Tag Archives: pruning

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.

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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

The Perfect Fruit Tree Owner

August 29, 2019

McIntosh. My favorite.

Most will say you can’t grow a Mac here. Well, there is at least one tree in the Seattle area. Lori Brakken, apple sleuth, drives around and slams on the brakes when she spots any apple tree. She saw a Mac in the Seattle area and called me up. I visited the tree last winter and got permission from Kathy, the tree owner, to take some scion wood. (Allison and I made two grafts this spring and they both are doing well!)

Per the orangepippen website,  this apple was discovered by a John McIntosh, a farmer in Ontario in the early 19th century. The McIntosh was suited to the cold climate of the area as it achieves its best flavor in colder apple-growing regions.

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“The McIntosh style is typified by attractive dark red or (more often) crimson colors, and a crunchy bite, often with bright white flesh. The flavor is simple and direct, generally sweet but with refreshing acidity, and usually a hint of wine – often referred to as vinous”.

Kathy was anxious for us to return this summer for pruning and to give her a yearly management plan. Her tree has apple scab so she has been instructed to pick up all the apples and leaves. (Venturia inaequalis resides in the litter.)

Kathy is the perfect fruit tree owner. She cares about the tree,  is eager to learn how best to care for it and allows us to glean much of the fruit for the food bank.

“I’m in the arts”, Kathy announced. “I am not fruit tree expert. I was given an assignment in a training to draw part of a tree, once each month for three months. I chose this apple tree. Noting the details and the changes really woke me up to nature.”

Structural pruning is usually done in the winter but we “took a bit off the top and the sides”. Kathy wanted pruning on the street side so auto owners would stop breaking the branches. She also wanted a walkway between the tree and a nearby bush. Pruning has to consider all of the various goals.

Allison is tall and she managed the long-handled pruners. She ate as many apples as she could while pruning. In the end, Kathy was satisfied. “The tree looks good, like it did in years past!”

Below is a comment by Bruce, from the orangepipen website:

I grew up in central Pennsylvania and with the scent of McIntosh apple pie and apple dumplings, next door, in my aunt Eleanor’s kitchen. The stand-out attribute of this variety in my mind is the distinctive aroma. Quite unlike any other. The fruit, also unlike any other, is extremely delicate; that’s why I think most grocers avoid stocking them (the phrase I’ve heard them called is “smash and toss” apples) They bruise easily then rapidly mush and rot. They are like a beautiful sunset. Awesome and short lived. I’m attempting (with limited success) to grow them here in Western Washington, difficult because it doesn’t get cold enough in the winter. I will continue the effort because these are the best apples EVER !

Ruth

It’s A Game Of Mistakes

October 20, 2018

Why didn’t soccer coaches ever have anything positive to say at halftime? Because they had just watched 45 minutes of errors. Even the pros only complete 57% of their passes in the final third of the field. I often feel this way about gardening; it’s a game of mistakes.

First was my failure to outwit the winter moth. The female does not fly. She has to crawl up the fruit tree to lay her eggs, from which, larvae emerge and eat the fruit tree blooms. I smeared Tanglefoot on the trunks to stop her in her tracks. Problem was, I put it on too late. I thought I had until mid-November but, not so. Not only did we battle with the winter moth larvae this spring but also the oblique-banded leaf roller larvae showed up – a more difficult opponent. I will double my efforts to come up with a better strategy this winter.

Just look at this little devil – the larvae of the strawberry root weevil. Sometimes there were two of them inside the root, in total cooperation. I was pressing my luck hanging on to those wonderful Glooscap (Canadian) berries, which I had planted in 2011! This year they were still sweet as ever but not productive. It’s no wonder. I should have paid heed when the pros told me to keep strawberry plants only a few years.

The elderberry produced quite a bit of fruit, bless its lil ole heart, in spite of the fact that it was a sufferin’. I pruned dead branches all summer. Finally, I sat and studied it a bit. Someone was making tunnels through the bark and into the trunk. I peeled back some flaky bark and watched as the following scampered back to darkness: black ants, red ants, tiny gray bugs with antennae, a slender shiny black insect that jumped, a little red mite. Actually, I have a feeling all of these critters were just using the network created by someone else. I won’t know until dormant season when I will have to do some vicious pruning. Observation is king in gardening!

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Nancy also had growing pains. It’s a snap to grow grape plants if all you want are vines. To get fruit, you have to prune properly. Nancy thought she could choose between cane pruning and spur pruning so she developed some of each. Wrong. The take-away from a WSU pruning class was that, in the maritime NW, spur pruning reduces the number of fruit-bearing buds. So, this winter she will have to rework the vines and train them for long-term cane pruning.

Then there’s summer pruning. She thought all you had to do was take out excess growth. She took another class. Wrong. Wow! It’s so much more complicated. Essentially, you need to do three things: mark the shoots that will become next year’s canes, remove some but not all of the non-fruit bearing shoots, train but don’t tip the fruit bearing shoots. Training means get them up off the ground and onto the trellis, but don’t snip off the terminal bud.

Not to mention the continuing saga of failed pickling cukes, the appetite of the rats, the disruption from the squirrels, and the off-leash dogs. All this to deal with and now … the bunnies are coming!

Ruth