Growing Fig Trees Outdoors

FIGS

We have already covered the growing of figs in the greenhouse, but they are a perfectly easy crop outdoors as well, though it must be said that they are always better in the generally warmer and sunnier south.

They are also a much more popular fruit than in the past and this is probably just as much for the artistic quality of their leaves and branches as for their fruit. Indeed, most of us know the shape of the leaves a great deal better than the appearance of the fruit.

Several varieties of fig are available from nurseries, but the scene is dominated by Brown Turkey. This is perfectly hardy and produces fruit in the late summer and early autumn until the weather gets too cold.

'Brown Turkey' FigsAnother good variety to grow outdoors is Brunswick. It has larger fruit and they are oval rather than pear-shaped. The flavour, though, is only moderate.

In spite of the fig being a native of the Mediterranean, the main thing we have to do when growing it in gardens in Britain is to curb its vigour. If it is allowed to grow unchecked, cropping will suffer. For that reason, grow it in a part of the garden where the poorest soil exists; though there must still be plenty of sunshine and shelter from strong winds.

For those gardeners blessed with good soil, the answer is to dig plenty of brick and mortar rubble into the planting position. Ideally, dig out a hole about a yard (metre) square and 2ft (60cm) deep. Line it with corrugated iron or planks and fill it with a mixture of soil and rubble. In this you plant the tree.

Any fertilisers should be low in nitrogen or they will simply encourage growth at the expense of fruit. If you can give the tree a mulch of garden compost or rotted manure each spring and a dose of tomato or rose fertiliser (both high in potash) every other spring, this is ample.

Even in the sunnier south, where it is easy enough to grow figs as unrestricted trees in the open garden, it is still better to have them loosely fan-trained against a sunny wall or fence. If properly tended, the tree need take up an area of no more than about 8ft (2.5m) square. In the cooler north, this is really the only sensible way of growing figs.

The important and rather odd thing to understand about figs is that the fruits form in one year, overwinter on the tree and then ripen in the next. This is complicated by the fact that the embryo fruits form in the axil of the leaves throughout the growing season, not just in the spring, as is the case with other and more conventional fruits.

However, it is only those fruitlets that form towards the end of the summer that we are interested in. The ones that develop earlier are too small to ripen in the same year but too far advanced and tender to stand the winter cold. These earlier fruit-lets must be removed or they will discourage the formation of more later on in the season: the very ones that we want. Pick off the unwanted ones as soon as they are large enough to handle until about mid-August. This will result in one or two embryo fruits at the end of each new shoot by the winter

A useful way of ensuring that you get a nice lot of young shoots and fruitlets, and essential with trained trees, is to stop all new shoots at five to six leaves until the end of June. During July, all the retained shoots are tied in to the wall or fence to form a rough fan shape.

Winter pruning is delayed until about April to take into account any winter damage that occurs to the shoots; even in favourable areas and with the trees trained, hard weather can take its toll.

If all this sounds rather complicated, have no fear; even neglected fig trees will grow well and will certainly carry a few fruits.

ROOT PRUNING

Where it has been impossible to plant the fig in a restricted hole, it will be necessary to prune the roots in winter every other year after the seventh year. If the tree is growing against a wall, make a half circle with a5-ft. radius from the trunk. Plunge a sharpened spade perpendicularly into the soil at least 4 ft. deep all round the half circle so as to cut off any roots there may be. If bushes are being grown, prune the roots all round them in a similar way.

GENERAL MANAGEMENT

During a severe winter, protect the bunches of undeveloped fruits with straw, or hang sacking over the branches like an apron. Figs of the second crop never grow larger than walnuts and should be removed in November. If left in position they tend to check the formation of the embryo of the next year’s fruits.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

Black Ischia, August or September. Large, brown. Very hardy.

Brown Turkey, August. Large, brownish-red with bluish bloom when ripe.

Deep red flesh, excellent flavour. Hardy, heavy cropper.

Brunswick, August. Very large green with bluish-brown Hush and brown dots. Fairly good flavour. Tree needs water in a dry summer.

White Marseilles, August or September. Yellowish-green, medium size. For south of England only.

15. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Figs, Fruit Gardening | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Growing Fig Trees Outdoors

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