Tag Archives: pruning

Pruners Without Borders

March 15, 2021

FECO volunteers, Reid and Jacob, both well over six feet tall, used their height last summer to glean a few figs from a tree in Green Lake Park. They agreed that the tree needed care.

This spring, Reid asked me if I might be interested in helping them prune the tree. I was game. “Sure! Ask Colleen Hackett, at Park N Rec, what she thinks. She knows us and she knows we prune fruit trees.”

Kevin, senior gardener for Green Lake Park, appreciated Reid’s ask for permission. Kevin expressed real delight in having volunteers eager to care for this tree. He explained that it had been planted in 2005 by a Parks Department employee but they could never afford the staff time to prune and care for it.

FECO Plant Sale! Sat Mar 20, 10-1
masks and distancing
everything from Starts to Finishes
Fig pruning class
Sat Mar 27, 10-11:30
donations welcome

We were delighted and a little surprised at the prompt and positive response. I met Jacob and Reid at the tree site. I have never seen a fig tree so dense and tangled. The fig looked as though it had never been pruned. It suffered from abuse – people pulling branches down or climbing the tree to get at the figs. This tree offered an opportunity to sharpen our rehabilitation skills, and do to so in a public space where we can’t control what others might do.

The important part of any pruning effort is to understand the goals of pruning for a particular plant. Kevin stated his goal, “If you can remove the very low branches and the huge forest of suckers around the base of the tree, my mowers will be able to get closer to the trunk.”

For our part, we decided that our long-term goal is a healthy tree that bears and ripens a good crop of figs year after year. We know it will take a few years of pruning to remove damaged and excess wood, and create good structure for fruit bearing.

Time to get to work. Reid, Jacob, and I brought out our loppers and pruning saws on a chilly, windy March morning. With a focus on reducing the tree mass, we made only thinning cuts. The heading cuts, that stimulate growth for next years fruit production, will need to wait until we have created good structure.

I’m grateful to Reid and Jacob for hatching the idea of taking this tree into our care. If you see a plant or area that seems neglected, ask the caretaker about it. You just might find yourself with a good opportunity to improve a public space, and learn a few things along the way.

Nancy

Is Anything Happening in the Winter? Don’t yawn yet!

February 16, 2021

“Do ya need any help in the winter?” Visitors stop us from our work and ask this question, with some frequency. My response is, “Yes! But the winter tasks are not very sexy.”

How lucky are we. During these winter months, an energetic group of volunteers kept their shoulder to the plow. Here is what they have been working on, to stay warm:

moving plants, making new beds, working on drainage, root pruning, sheet mulching, building rabbit fencing, propagating plants, accounting catch-up, building and installing art, weeding and pruning out invasive plants, pruning perennial plants and trees, searching for winter moth eggs, rebuilding plant supports, ordering seeds and planning for spring gardens.

Volunteers needed! by appointment please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com
Feb. 20, 11am Ingela tree pruning
Feb. 27, 10:30 Nancy grape pruning

Meanwhile, if you peel up that layer of snow, activity abounds and another group of volunteers are busy generating heat.

Tree roots grow in the winter, as long as there is moisture and the soil temperature is about 40°F or higher. On February 15, mid-afternoon, I took a soil thermometer and measured 40-42°F soil temperature in several locations at FECO. The air temp was 43°F and the snow temp was 35°F. The warm spot was within the chip pile at 50°F, a clear signal of active microbial life.

In fact, at 32° F, many microbes can thrive. Stoop down and imagine them snarfing up organic matter and ‘pooping’ out nitrogen and other nutrients that plants salivate for. Look closely and watch the plant root tips dribble out sugars, to bargain with the microbes for those nutrients.

All those biological and chemical processes require energy and produce heat; just the same as the volunteer work above ground. So, eat up first then come out to enjoy the outdoors. The volunteer schedule is on the Calendar page.

Many many thanks to our winter volunteers: Sue, Joe, Nancy, Miles, Nematode, Paige C, Rotifer, West, Reid, Worm, Lee, Amoeba, Jake, Bacteria, Becky, Jodi, Actinobacteria, Meg, AL, Gabbie, Pat, Karin, Kate, Fungi, and Melody

Ruth

Tree Dormancy
Kuhns, Mike (3/9/2020)
Utah State University Forestry Extension
https://forestry.usu.edu/ask-an-expert-new/watering_dormant_trees

Low temperature limits of root growth in deciduous and evergreen temperate tree species
Alvarez-Uria, P., Körner, C. (01/10/2007)
Functional Ecology, British Ecological Society
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2007.01231.x

Lab 5: Soil and The Carbon Cycle, Part A: Soil, Carbon, and Microbes
Carlton College EarthLabs
https://serc.carleton.edu/eslabs/carbon/5a.html
Image: Cicle_del_nitrogen_ca.svg:
Dréo , Johann (User:Nojhan), (03/30/2006)

Microbe Diet Key To Carbon Dioxide Release
Manzoni , Stefano, Porporato, Amilcare (08/05/2008)
Duke University
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080731173125.htm

Figgly Wiggly – ficus carica, a plant in the Mulberry family

August 17, 2020

brown turkey variety

Here in the Northwest only certain fig varieties will produce a large quantity of ripe fruit in our short, relatively cool summers. At Freeway Estates we have two of the most appropriate varieties: Desert King and Brown Turkey. This year, the three mature Desert Kings produced a large crop. The two Brown Turkeys are younger trees and one of them has just begun producing. It was fun to be able to compare the flavor differences.

03/30/2020 before

The best way to maximize fruit production in our climate is to grow a multi-stemmed bush. The key to good fig production is understanding when and where the fruit grows. In hot climates figs can produce two crops per year – the breba (Latin- bifera – twice bearing) crop and the main crop. The breba crop grows on second year wood while the main crop grows on the current year’s new growth. In hot climates growers prune for maximum production of new wood, to get a large main crop. But in the Northwest the main crop does not have time to ripen so we prune to get a large breba crop.

03/30/2020 after

If you never prune a fig, the branches containing the breba crop will be further and further away from the main trunk(s), to the point where they are nearly impossible for humans to harvest. One experienced Seattle fig grower refers to these as extremely tall bird feeders. On the other hand, if you give the tree a “hair cut”, taking off most of the new growth each year, you’ll never get ripe figs. I see this often enough and am tempted to leave my card.

We prune in March or April, just before the trees break dormancy. Remember, the breba crop grows on second year wood – the branches that were new growth the previous year.

Volunteers are needed!
by appointment
please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com

During spring pruning, it is easy to see where the previous summer’s growth starts. Looking very closely you can see the embryonic breba figs as tiny buds all along that new growth. The goal is to leave a good amount of that growth, to give us figs in the summer, while also planning for new growth that will give us figs next year. To encourage new growth we make heading cuts on some of the older branches. We also shape the tree by removing branches that are: growing in undesired directions, clogging up the the center of the “bush”, or, are dead or damaged.

I’m still learning! I thought I had pruned quite well this spring (see before and after photos) but I did not anticipate the enormous amount of new growth our wet spring generated. Some branches grew three feet and the trees became an unruly mess (photo). We could barely find the ripening figs under all those leaves. A couple of raccoons found them easy enough, helping themselves to some overripe figs and breaking several branches in the process. Pruning next spring will be an interesting challenge. FECO will plan to offer some type of workshop.

Two good videos on pruning for the breba crop. Slightly different approaches in each.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glFQINjnKCk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB0D_tuKgtQ

Nancy Helm