Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Espalier Fig IV

My most recent blog post about figs quickly generated lots of good comments. But one comment in particular stood out from the crowd. Check it:

"When I saw the headline I was SOOO excited that finally I was going to see what happened to the espalier you hacked off. What a tease... Please don't make us wait too much longer... Helen"

Well Helen, this post is for you.

On March 15, I did what some would consider a barbaric pruning job of my espalier fig. I sawed off all the vertical limbs just above the very bottom growth nodes. It was a job that even George Washington of great cherry tree chopping prowess would have to acknowledge with a tip of his hat.

Heavily pruned espalier fig on March 15, 2012

I'll admit at first I was a bit worried about the recovery of this fig tree. But at the same time, I was aware that fig trees are nearly impossible to kill. So basically I sawed, then sweated, then decided to sit back and let Mother Nature take it from there.

What does the espalier fig look like approximately 100 days after pruning? You wouldn't even know that I laid my hands on it.

Espalier fig on June 27, 2012. Most of the vertical limbs are nearly 7 feet tall. My dog Scout is in the picture to show you my fierce and formidable fig defender. I trained her so well to protect my fig trees from any number of different predators that she barely lets me near them without a promise from me to share the spoils.

The majority of the vertical limbs are now 7 feet tall, covered in lush foliage, and loaded with unripe figs. I'm also attempting to extend the right-most horizontal arm of the espalier. Last year I accidentally broke it off and it didn't re-grow. This spring, it shot out another arm and I quickly started to train it horizontally.

Slowly extending the length of the right-most vertical limb of my espalier fig near the shed door. I hope to train two vertical growths from this new extension over the next year or two.

Because I'm a bit clumsy, I also accidentally broke off two vertical growths early this spring. I'm still kicking myself about it because one never grew back and the other caused some lasting damage to the tree.

A sad reminder of what dragging a heavy garden hose can do to the tender new growth of a fig tree. Snapped it right off. Now it's just an ugly stump.
This growth was also damaged by a garden hose that I was trying to un-kink. The hose swung up in the air and snapped off the original growth that started in March. This skinny shoot that is now almost horizontal is a second growth. I'm waiting for it to harden off a bit before I train it vertically, otherwise it may break off again.

As a result of breaking off the growth in this second area, I exposed the fig tree's right horizontal limb to excessive direct sunlight due to lack of protective foliage. Believe it or not, a fig tree can get a pretty nasty sunburn and this is definitely the case with my tree. Have a look at the sun-damaged bark.

Sun damage on the right horizontal growth of my espalier fig. Hopefully it will recover. Some literature suggests that you can whitewash the exposed trunks of fig and other fruit trees to protect them from sun damage. Cue the SPF jokes...

Lastly, here are two pictures showing the new vertical growths. The first pic shows the base of a growth, and the second pic is take from above to provide a different perspective.

This year's growth directly above a pruned area. I stripped off two leaves to expose this area for the photo.
This is the same vertical growth depicted in the photo above. Note the figs growing above nearly every leaf. I can't wait for these babies to ripen, and neither can Scout (and every other bird, squirrel, ant, and creature in the yard).

So there you have it, Helen! A post about my espalier fig just for you. Hope you enjoyed it.


The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

*inserted spf joke*

I've personally smashed a number of plants with heavy garden hose dragged around raised bed corners. I hear your pain.

- Cloud

Erin said...

You know I can't resist a blog post about figs. Thanks for the great pictures. It is wonderful to see what my VdB will look like.

.09 Acres said...

Cloud, my heart definitely sunk when that happened.

Erin, your VdB will be amazing. Stick with it!

Thad said...

Great looking fig! I want to do something similar to my figs to keep them contained in our small yard. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

David, you are a gardening rock star! This whole post is fascinating including the hose and the sunburn! I learn so much. I was just thinking about you this morning because my fig, which I planted after reading your blog, has several yellow leaves. It's been very hot but I've tried to water well. It also hasn't grown much at all. The grass is starting to get closer around it so I know I need to work on that. Anyway, I can't wait to try an espalier fig. AMAZING!!! Helen

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Very cool. I'm thinking of growing espaliered figs. Thinking about it. I've never done espalier.~~Dee

.09 Acres said...

Helen, take care of that grass! It's competing with your fig for water and nutrients... Good luck on your espalier fig quest.

Dee, glad to hear you are thinking but start doing! Let me know how it goes!

April said...

I'm in zone 6b and I want to plant 2 figs. I have my heart set on VdB and Black Mission. I know they are only hardy to zone 7, but I'm determined! I was considering doing them espalier on the Southeast side of my house (more east than south at that spot). If I trained my figs espalier style by my house (which is a brown stucco, attracting the heat), do you think that would offer them more warmth and protection from the cold? They would also get minimal wind there. It's the same area I was going
to plant in, but I didn't know if doing it right by the house instead of 6 feet away from the house would be even better. That is the garage side so not as much residual heat from inside. What do you think?

April said...

Also it looks like you got figs the second year of training them?

.09 Acres said...

Yes, a southeast location is definitely worth the try. Figs are pretty resilient. Being out of direct wind is another important thing, or at least I think so after seeing how my sheltered figs do compared to other figs in the same neighborhood that aren't sheltered. I've read some books/sources that recommend against planting figs very close to a building because they have strong invasive roots than can damage a building's foundation, but I've never seen any indication of that. Mine is planted less than 1-foot from my shed, it grows like a weed, and I haven't seen any structural damage. In the end, it's really your decision. Please keep me posted!

.09 Acres said...

Yes, you'll most likely get figs in your second year.

tara said...

I've been following your fig espalier saga for the past couple of years (and trying to espalier my own fig tree since last spring). My plan was to train two horizontal tiers. My lower horizontal branches are getting pretty well established, reaching out about 3 feet on either side of the vertical branch. I've been debating how high to make the second horizontal tier. At first, I had my wire stretched about 18 inches above the lower branch, but then I realized that wouldn't be far enough up, considering the amount of growth a fig will give you in a single season. Do you have any recommendations on how high to spread the two tiers? I just moved it so it's about 2 1/2 feet higher than the lower tier, but I haven't trained anything on the upper tier yet as I'm waiting for something to get that high.
I've never found a picture of a fig tree with two horizontal tiers, so I'm wondering if this is a bad plan. I would love your feedback. And please! post some more pics of your fig this season. :) I'm eager to see how it's going.