about trying a pot in pot method for growing figs. Using a 5 gal., round? or square? pot, with side holes, place it in a 15 gal. with only bottom drainage. Main reasons, to have smaller/lighter pots to handle when placing in storage for winter that take up less floor space. The smaller pots would be removed when dormant and roots cut at holes. More attention to moisture would no doubt be needed over the storage period. When setting them in the larger 15 gal., in spring, nutrient can be mixed with fresh medium and use a liquid feed for the smaller pot at the start. Some advantages - medium around roots heats up fast, larger heavy pot less chance of wind tip over, trees remain mobile, easier to remove roots than ripping from ground, better control of water than in ground, less waste of nutrient from leaching out of internal pot, and previous mentioned easier to handle for storage. On the down side - need 2 pots for each tree, more attention needed while in storage, and more handling time, fall and spring. No mater how we look at it, storing potted trees is work. Just what some of us have to do if we want to eat fresh tree ripened figs. Any and all comments welcome.
                Ed B. West Coast of Michigan L.P. 6a/6b

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                • Sparky
                  Sparky commented
                  Editing a comment
                  The roots leaving the square pots were pretty much the same as the round pots. Your method sounds like something that could work. I assume you would prune the roots off the smaller pot each fall which would be a form of annual root pruning. It would be like growing figs in a 15 gal pot but storing them in a 5 gal.

                • UKE4U
                  UKE4U commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thank you for the reply Sparky, since round pots are easier to come by than square, will probably use round. Will most likely prune roots in fall and bag like you mentioned.. In the area where my potted trees are stored it is too difficult to move large pots in and out of. 5 gallon size are much more doable.

              • #18
                I’ve been doing this for years with terrific results. I backfill around the pots with good potting mix mixed with time release fertilizer. It gives it a good punch as the roots migrate outside the pot. I also root prune the in the winter and re pot. Nice way to grow

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                • UKE4U
                  UKE4U commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Do your pots in storage dry out much faster than those without added side holes? Or do you just let the roots grow out the drain holes without adding side holes? Do you think pot in pot mentioned above has any merit? Thank You For Your Time.

                • Sparky
                  Sparky commented
                  Editing a comment
                  If you put a plastic bag around the pots in the winter it will prevent the pots from drying out

              • #19
                Is that a homemade attachment for your bucket? Pictures of it please.
                WV Harpers Ferry Zone 6b

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                • Sparky
                  Sparky commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Look up Titan Quick Spade. Its a spade attachment for the front loader. Very handy for moving big pots around

              • #20
                This has worked great for me with large pots and small. I don't pull them out and put them away in the winter since my area has mild winters. It's just my way of controlling the roots in areas I don't want fig roots wandering.

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