It is safe to remove winter protection on figs (and other tender plants like pomegranates) if you haven't already done so. We had a few extreme temperatures this winter and you may have some tip dieback this year depending on your location in the city and how much winter protection you provided. Early Breba crops are probably unlikely this year on most in ground figs, but otherwise hopefully a good year for fig production!
This is also a good time to prune fig trees, removing any winter dieback. With some of the cold temperatures we had this winter, some figs are now showing some dead branch tips, identifiable by their reddish-brown coloration and lack of swelling buds. For any growth that you're unsure of, you can leave it until later in the month to see where new growth and leaves emerge.
Although POP has generally taken a minimal approach to fig pruning, it can be helpful to do some more aggressive pruning with these goals in mind:
1. Thin out overcrowded growth (each branch should have at least a foot of space around it)
2. Reduce height of figs extending beyond reach
3. Pruning to generate new growth. Unlike most other fruit trees, the main crop of figs forms on new growth, so more aggressive pruning can actually help produce a larger crop. NOTE: Some caution is needed, as overly aggressive pruning can also delay the formation of fruit, which may be problematic for some slower-ripening varieties.
Figs take to pruning well and don't need to be pruned to any particular form. Since they have no significant pest or disease challenges, pruning is primarily focused on maximizing fruit production and accessibility and controlling size of the plant.
Check out our newly posted Figs for Philly workshop with Bassem Samaan of Trees of Joy on POP's Youtube channel:
Here's a good video specifically on fig pruning: