Pruning back outdoor figs

Is there a rule of thumb on how far back you should prune your outdoor figs?

I want to keep the final height only 5 or 6 feet tall, and I know that I’ll have to do a lot of topping during the season, but I’m not quite sure what I should be starting with. I’m also not quite sure on how much (or how high) the wood survived the winter.

I’ve got the exact same question. I’ve got a new piece of property with an old, established fig.

R.S. Martin’s “How To Prune Fruit Trees”

Would you mind explaining the actual process? Not everyone may have quick enough access to a particular book for it to be helpful by the time they need it. Neither of them lives in SoCal or Japan. They are Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic growers.

I’d help if I could, but so far I haven’t been attempting to keep any of mine short.

Maybe @ampersand or @hoosierbanana or @fruitnut will chime in. They don’t live in the same area, but do have a great deal of interest in fig growing.

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R.S . Martin’s book is $8 on Amazon. The original printings (21 of them!) have expired and are off copyright. It is a paperback. Each section is only one or two pages long. An industrious person could photograph the entire book and place it in a thread on this site.

There are also new printings of the book with new co-authors. You’ll find them on Amazon too.

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You can prune then pretty much any way you want. Only reason is for size control. It may be better for you let it start growing (prune out dead wood when you can tell) and pinch off the growing tips every 5 leaves. This will slow growth and promote fruiting.

Thank you for the information @ampersand. Besides pinching the growing tips, would you recommend pruning for size control when dormant or when actively growing?

I guess when needed. Thin out wayward shoots in summer and do what’s needed in winter. You almost want to treat them like cane fruits as opposed to a fruit tree.

Thanks for the tip, but if I learned one thing from the fruit forum on gardenweb, or this forum, it’s that the advice given in books are often exactly wrong for a backyard grower. Especially if it’s s 70 year old book

Thanks ampersand.

Good idea to wait to see what’s still living! But just for the sake of argument, let’s say all the long branches are pushing out new leaves and they’re all 6 feet tall.

Is there a good starting height that won’t hurt production but will also lessen the amount of growing season pruning?

I don’t really have an informed answer since my plants have died back the past couple winters. However, you should be ok to prune 1/3 - 1/2 without issue.

I’m certainly not suggesting it, but a neighbor had a fig in his side yard that was almost as tall as his 2 story home. One day driving home, I noticed it was gone. When I looked closer, he had cut it back almost to the ground. Over the next growing season, it bounced back and was nearly 10 feet tall. I certainly wouldn’t hack them up that much but they are pretty resilient.