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 espalier fig 
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Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 6:37 pm
Posts: 4
Post espalier fig
Hi.

We started a forest garden this year. Due to limited of space, we decided to espalier 4 trees. We are total tree novices.

Our tiny fig has a single trunk that splits at the top into two equal branches. When we planted it last month, we tied the two branches down to the lowest wires on our frame -- to make it look like kind of like a capital T -- only rounder. But now we're rethinking this. Does anyone think this will work or should we take off the ties and just leave the thing alone this year to get established? Or maybe we should tie one branch down and let the other go up?

Anyone have experience with espaliers of figs, quinces or apricots?

Thanks very much.


Sun May 10, 2009 6:52 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 498
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: espalier fig
Figs like lime, so a light dusting around the ground would not hurt anything.

When it starts putting out new leafs, start feeding with blue crystaline houseplant fertilizer of the 15-30-15 variety, maybe a tablespoon per gallon once a week UNTIL THE END OF JUNE, and then only clear water through the end of JULY. After july, no more water, period. This will dry the tissues down so they can stand a good freeze.

You should only do this fertilizer regime for the first year or two. After that you likely will be afraid to encourage it any more!

If you just keep on watering until fall rains saturate the soil, you will loses most if not all your wood above ground because it cannot stand a freeze, the green wood dies, and then moulds, and the mould follows the stem back towards the root. Far better to let it harden off properly (starting August 1) and avoid all the infection and wood loss.

Keep a clean, grassfree area for at least 2 feet in all directions from the trunk of fig, if you don't grass and weeds will compete with baby fig for water and nutrients, stunting it. I learnt this one the hard way over about 7 years. Once I controlled grass and weeds, and fed the fig roots, I got wild growth! 10 or more feet in all directions!
On second thought, maybe allowing much grass competition can help you keep the fig dwarf! But you wouldn't get much fruit when it is dwarf.

Have fun!


Edited fertilizer to read 15-30-15


Last edited by plumfun on Tue May 12, 2009 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon May 11, 2009 7:37 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1188
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: espalier fig
{love your handle} I’ve nearly 20 years experience growing figs. If you have a Desert King, which I’d highly recommend, it will want to get big. A Brown Turkey, which is my second recommendation (and easily grown in the Pacific Northwest) is slightly smaller. But you’ve already made that selection.

It’s occasionally difficult giving advice around here… I don’t want to discourage anyone, but I’ve reached a stage/age in life where I can less afford time consuming mistakes. I’ve made plenty, thus I’m able to warn/inform others, but I’d rather have not made them to begin with … make sense?

Disclaimer given: I don’t consider a fig a good candidate for espalier work. Successful espaliered trees are generally on a severely dwarfing rootstock. Figs, vigorous, are on their own roots and can not be tamed, only by pruning. And after losing my earliest attempts at growing figs to hard freezes, I was told by a longtime local Fig Mistress {Helen Webb} not to train them to a single ‘trunked tree,’ but allow them to form a multi-shoot clump. Seems more ‘mini-trunks’ will survive a hard freeze than one big one...

Figs also have a weird growth habit, but like most plants, they strive to go UP! Bending their major limbs would likely cause them to sprout new shoots from the ground around their base; you’d likely snip those off... As the bent limbs would either wither or send up shoots straight off their ‘tops,’ neither would advance your espalier work…

Where (most) apples develop ‘fruit spurs,’ figs only produce fruit on ‘last years’ growth. To get a decent amount of fruit you’d have to allow for a lot of vigorous new growth. Even with a slightly less vigorous variety, I doubt they’d be happy or productive…

Quince sounds like a better candidate; though I’ve not seen or heard of any espaliered.

Apricots sound interesting; though mine (from Stark Bro’s) didn’t last a year. …and if “Oly” refers to the Olympic Peninsula … I’d reconsider those, too.

Sufficiently bummed out? Sorry :| let me know...

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Mon May 11, 2009 6:13 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 498
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Gave wrong fertilizer numbers previously
plumfun wrote:
When it starts putting out new leafs, start feeding with blue crystaline houseplant fertilizer of the 15-30-15 variety, maybe a tablespoon per gallon once a week UNTIL THE END OF JUNE, and then only clear water through the end of JULY. After july, no more water, period. This will dry the tissues down so they can stand a good freeze.

Not 15-15-15


Tue May 12, 2009 7:32 am
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Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 6:37 pm
Posts: 4
Post Re: espalier fig
Thanks so much, plumfun and Viron, you've given me a lot to think about.

Plumfun, I appreciate the advice about lime and feeding and watering the fig, we will try that this year -- we do want a fair amount of growth, I think, just in a single plane. And the watering information is huge -- I never would have known to stop watering in July!

And thanks for the honest assessment of our chances, Viron. We launched into this without any knowledge -- until I found this website, I couldn't find anyone to tell me about espaliers of any unusual fruit trees. So you'll prevent me from making the same mistake twice -- I'm expecting delivery of another fig that I was going to try to espalier as well (we love figs). I think I'll try to find a warm spot for it someplace else instead . . .

It is a Desert King and we are in Olympia. Another reason for the espalier besides space is warmth -- we have the fig (and plan to put the apricot) against the South side of the house. I didn't realize that the fig bears on second growth wood -- I think the apricot does that as well, so both are going to be a challenge. So, yeah, I'm a little bummed, but the whole espalier idea is an experiment anyway. I wonder if we have a chance if we don't try to restrict the tree in shape, except to keep it in a single plane . . . or maybe if we just kept it flat on the side that is against the house . . . I don't know how hard that would be. But the short answer to my question, I think, is to untie the thing now!

Thanks again plumfun and Viron! It is wonderful to have this forum and to have knowledgable people helping us figure these things out!


Tue May 12, 2009 8:34 am
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Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 6:37 pm
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Post Re: espalier fig
So here's another question. Any suggestions for a tree to substitute for my second fig on the espalier against the house? We already have pie and sweet cherries, apple, peach, asian pear and european pear trees . . .


Tue May 12, 2009 8:42 am
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Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 8:14 pm
Posts: 197
Location: Aurora, Oregon
Post Re: espalier fig
I've grown figs for over 40 years. The espalier system can be hard to maintain.

Because figs can freeze back every few years, I'd suggest training the fig to a fan shape rather than a classic "T" type espalier. Figs like Neveralla, Laterula, and Brown Turkey will bear on both two year and older wood AND on new sprouts. That means they can still have a crop on new growth if they get frozen down in the winter. The best fig, Desert King (or just King) bears only on wood that grew the previous year, but it still needs regular pruning to renew the bearing wood.

Either way, a system such as a fan allows you to bring up new shoots on a regular basis so you get more fruit and is a lot easier to maintain than a traditional type espalier.


Wed May 13, 2009 5:49 pm
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Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 6:37 pm
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Post Re: espalier fig
Thanks for the info, Ionrom. We'll try the fan.


Thu May 14, 2009 2:43 am
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 498
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: espalier fig
Quote:
only clear water through the end of JULY. After july, no more water, period.

After July what?

That statement was a little ambiguous on reflection. For July watering I meant to go ahead and water with clear water all through July, with its LAST watering scheduled for July 30. All of August should be dry etc.

I have even gone so far as to protect young plant root systems with plastic tarps when the fall rains came. I did not want those roots making use of the rainwater, and putting on more green growth.

A protection area of 4 to 6 feet in diameter would seem adequate for first and second year trees. But no water protection is needed for older trees because their roots go so far down anyway and they are able to provide for their own moisture.


Fri May 15, 2009 8:01 am
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Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:27 am
Posts: 1
Post Re: espalier fig
I am really enjoying this discussion on figs and apricots. I got two Puget Gold Apricots from Raintree, and also Peter's HOney fig. Wishing now I had gotten Desert King from all the agreement it performs best here. I will post on how well they do.

Also, I plan to plant a Meyer Lemon on south house wall, in full sun and reflected heat from large cement pad/driveway. I plan on building small 'greenhouse' around it for deep winter protection, using recycled windows and bubble wrap....any chance it will survive?
Margot
in Vancouver


Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:18 am
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