What I've Learned 6 years Later...
So this year like every year really drove some points home for me. Shockingly.. I'm still 2+ months away from frost, but I feel like I've already learned so much. I've already made the hard decisions on specific varieties and have actually put together a cull list. I've been saying it for awhile, but I'm finally downsizing the number of pots I have quite significantly. Just last week I took inventory and I hit the 300 variety mark (including duplicates). I am not giving up experimentation of varieties completely, but my potted trees will consist of a much smaller number of experimental trees in 5g pots. The rest will consist of proven varieties that are first and foremost rain & split resistant. 10% will be of late varieties, 30% mid season & 60% early. All of the late varieties will be overwintered in the GH, with a nice mix of mid and early added. This will ensure my late varieties ripen, but I also get very early main starting July 1st. The remainder will wake up naturally. My last change is that I will be switching my efforts towards my in ground trees. You'll see why below. I've planted quite a bit and will plant more. This winter I will use the chop and cover method.
1. First and foremost.. Pruning if any should be light. According to Pons.. lighter pruning can be defined by just taking off the tips or no more than 3 inches of growth (see the photo in his book). Especially on the potted trees and in every climate I believe this to be applicable. I have too many trees are produced poorly because I chopped them back too hard. The natural response whether from winter kill or from your own hand is for the fig to grow vigorously. Too much vigor and you lose production. Not only was my production lower, but they're also later to ripen. This is all of course my endorsement once your tree has an established form. 2. Heating the soil in the spring is stupidly important. Every degree adds up over time. There's even a big difference between my in ground trees with one thin layer of rock over the soil and my trees with many layers of rock covering the soil. Mulch is your worst enemy here in the spring. Even in pots. I recommend removing it in the spring. 3. Consistent soil moisture is key for quality. While mulch will cool the soil it does aid in better control of soil moisture. You will have less splitting, dropping and overall better quality. Must add it back after fruit set. 4. In ground trees can produce almost as early as the potted trees. Assuming you're warming the soil & the trees are waking up around the same time, you really won't be much further behind. This is a big reason why I am moving my production towards in ground trees. 5. Sap flow control is important. Especially on high vigor trees that were pruned hard. Letting them bleed in the spring seemed to do the trick in slowing them down and returning them to a normal level of vigor. Therefore allowing them to flower. More testing is needed, but I will be bleeding most high vigor in ground varieties come next spring. 6. Rootstock is key for specific varieties. Productivity can dramatically change if grafted. I had definitely suspected this for a long time, but after seeing Harvey's videos on CDDB and Black Madeira, it is more apparent. I've also it seen here first hand with my Hative de Argentile. This is a weak tree that likes to drop until it gets established. There's even visually quite a difference between my grafted HdA and my HdA on its own roots. This is not going to cure dropping on every variety, but it will certainly net you a healthier, stronger and more productive tree. Varieties like CDDB, HdA should definitely not be on their own roots. This is also changing my view on productivity metrics. Who's to say the productivity is low on a specific variety if I can just graft it onto something to increase it? What would the productivity now be like? 7. Rejuvenation pruning can be used an alternative to grafting. Pons notes this method of pruning as essentially what Pete recommends. Chopping the tree back to the base to encourage new healthy shoot formation. My Planera has never performed or grown well, so it seemed to be worth a shot. It's coming back nicely now with new healthy shoots.
While I don't want to say that all of this is 100% true, I would be hard pressed to change my views until later years. As always we keep learning and as long as we are open to new possibilities, we can grow as growers. I'd love to hear what everyone else has learned... even if it's something many others know already.