Warning: The sap from figs can be irritating to some people so wear skin protection when pruning or handling pruned material and pruning tools.
Edibles figs are dormant and leafless in winter which offers the best time to get in and prune them. It’s easy to see what you’ve got, and the pruning you do in winter will set the trees up for the fruiting season ahead.
Fig tree are very forgiving when it comes to pruning. They bear most of their fruit on new growth, so even if you prune like a chainsaw masochist, the tree will bounce back with new growth followed by some sort of edible return. In fact, if you’ve got a big old tree that is too tall to treat and harvest, a good chop could well be in order. Knock it back by at least 2/3. You won’t be sorry!
If you’re happy with the current size of your tree, a lighter and more calculated prune will return a higher yield. Start by pruning off any growth that doesn’t come off the main branches of the tree’s framework… especially unwanted suckers at the base. That will clear a lot of congested growth. Also, remove any dead, diseased, weak, and crossing branches as well as shoots that grow across the centre. This will keep the canopy open to allow airflow and sunshine into the centre. Lastly, cut back the remaining branches – including the main and secondary branches - to a height that is easy to maintain and harvest.
If you’ve got a young tree, use the time to train a good shape for future production. Aim to create 3-6 evenly spaced low-growing branches and clear out any inward growing shoots.
First published: July 2013