Updated: Oct 28
Today’s topic is about training young fig trees to attain a mature form and shape as quickly as possible for early and maximum fruit production.
Instead of waiting for the dormancy period to prune our 1st-year fig trees, pinching fig trees during summer encourages them to branch out sooner. This method leads to the formation of new scaffolds in the 1st season rather than the traditional way of pruning fig trees during dormancy to form their scaffolds in the second season. This early formation of scaffolds will result in earlier and more productive fruit sets in the subsequent years.
In fact, I will argue that by performing this technique we can reach our desired crop of figs a whole year earlier!
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What is pinching?
The method is commonly referred to as pinching, but topping, nipping, or summer pruning are alternative names for this technique. These techniques involve removing the apical bud (the dominant growth tip) from a shoot, which in turn alters the tree's hormonal balance encouraging them to fruit and forcing them to form additional growth points to grow higher to continue attaining energy from photosynthesis.
To read more about pinching and other applications of this technique, a detailed guide can be found here.
Benefits of Training Fig Trees with the help of Pinching:
As we discussed earlier, an accelerated formation of the tree's mature shape and form, potentially cutting the development time by a whole growing season.
Encourages branching, which can lead to earlier and more fruit formation.
With proper application, a small young fig tree can transform its form within a season.
By the second or third season, trees can take on a mature appearance and bear a significant number of fruits. For instance, a two-year-old tree called Martinenca Blanca in a five-gallon pot managed to produce around 65 fruits in 2023.
First Year: Encouraging Vigor and Pinching
Let the selected shoots grow. By early to mid-summer, look for signs of vigor such as larger leaves and fast growth. Also, look for healthy shoots. These will be a better base for your scaffold formation going forward.
Begin the pinching process to promote branching and potential fruit development.
Aim to form permanent scaffolds during this season.
If the tree is grown as a bush with multiple shoots from the base, the signs of vigor might be difficult to spot. Make sure they are well-spaced and the leaves are large.
To read more about summer pruning fig trees, check out this detailed guide.
Aim for 3-6 well-spaced scaffolds. The larger the leaves, the healthier your tree, and the more vigorous it is, the more scaffolds you can potentially form.
To read more about shaping fig trees and maximizing fruit set in your second season, read this critical guide.
Second and Third Years: Fruiting Branch Formation & Stabilization
Fruiting branches will start forming from points on the scaffolds.
By the third year, more fruiting branches emerge from the existing ones.
In the 3rd year, the tree's growth rate will reduce, coming closer to its maximum height.
If the tree feels too tall, consider forming scaffolds sooner. This will create a shorter trunk for a reduced overall height. Smaller containers can also limit tree size.
To read more about training fig trees later in their development, check out this detailed guide here.
Additional Tips and Considerations:
A tree with larger leaves (preferably wider than one's hand) indicates it's ready for pinching. These larger leaves signify good light access and potential for scaffold formation.
Check the tree's health, growth rate, node spacing, and leaf size before pinching.
The ideal scaffold count is between three to six.
Make sure the tree is healthy, and mostly symptom-free from diseases like the fig mosaic virus before the procedure.
The only pruning required for most potted fig trees is pinching. When they're around three to five years old, they might benefit from some selective pruning to thin out the canopy.
By combining both summer pruning and scaffold formation techniques, young fig trees can be trained to have the right shape and achieve a mature form up to a year earlier than if left untrained.