Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Root pruning

The fig grew several inches last year and was very healthy: lush leaves, sweet fruit and not one pest. Nonetheless I felt guilty about not having repotted it and was worried about the state of its roots. I know how fast roots can grow in a pot and wrap themselves round and round the circumferance of it, and it looks plain uncomfortable. The point is that the roots need to be able to absorb nutrients, and the fewer new, fine roots there are, the less efficiently this can be achieved.

After some very rough hauling, shoving and just a little cursing, I managed to free the rootball from the container. It was packed tight with roots, with no free soil to spare. The roots were so tight that I could not loosen them to do a careful trim, and landed up hacking an inch away all round, with the Felcos working very hard. Then I repotted it with an organic potting soil, and gave it a good drink (Noilly Prat with a dash of Cassis - makes the figs taste better).

After reading this article afterwards, though, I think I may go back in today, and remove more from the bottom of the rootball,which I left untouched. The weather is still cool, and I feel a little braver. The article is about bonsais, but I feel that my 3' tall and wide fig falls into the nebulous category between bonsai and bona fide small fruit tree.

The moss. It was actually the luxurious mat of moss that told me that the pot was full of roots. Moss just loves the tightly packed foundation of a mass of roots. I saved the moss, and will see what it thinks of the New Dawn pot.


  1. I've just done much the same with a struggling pot-bound clematis - what hard work to wrestle it out of its pot! It's in a temporary container for now, but before I re-pot it, I'll do some root pruning as you did. Thank you for the tip. I didn't know that about moss, either; such comfortable-looking stuff - I'm glad you've saved it.

  2. Marie, didn't know one could grow a fig in a pot, and I am tempted. Can you tell me more? what variety? did you winter it over outside? (I'm zone 7 and you're 5 or 6, so I am thinking it's something I could do...). How long from planting to eating figs? Thanks.

  3. looks like my porch chives are going to be [wo]man-handled from their pot for a trim. as always thanks for the info. welcome back to the US east coast

  4. Moss does look comfortable doesn't it, Rachel? The stuff of fairy tale beds...Hmmm. Clematis. Thinks.

    Webb - here is a link to one of my (long) posts at Shelterpop - figs. Unfortunately my fig's cultivar is a mystery. But many are officially hardy to Zone 7 and sometimes 6. From planting to figs depends entirely on the size of the fig to start with. Yes, it winters outside. Protected from the west by the building.


    Donna...Chives. Ha. Wow, do they make a lotta roots, fast. You could always divide and make another potful! And thank you!

  5. I thought that was bonsai;)

    Webb, we're really barely 6B most years-add a wall, and we may as well be DC.

  6. also i just realized i found you via one of your fig posts. it is the very fig which connects, root ball or no.


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