Training and Pruning Fig Trees
Training a fan-shaped fig is not difficult. Sometime before planting, fix horizontal training wires to the wall behind where the tree will be, at roughly 30 cm (1’) intervals. Use nails or vine eyes to support the wires. Then, a few weeks after planting, tie in the shoots of the tree to the wires, loosely spreading them in the shape of a fan with about 30-38 cm 3. (12-15”) between each shoot. Figs grow better if they are not too strictly trained, so in the first summer let the tree grow at will, simply tying in new growth as it develops. In the autumn, however, after the leaves have fallen, cut out all congested shoots and those growing into the wall.
A fan-trained tree will take about two to three years to fill its allotted space. In the second and third years, tie in well-spaced new growth but cut out all badly spaced growth and any shoots growing in the wrong direction. Do this in midsummer. Try to produce an evenly spaced fan with no overlapping branches. All the leaves and fruit should receive some direct sunlight and not be shaded by each other, so space and prune them accordingly.
As the fig only produces fruit on one-and two-year-old wood—older wood becomes naked with neither fruit nor leaf—pruning in subsequent years is largely to encourage the growth of new shoots.
Although pruning can be done in late autumn or winter if your garden is a sheltered one, it is usual to leave pruning until early spring, when any frost damaged or diseased shoots can be recognized. Cut out these damaged shoots, as well as all badly spaced shoots, to a basal bud on a main branch. In addition, cut one third to one half of the oldest branches right back leaving only a few buds at the base. Select old branches bearing little or no embryo fruit for removal. New growth produced from the basal buds should bear fruit and should be tied to the wires as necessary.
Any surplus sideshoots produced during the summer should be pinched out as soon as they develop.
Bush trees are even easier to prune than fan-trained trees. The fig conveniently tends to grow as a fairly well-shaped bush on its own accord. Nevertheless, fairly soon after planting, in mid-spring, prune the leading branches back by about two thirds to encourage stronger growth. In subsequent springs simply prune out dead, overcrowding and badly spaced branches, and cut the longest branch or two back to a few buds at its base to stimulate new growth.
Root pruning vigorous trees
If you have planted the tree directly into the, instead of in a soil pit, you are likely to get a too vigorous tree which grows strongly but produces little fruit. This is the result of unrestrained root growth and to produce fruit you must drastically prune the roots. Do this after leaf’fall in the autumn. Dig out the soil in a circle about 60 cm (2’) from the tree trunk and cut all the large roots which cross this circle with a sharp spade or secateurs. Then fill in the hole but do not put back the soil which you have dug out.
Instead, fill the hole with rubble to discourage the roots from growing through.