The previous entry touched on advantages of raising fig trees in the backyard, along with a few reasons that make this plant a great option for home gardeners looking to add more fruits to their line up of vegetables.
Following are a few tips to help you get started with incorporating fig trees in your backyard by growing them in simple and convenient containers and pots.
Planting Stock: Fig trees grow and bear fruit quickly so don’t pay a premium to obtain large starter or mature nursery plants. I’d rather save the cash or purchase more fig trees by choosing younger, smaller sized planting stock. If you have a friend or neighbor who is growing figs, another option is to take cuttings and propagate new plants that way. Local nurseries sell fig trees and they are also available through mail order and the Internet.
Fig Containers: Plastic, clay, even wooden planters or half barrels will do fine for potting up fig trees. Porous materials such as clay will dry out quicker and require more frequent watering. Also, be careful with black or dark colored pots that may absorb too much heat and stress the plants. Smaller containers are okay for young trees, but move up to 15 or 20 gallon containers to accommodate the trees as they grow and increase in size.
Potting Soil: Use a light potting mix, but not an overly rich one to plant your fig tree in. Incorporate amendments such as sifted compost, vermiculite, worm castings, perlite and even builder’s sand to lighten the mix and ensure that it will drain well. Your choice of a lightweight mix will also make things easier when it is time to move the container to shelter during winter.
Great Surroundings: Find a warm spot with plenty of sunlight for your potted fig tree to soak up. The plants are ornamental and tropical looking, making them an attractive addition to the patio, deck, or even a balcony. A sun room or unheated greenhouse can be a great location for your fig tree provided that there is plenty of ventilation during the heat of summer.
Feeding Your Fig: Figs are not heavy feeders, so select a slow release organic fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen to use when feeding your containerized fig trees. Bone meal is one commonly used organic source of phosphorus for garden plants.
Watering the Trees: As mentioned earlier, the type of container used can influence how often your fig tree will need to be watered. Your climate and high temperatures can also create the need for more frequent visits with the watering can. Provided the container has good drainage, over watering potted figs shouldn’t be much of a concern for you.
Pruning and Training: Fig trees are thought to enjoy having their root system somewhat constricted, but potted trees may still need to be root pruned once every three years or so. Whenever you root prune be sure to prune the top growth also to balance the foliage to the reduced root structure. Even in a container fig trees can easily reach well over seven tall and grow almost as wide.
Winter Protection: In cold climates DO NOT leave your potted fig tree outdoors in the winter. Fig tree roots that would survive the winter if planted in the ground may not be as fortunate when over-wintering in an exposed container. Moving the plant into an unheated building or garage will allow you to maintain the tree’s shape and encourage earlier fruiting. Water the fig tree sparingly once every three of four weeks during winter storage. The dormant tree does not need any light and can be stored in a total darkness.
Choice Fig Varieties: You may have to do a little research to identify a fig variety that will grow best in your growing region. My friend Bassem grows over a hundred fig trees in his Pennsylvania backyard and provides detailed information on a large number of fig varieties on his website at Trees of Joy.
I’ve encountered fig trees that just refused to bear fruit for one reason or another, so be prepared to start over and move on with a new selection if necessary. Overall fig trees are very easy to grow in the backyard garden, and if you’ve never tasted a fresh fig you are in for a delicious treat!
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