Step-by-step Guide to Growing Figs

Ficus carica (fam. Moraceae) Hardy deciduous tree, with a very long life of several centuries.

Size: bush trees 3-3.6 m high by 2.5 m wide (10-12’ x 15’); fan-trained trees 3 x 4.5 m (10’ x 15’).

Yield: 6 kg (13 lb) for a single crop on an outdoor fan or bush tree, up to twice this on a greenhouse tree; about 25 fruit on a 1.2 m (4’) pot-grown tree.

The ancient and venerable fig is not as delicate as is often imagined, and can be quite easily grown in sheltered spots in temperate climates. Most often it is grown fan-trained against a south-facing wall. Unlike grapes, or most other fruit trees, once planted, it requires little attention apart from watering; pruning largely being restricted to cutting back several shoots each year.

Nevertheless, frost is the major problem with growing figs. Although the tree is surprisingly hardy while dormant in the winter—a sudden frost after it has started into growth in the spring can kill whole branches. Do not worry unduly about this, however. Figs are very rarely killed outright by frost and usually new growth will grow up from suckers from the roots.

Although figs are most widely grown (and crop most heavily) in warm temperate regions, particularly in the Middle East, in one way figs grown in cold temperate climates are better. The varieties most commonly grown in the Middle East contain seeds and must be pollinated by the fig wasp which lives on wild figs (caprifigs) and can only live in warm climates. The fig is a botanical curiosity because its flowers are contained inside the skin of the fruit and only the fig wasp can enter the small opening in the skin to pollinate them. The varieties grown in cold temperate climates, however, are of another type which produce fruit without pollination. Hence they are seedless and make a sweeter, more delectable dessert than seeded figs. A fresh, seedless, thin-skinned fig is far superior to the dried figs which, because the fig is too delicate to travel well, are all that can be obtained from the shops.

Suitable site and soil

Although the fig is not delicate, neither is it completely hardy. Except in the mildest areas, it can only be grown outdoors in temperate regions if it is fan-or horizontally trained and is given the protection of a south-facing wall. Ideally, the wall should be 2.4 m (8’) high and about 4.5 m (15’) long. South, south-west and south-east facing walls are all suitable. Alternatively, the trees can be grown in a greenhouse, either against a wall or as a bush.

Bush trees outdoors are more delicate than fan trees and need a warm sheltered spot, such as the angle of two walls.

The fig has two important soil requirements. It needs a lime-rich soil and its roots must be restricted. Test your soil with a soil test kit and add enough lime or lump chalk to give a pH of 7-7.5. Dig the lime or chalk deeply into the soil. In addition, add 60 g (2 oz) of bonemeal two weeks before planting. If you are planting in a pit, use a good loam to which lime and bonemeal have been added.

There are two ways of restricting the roots of figs. The simpler way to begin with, but the harder from then on, is to rely on root pruning. This may well be adequate if you have a shallow chalk soil which will prevent the roots growing deeply. On most soils, however, you are better advised to restrict the roots by preparing a lined soil pit or by planting the tree in a pot.

Planting Figs

Prepare a soil pit by digging a hole about 1 m (3’) square and 1 m (3’) deep. Fill the bottom with 30 cm (1’) of broken bricks, crocks or rubble to allow drainage and place this drainage material on top of a concrete base about 2 cm (¾”) thick. Then line the sides of the pit with brick or concrete.

It is a good idea to make the walls a few inches higher than the soil surface so that 1. watering is made easier and surface roots cannot escape out over the walls.

Plant the tree in early spring. Most nurseries will supply the young trees in containers. Put sufficient prepared soil in the base of the pit so that when planting is completed the “soil mark on the trunk of the tree is at the same level as that of the surrounding soil. Remove the tree from its container, and plant it in the pit, spreading the roots out well and returning the soil around them as you would for other fruit trees. Pirm the soil down well while you are returning it to the pit. If planting more than one tree, allow 3.6 m (12’) between plants not grown in a lined pit.

Figs need a good deal of water and against a wall it is often very dry, so water the newly planted tree generously. In addition, if you have any available, add a mulch of rotted garden manure or moist peat to retain moisture.

01. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Step-by-step Guide to Growing Figs

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