Every city block or square mile area should have a fig. I
think that most of you who have grown figs in this area realize
that a large fig tree can really produce a lot of figs. The
plant starts off really cute and petite and producing just enough
figs for the family to enjoy. As the years pass so does the
ability of the family to consume the abundance of figs produced.
The birds appreciate the excess but needy neighbors could make
better use of the delicious fruit. Thus, only one tree per city
block or square mile area is necessary.
The fig is one of the oldest fruit crops known to man, and
it has long been an important home fruit crop in the South.
In the early 1900s, there was a 17,000-acre fig-processing industry
on the Gulf Coast, which attests to the fruit's adaptability
in the South.
Figs can be grown as trees or bushes, depending on the way
they are propagated and pruned.
Have you ever considered what the fig fruit actually is? It’s
an unusual fruit. If you doubt this, then ask yourself if you
have ever seen a fig tree bloom, you do peaches and pears. When
you eat a fig fruit, you’re actually eating flower and
all. The plant structure we are accustomed to calling a fig
fruit is an enlarged ovary, a floral part. In many of our fruits,
we can see clearly where the flower petals were attached. According
to that definition, a fig is not properly a fruit. The flowers,
and later the technical fruit, are hidden inside a specialized
structure. The whole arrangement is so unusual that botanists
have devised special terms to describe it. We grow fig trees
for the flesh of this specialized structure, which contains
the actual fruit we call a fig.
What's of interest to the would?be fig grower is that the unusual
flower structure complicates the process of pollination. Bees,
which are the pollinators we most rely on in the garden, can't
reach fig flowers to pollinate them. Only one pollinator can
do this—a small wasp, whose own life cycle further complicates
the fig pollination process. The wasp must find a home for its
young inside the fruits of a fig species known as 'Caprifig'.
Caprifig, then, must be available in the vicinity of the edible
fig tree so that wasps hatching from the caprifigs can enter
the edible figs and pollinate the hidden flowers. (The wasps
are actually laying eggs for the next generation and, in the
process, are carrying pollen to the female flowers.) This process
is referred to as caprification. Fortunately for the backyard
fig grower, most fig varieties do not require pollination by
Varieties recommended for this area include:
Celeste (Celestial, Blue Celeste, Sugar Fig) is a small, dark
and sweet high quality fig which ripens in mid?June. Celeste
fruit have a distinctive closed eye that prevents entry of the
dried fruit beetle and on?the?tree spoilage. The tree is moderately
vigorous and very productive. It is a good fresh?eating fig
and is also excellent for preserving purposes.
Texas Everbearing is a medium?large, pear?shaped fig with
copper brown skin and yellow flesh. It ripens in late June.
The tree is very vigorous and produces over a long period of
time. The fruit has a relatively closed eye that prevents premature
Alma is a high quality fig that is extremely productive and
ripens in late June. The tree is moderately vigorous, comes
into production at an early stage and produces extremely heavy
crops. Alma is a recent release of the Texas Agricultural Experiment
Station. The fruit eye is closed by a drop of thick resin that
inhibits on?the?tree fruit spoilage.
Caring for Your New Fig Tree
Figs are relatively tolerant of a wide range of soils, thriving
in fairly heavy clays as well as in loose, sandy loams. Soils
from slightly acid to very slightly neutral will support them.
Trees should be kept free of weed competition, and moisture
should be constantly available. A deep watering about every
10 days is recommended where summers tend to be dry. Once growth
has begun, an early spring application of a complete fertilizer
may be made, or the trees may be kept mulched with compost.
High nitrogen applications should be avoided. Excessive nitrogen
levels can cause figs to split and become watery tasting, and
the trees will be more susceptible to winter damage.
Figs can be propagated by suckers, layering or cuttings. Using
suckers from the crown of a mature bush is not recommended because
it can transfer nematodes from the roots of the mother plant.
The easiest way to propagate figs is by stem cuttings taken
when the tree is dormant or just going dormant. Cuttings should
be 6 to 8 inches long and taken from one growth that is one
year old or less. Cuttings may be stuck in pots of potting soil
or stuck directly in the ground. Wait until the trees are dormant
before moving them to their permanent location.
Training and Pruning
Pruning should be minimal once the tree's main structure is
formed. Commercially, young trees are pruned at about two to
three feet from the ground, which causes the tree to develop
its first branches at about that height. Fig trees make attractive
espaliers grown along a trellis against a south-facing wall.
Normally, figs are pruned very little. Mature Celeste and
Alma trees should not be pruned since this will reduce the crop
size. Mature Everbearing varieties will produce a fair crop
following heavy winter pruning or freeze damage. Dehorning figs
encourages rapid growth and will increase water stress.
Figs can be trained to a single?trunk, open vase?type tree
or to a multi?trunk bush. The bush system is by far the best
for the South because freezes occasionally kill the upper part
of the plant. The tree system can only be used along the coast.
Older trees that show little growth each year should be thinned
out to stimulate new growth. This will also increase fruit size.
The trees should be pruned enough to stimulate approximately
one foot of growth each year. All weak, diseased or frozen limbs
should also be removed each dormant season. Frozen limbs should
be thinned out after damage becomes obvious in late spring.
Mulching and Fertilization
Organic mulches such as grass clippings, hay, or pine needles
are extremely important in growing healthy fig trees. Mulch
the tree 12 inches deep. The mulch will insulate warm soil temperatures
in the winter and prevent the crown of the tree from freezing.
It will also conserve soil moisture, cool the soil, and control
weeds during the growing season. The decomposing mulch will
slowly add nutrients to the soil. Commercial fertilizers are
not needed on figs.
Figs have very few pests. They normally do not require any
spraying and can be grown completely "organically".
The two most common pests of figs are nematodes, small microscopic
worms that feed on the root system, and fig rust, a fungus disease
that causes premature defoliation. Birds are also known to enjoy
'Nematodes' are small microscopic worms that are a universal
fig problem. Figs seldom are without nematode infestations.
They feed on small roots, reducing movement of nutrients and
water within the roots. For this reason, figs should receive
optimum moisture management. To prevent or delay the onset of
nematodes, always use stem cuttings –not suckers—for
propagating new plants. Never plant figs in an old garden site
that may contain nematodes. Always inspect the roots of new
plants to insure they are not infected with nematodes (small
Harvest figs as soon as they are ripe (soft and purple). They
will not ripen further after being picked. Wear a long-sleeved
shirt when harvesting figs as the foliage may irritate your
skin. If overripe fruit remains on the bush for more than a
day, birds, dried fruit beetles, and spoilage will claim the
crop. Never drop spoiled fruit under the bush because they will
also attract more insects.
Climate and Soil
Though the fig grows best south of Interstate?20, it can be
grown in any sunny location in the South. The tree is frost?sensitive
and can receive occasional injury in all southern areas. If
growth does not slow significantly in the fall, early freezes
can damage or kill the tree. However, mature bushes that are
fully dormant can endure temperatures as low as 10 degrees F.
with little damage. In colder areas, trees should be planted
on the south side of buildings.
Most southern soils will grow healthy fig trees. Figs grow
in sands or clay, high or low Ph, and moderately drained soils.
They are relatively salt?tolerant and can be grown in the Southwest
or along the coast near brackish water.
Planting and Spacing
Plant your tree immediately after acquiring it. Choose a location
that receives full- or mostly-sun and does not stay permanently
wet. Space fig trees 12 to 20 feet apart. Prune off any broken
or dried?out roots and branches. Dig a hole large enough to
accommodate the root system and plant the tree just slightly
deeper than it was grown in the nursery (as indicated by the
change in color on the stem). Water the tree well to eliminate
any air pockets in the soil that can lead to drying-out or freeze
damage. Do not add any fertilizer at this point. As young figs
are susceptible to freeze damage, place liberal quantities of
mulch around the newly planted tree. Pine straw, compost, grass
clippings, hay, etc. all make good mulches. If a severe freeze
is expected, cover the entire plant with mulch, a box, a blanket,
etc. to insulate it from cold. If the top of the tree does happen
to freeze to the ground, it should return from the root system
as long as the soil doesn't freeze.
More about figs can be found at:
Delicious fig recipes can be found at:
Now that you know all there is to know about fig production,
check your neighborhood—you may be the lucky person who
should plant the communal fig tree or bush.