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Assistance please, with my single fig tree

 
pioneer
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Purchased and planted, 8 or 9 years ago.  I forget what kind, and where I bought it.  Planted and abandoned.  I plead guilty.

Looks like a bush now.  20 or so pencil-thick sticklets, most 18-24 inches high.

Usually bears *some* small (<1 inch) fruits in the fall, some have even been edible.


Can this be busted into multiple trees?  Or, should I stick with just a single tree and start hacking away at all the smaller wood, leaving the large branches?  Or, is there a Plan C?


Fig.jpg
[Thumbnail for Fig.jpg]
 
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I think it's still a little early in the season but after a few leaves appear you can cut some of those branches off & plant them. Keep the soil moist & it will eventually root. An even better way (higher success rate & faster results) is to secure a branch to the ground so it develops new roots where it touches. Then cut the branch from the mother plant & move it a new spot.
 
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If you can cut through the roots, they typically do well to break up and plant new starts. I've had success this way but could never get any stem cuttings to root.
 
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Gary Numan wrote:
Can this be busted into multiple trees?  Or, should I stick with just a single tree and start hacking away at all the smaller wood, leaving the large branches?  Or, is there a Plan C?



Yes, but I wouldn't divide it at this time of the year as the tree is likely sending energy into each of the suckers.

The tree is likely suckering as a response to some kind of stressor.  Perhaps it has been fighting with surrounding grasses for nutrients and moisture, for instance.  Or perhaps it is in compacted soil which doesn't drain well.

My recommendations:

A) Prune dead branches.
  • Self explanatory and always a good procedure.

  • B) Give it the "parable of the barren fig" (Luke 13:8) treatment.  (Aka try nurturing the tree for an increased yield next season.)
  • Remove competing grasses.
  • Check for local soil compaction, proper moisture, and drainage.  Loosen it up a little with a fork if this is the case.
  • Add a significant amount of mulch and organic matter as fertilizer.
  • Check for increased fruit this year and next.

  • C) Go the divide-and-conquer propagation route.
  • Add a significant amount of moisture-rich mulch, even over the tree collar**.
  • Ensure adequate moisture and breathability during the growing season.
  • In fall or winter, check for rooting development at the base of each of those 20 pencil suckers.
  •        -Some suckers with amazing root development can literally be pulled right off of the mother plant, and then immediately planted wherever you'd like.  Boom, instant tree.
           -Other suckers can be divided from the "crown" via a shovel, and then immediately planted.
           -If there is no root development, consider just lopping the suckers as low as possible, then stick them deep into loose, moist, mulch covered soil, or into a well draining bucket of mulch and compost.  Water occasionally.

    D) Consider chopping the weakest suckers now to send most of the trees energy into the central leader.
  • This should develop a taller and better branching pattern and balanced growth.
  • Shove the discarded cut suckers deep into the ground somewhere rich...might get lucky even with neglect.

  • E) Combination of the above, plus other propagation techniques: tip layering and air layering.


    **Edit: WARNING: I wouldn't recommend this technique for other trees.  It's easy to kill trees by planting them with dirt above the root collar or over mulching "volcano style".  I think figs are different though.  
     
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    D) Consider chopping the weakest suckers now to send most of the trees energy into the central leader.
    This should develop a taller and better branching pattern and balanced growth.

    I have had 1 out of 3 cuttings take root, and I just stick them in a planter with soil, and see what sprouts leaf/bud next yr. Figs seem to do well here that I am tempted to try and plant around, like a grove...
     
    Posts: 27
    Location: MD, USA. zone 7
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    I'm just a little north of you. For mine, I remove the deadwood and give it a light pile of whatever I'm mulching with in the early spring, then in the fall after the leaves die off I give it a deeper mulching. On colder years they can die back to the ground (especially the first years!) Figs don't seem to like grass on their feet, but mine seem to do fine with the wild violets that have colonized there.

    Like the others have said, they generate stick + root combos that are easy to plant. And if you're trimming live wood and want more fig bushes, stand those pieces in some wet soil and a bunch of them will root.
     
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