Planting Fig Trees

This tree (more like a bush in appearance) is seldom found in commercial orchards. When it is, the fruits are almost always preserved or dried. The reason is that the fig does not continue to ripen after being picked, and by the time it reaches its peak, it is too perishable to ship without expensive precautions. Therefore, to enjoy delicious fresh figs, your own “dooryard” tree is a requisite.

Fig Propagation

New trees are usually started from cuttings, or by layering. The cuttings should be about 3/8 inch in diameter, ten to 12 inches long and from one or two-year-old wood. It may be rooted where the tree is desired, set six to seven inches deep with only one bud left above ground.

Like all fast-growing semitropical plants, the fig responds quickly to fertilizer. There is danger in overfeeding, however, as lush tender growth is easily damaged by cold. A slow, mature growth is preferred to a fast one. Heavy mulch in the summer to retain moisture, and in the winter to protect against the weather, plus a spring application of good compost, will usually guarantee even growth. A tree treated like this needs no cultivation.

Different varieties thrive in different localities, according to their resistance to cold weather. The fig requires warm summers, mild winters, ample moisture, and excellent drainage. It thrives when planted next to a house, for the building offers some winter protection. If the trees are protected by heavy mulch or by about 15 inches of soil over the roots during winter, they will come out from the root and produce fruit that year, although the top may be killed back by severe cold. Older trees are usually more resistant to cold. Young trees are sometimes pulled over and are covered with soil during the winter.

One good method to prevent loss of trees to severe cold is to cut out superfluous branches, wrap layers of burlap around the others and tie them in a bundle without breaking them. Tar paper or oilcloth may be applied for extra security against the cold.

Fig Harvesting

Figs should be allowed to re-main on the trees until they ripen sufficiently to drop from their own weight. Then they can be dried on large wooden trays placed in the sun. Drying will decrease their weight by about two-thirds and should only take about two days, since the figs are already partially dried when harvested.

Fig Insect and Disease Problems

The fig meets with little trouble from insects or diseases. It is an ancient tree, popular for thousands of years, and has survived the test of time. In the Gulf Coast area, the most common insect pests are nematodes and tree borers. To disco, nematodes, the tree should be planted in cultivated heavy soil and encouraged deeply. Shallow-rooted trees in sandy soil are more susceptible to nematodes. Planting in a building also discourages nematodes; do not infest the roots under the structure.

Tree borers are discouraged by housekeeping in the garden. Any deaf broken limbs should be pruned, lamed and the scars and any other breaks should be promptly painted with tar or other healing aid.

Rust and cotton root rot are the common diseases in the South. The rust is prevented by careful keeping. Strong, healthy trees are seat tacked. Cotton root rot can be prey only by not planting the tree in soil once cotton has been grown.

Paper bags tied around the fruit prevent the predation of birds that seem to enjoy the fig almost as much as do humans.

Fig Cultivars

In the Southwest, Genoa is popular. Sow climes are most successful with Celeste and Verdone. Hardy cultivars include Brown Turkey and Magnolia.