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Growing Figs Naturally

 
master gardener
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I wanted to make this thread to help me keep track of and document growing figs naturally, with very little work and hopefully huge harvests!

Hopefully it can be helpful to others also!
 
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What type of figs are you growing?
 
Steve Thorn
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I've got a few varieties growing that are still pretty small. I tried to get ones that have a closed eye due to the humidity here, and also ones with good cold hardiness.

I moved these young fig trees into the food forest recently, as they were quickly outgrowing their nursery bed.

The one at the back is about 3 feet tall, but the ones in front of it seem to be trying to catch up.

Have you had any good luck with any particular varieties Denny?
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denny hall
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i could not find any of the brown turkey or celeste.  i believe they ar ethe recommended ones on the NC agri site.
 I did get one called "biblical fig and another called "hunt".  I may have lost one of them in the overgrowth, as one of my brothers planted the missing one and the jungle is coming back.  It may still be alive out there somewhere


My brother has a well established fiig tree but not sure of the variety.  I have been watching YT videos on propagating from cuttings but still not clear on the best time to take them.  I'm all ears for advice.  I'm still clearing land but I did plant somewhere between 40-60 trees and shrubs in my future food forest area but in some areas the kudzu and brambles seem to be winning, at least for now.  It will be survival of the fittest for now.  FT time job is slowing me down but once I can get my fences up I will subdivide sections and bring in pioneer clearing equipment.
 
master pollinator
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I really want to grow figs.  There is a variety that's supposed to overwinter here (Vermont, Zone 5).  That hardly seems possible to me, but it's tempting.  I think I'm going to get better at growing what I have before buying more fruit trees.  I haven't actually killed any, but a few arrived dead due to shipping delays.  Still, I think I'll be a better gardener next year and the year after.

I love figs.  Fresh.  Delicious, and absurdly expensive the few days a year they are available here.
 
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Anne Pratt wrote:I really want to grow figs.  There is a variety that's supposed to overwinter here (Vermont, Zone 5).  That hardly seems possible to me, but it's tempting.  I think I'm going to get better at growing what I have before buying more fruit trees.  I haven't actually killed any, but a few arrived dead due to shipping delays.  Still, I think I'll be a better gardener next year and the year after.

I love figs.  Fresh.  Delicious, and absurdly expensive the few days a year they are available here.



I love figs too! I don't know if it counts as "natural" to grow them in tubs and move them into a garage for the winter. Yes it is more work, but the trade off is you get figs!!! Bill's Figs in North Jersey has so many varieties I think he lost count. He grows them in self watering tubs, and moves them into an unheated dark garage from November 15-March 15. (he has lemon trees too!)Those dates would be different for VT. We experienced some extreme late frosts here in Jersey this year. I moved my 3 back in the garage for two of the frosts, but missed the warning on the third. The 4 yr old fig (forgot variety, it's on a receipt some where in my files) didn't lose any leaves, but the 2 and 3 year olds leaves were toast. Right now only the 4 yr old has figs. It may be the others are too young, or that they had to restart after the frost damage.
My 4 yr old started producing figs the first year I got it as a 2 yr old, even though Bill said it would not start until it was 3. Plants! Gotta love em!
The CSA I belong to planted figs along the side of one of their farm buildings, and then built a green house frame , which they cover in plastic,  to protect them through our winters.



 
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I like figs, fresh or dry or in a pie... Cookie/cake?

I am growing a couple different varieties, I just planted them all outside. I am at 1800' in East Tennessee, the first one I planted died back the first two winters; but it came back from the roots. I am hoping its large enough this year to survive the winter without dying back.

So far all I've done to winterize them is pile leaves around and over them for some insulation. I'm going on three years now. Only a couple figs early on and they dropped 'em.
 
Steve Thorn
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denny hall wrote:i could not find any of the brown turkey or celeste.  i believe they are the recommended ones on the NC agri site.



I think Celeste and Southern Brown Turkey are some of the ones I supposedly have, haven't gotten any figs yet though to know for sure.

I did get one called "biblical fig and another called "hunt".  I may have lost one of them in the overgrowth, as one of my brothers planted the missing one and the jungle is coming back.  It may still be alive out there somewhere



Hunt sounds neat, and like it could be a good one for our area. I'm interested to see how it turns out for you. Yeah my food forest is kind of wild too, but it seems like having a lot of different plants growing is really building a lot of healthy soil, so I'm trying to find a balance between letting a lot of wild things grow and also making sure they don't overrun the fruiting varieties.

My brother has a well established fig tree but not sure of the variety.  I have been watching YT videos on propagating from cuttings but still not clear on the best time to take them.  I'm all ears for advice.



I haven't tried it myself yet either, but from a combination of what I've heard from others and seen from my current fig trees, I'm going to give it a try in spring after the chance of frost or freeze has past. That way the tender shoots won't get cold damaged hopefully, and they'll have some time to root before it gets really hot out, and they'll also be able to hopefully grow a lot before the cold weather comes to be more cold tolerant. I'd love to hear how it turns out if you give it a try!
 
Steve Thorn
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This is the tallest fig from the picture above after being transplanted. It was not an ideal time to transplant it, but the sooner I could transplant it the better, and I wasn't going to have any other time to do it in the near future so I went ahead. It was in the high 90s here and very sunny. I tried to quickly move it from the nursery bed to its final home, and I gave it a good watering right after planting and again the next day. I only water the trees after being transplanted, so since its in its final home, it won't be watered again.

I think this picture was taken two days after transplanting. It looks really rough, as all the leaves died, but you can see the trunk is still green and healthy. In the second picture you can also see the top bud is about to send out new growth! Definitely wasn't the best time for this fig to be transplanted, but I think it'll make it through just fine.
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pollinator
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Hope it survives Steve. My fig propagation program is taking off.
I managed to get seven going. They're still small, one is in a pot and the rest is surviving their first summer without much help. I rarely water them. Two are in full sun, at their final destination. Where i am, they need to live in a sun trap to produce fruit. A southfacing wall ideally, but those places are taken now.
I try to create sun traps by planting them on the south face of a shed and behind the shed a wind break in the form of a willow hedge.
I've got three varieties, a fast growing green fruiting one, a slow growing purple one and my neighbor brought in a fast growing purple fruiting sort. I hope to get a lot more of those when she is pruning hers in autumn again. I am thinking of planting them guerilla style next autumn against south facing walls of abandoned buildings around where i live.
Last week i pruned the slow growing purple fruiting variety because it was shading out some marjoram plants i put at its base. The lower hanging branches i cut off and used the young sprouts to function as cuttings. I've potted five up in a container together. Fingers crossed!
 
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Our figs are prolific producers and have required zero inputs other than occasional watering during droughty periods. We hacked the three trees out of the side of a gravel driveway at a former residence and planted them in our clay yard. They had achieved a height of 8-9 foot before a hard freeze killed them back to the ground (quite a job cutting them back). New trees started up that spring and within two years we had figs again.
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Steve Thorn
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Hugo Morvan wrote: My fig propagation program is taking off.
I managed to get seven going.



Awesome to hear! What time of year did you propagate them Hugo?
 
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I'm in zone 6b (Trenton NJ area), and figs are booming in our hot summer. Figs are naturally quite drought-resistant, not as much so as Chinese jujube perhaps, but still adequately for trouble-free fruiting in-ground or in-pot. Some things to remember: 1) you'll only start to form figs on vigorous new growth, and you'll only get figs from this year's growth (only this year, had one Green Ischia fig overwinter, and mature!), atop existing stems. 2) You'll lose all your above-ground stems if they freeze hard over winter. It's not the frost alone, but the desiccation that will kill them. 3) You'll lose all your above-ground stems if they are held at high humidity, they will mold.
So, either bring them in-pot into a non-freezing attached garage (they will lose all their leaves at the first frost anyway), or prep them carefully. I've never had success with binding/burlap in place, even with lots of humidity-buffering fill. But I do lay them all down (takes a bit of work for a 1.5" stem!), put a woven tarp and >=6" wood chips over, and uncover after frost-free spring. I lose tips of some stems, and occasional stems mold, or split and decay due to the bend-over. Most survive and thrive. You are welcome to visit and discuss if you're ever in this area: 609.731.3882 -- Stan
 
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I grow quite a few figs. A few varieties are in the ground and the rest are in pots being trialed. Desert king, ronde de bordeaux, takoma violet and black spanish are in the ground. I’m trialing malta black, kadota, lsu purple, alma and violet de bordeaux. All of them are common type figs except for desert king. That’s a san pedro type that overwinters a breba crop on last years wood. The downside of this is every pruning cut reduces your next crop. The main crop on desert king needs the fig wasp to pollinate it or they fall off. The breba crop on it is really good though.

Characteristics I’m looking for are early fruit, common type so I can prune them any way I want and excellent taste. The bordeaux varieties supposedly have an interesting complex taste that I’m looking forward to trying. I generally go for the berry type figs but I haven’t had a fig I don’t like.

I’ll know more in a few weeks when the trial ones fruit and more next year when they’re a little stronger. I’m struggling to keep them watered though the heat wave and they’re dropping their fruit sometimes.

Varieties that might do well for you Steve are malta black and ronde/violet de bordeaux. They’re early and I think they have a closed eye. I don’t know for sure yet because I haven’t had any ripen so far. I just rooted them last year so they’re young. If you want more varieties to try I’d check out Ross in Philadelphia. He has a YouTube channel and a google spreadsheet where he details the characteristics of many varieties.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1i3l2K21bbaAkHjmSnqPX4yvoWEYJ7-YjHOtMPFoe1ME/edit

There’s a lot of varieties available. You can root them pretty easily by cuttings. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a variety that does well in your climate.
 
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Chris,
I also live in Portland.  10 years and more ago, we would never have the main crop of Desert King mature.  Now it does, every year. The figs do not fall off on our tree.  The quality of the main crop is not as good as the breba, and they are smaller, but ours do not fall off.
John S
PDX OR
 
Hugo Morvan
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Hi Steve, i mostly took my cuttings in autumn. Which seems the most reasonable time to do it. At least, there is time then... And for the plant the most restive fase to just sit, feel, root and put out leaves when it feels like. But i have the feeling that the more cuttings i take from various plants that different species/ kinds react different to the time the cuttings are taken. I have had succes with savory cuttings just now, and a goumi berry that got too big, lavender (first time it worked, yay!) and i am trying cuttings of this fig now in the heat of summer. As different varieties of species react differently to cuttings taken from them at different times of year i feel it's important to give it a try ourselves. I don't even know what i've got and as far as nurseries go, i don't believe all nurseries take nomen clatura that serious at all. They just plop a nice sounding name on their variety if they think it will sell.
Might be a very cynical thing to say.
I prefer to look at what works, which type gives fruit, how can i propagate many. I'd love to get to the point where i can look at thngs like at what month does this variety fruit and then having fresh fruit all "year" round. But for now... Just get them in and see what works for me.
 
Rita Bliden
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Stanton de Riel wrote:I'm in zone 6b (Trenton NJ area), and figs are booming in our hot summer.
n


Hey neighbor! I work 8 minutes from Trenton, and live in the Pine Barrens. "It's a small world after all". Sorry if I just planted an ear worm!
My figs plants look great, but only about a dozen figs on the oldest one. I do prune them back when I bring them in the garage in November. I am going to attempt some propagation from cuttings. If I find the receipts with the varieties listed, I will do some research to find out their attributes.
 
denny hall
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Thank you for making the spreadsheet available, a lot of data to review but very impressive scope of work.  

Chris Holcombe wrote:I grow quite a few figs. A few varieties are in the ground and the rest are in pots being trialed. Desert king, ronde de bordeaux, takoma violet and black spanish are in the ground. I’m trialing malta black, kadota, lsu purple, alma and violet de bordeaux. All of them are common type figs except for desert king. That’s a san pedro type that overwinters a breba crop on last years wood. The downside of this is every pruning cut reduces your next crop. The main crop on desert king needs the fig wasp to pollinate it or they fall off. The breba crop on it is really good though.

Characteristics I’m looking for are early fruit, common type so I can prune them any way I want and excellent taste. The bordeaux varieties supposedly have an interesting complex taste that I’m looking forward to trying. I generally go for the berry type figs but I haven’t had a fig I don’t like.

I’ll know more in a few weeks when the trial ones fruit and more next year when they’re a little stronger. I’m struggling to keep them watered though the heat wave and they’re dropping their fruit sometimes.

Varieties that might do well for you Steve are malta black and ronde/violet de bordeaux. They’re early and I think they have a closed eye. I don’t know for sure yet because I haven’t had any ripen so far. I just rooted them last year so they’re young. If you want more varieties to try I’d check out Ross in Philadelphia. He has a YouTube channel and a google spreadsheet where he details the characteristics of many varieties.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1i3l2K21bbaAkHjmSnqPX4yvoWEYJ7-YjHOtMPFoe1ME/edit

There’s a lot of varieties available. You can root them pretty easily by cuttings. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a variety that does well in your climate.

 
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I haven’t read this thread thoroughly so I apologize if anyone has mentioned this variety. I’ve been taking fig cuttings for years with great success. I have no idea what most of my varieties are. There is one that was recommended to me four years ago, the Chicago Hardy fig. I love experimenting so I bought a dead looking stick from a box store the next season. Now it’s three foot tall, four foot wide and loaded with figs. I got a few tasty morsels last year but this season looks more promising. It’s compact and could serve as an understory tree. Mine gets around five hours of dappled sun. Every little elbow branch has a fig in it. Will be making more of these early next year.
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Steve Thorn
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Great looking figs Scott! I supposedly have that variety growing, can't wait to hopefully get the first figs next year.
 
pollinator
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I have a hardy chicago fig bought from Lowe's last year. I let it grow in a planter and overwinter dormant in a unheated building. I planted in ground near a tree stump and it seems to like the spot. I saw tiny figs showing up on the new twigs. Finger crossed they will be ripe by the first frost. From what I saw from permie, I am going to do the followings:
Pinch off tips by end of August to stop new growth
Apply calcium for fruit development
Put dark rocks around to increase soil temperature
Wind block in the north side
Deep mulch

I probably won't cut the bush to the ground, it is only 2 ft tall and can be buried in deep leaves.
 
Steve Thorn
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May Lotito wrote:From what I saw from permie, I am going to do the followings:
Pinch off tips by end of August to stop new growth
Apply calcium for fruit development
Put dark rocks around to increase soil temperature
Wind block in the north side
Deep mulch

I probably won't cut the bush to the ground, it is only 2 ft tall and can be buried in deep leaves.



Using fall leaves as a mulch can be a great free way to get all of the nutrients the tree should need naturally, without having to buy and apply calcium. Ive had really good success so far with using the leaf mulch from fallen leaves in the Fall, and the fruit trees seem super healthy.

I saw this recently here and thought it was cool.

According to the analysis above, 1 ton (2000 lbs) of leaves has the following:

940 lbs of carbon
20 lbs of nitrogen
2 lbs phosphorus
2 lbs potassium
32.8 lbs calcium
4.8 lbs magnesium
2.2 lbs sulfur
Plus other nutrients and a great deal of organic matter (organic matter not calculated)



I doubt any one is going to be literally using a ton (2,000 lbs) of leaves , but it was neat to see the ratio of nutrients, and all of the different nutrients available naturally from the leaves.

I may give the pinching a try on a few figs to experiment and see how it works, but I will probably just do nothing this year to see how it works just leaving them alone, as I'm trying to minimize the work to be almost non existant, and that sounds like it could quickly become a whole lot of work. I've seen some other fruit trees be more sensitive to cold damage when I used to prune during the cold weather a few years ago, but that was when they were pruned during the cold weather, and not before it arrived. I wonder if on vigorous figs, they may send out additional shoots after the growing tips are pinched back or if the pinching back during the warm weather may negatively affect their vigor and future fruiting potential.
 
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San Francisco South Bay Area, Zone 11: Here is a picture of the PANACHE FIG and then BLACKJACK FIG.  My friends have a fig tree in Phoenix, Arizona that is 35 feet high and 30 feet wide.  They love the heat!  I'm afraid to plant mine into the ground since, sadly, I have a suburban lot.  One of these days I will have my acreage, then I'll grow a beautiful fig tree naturally.  Meanwhile, here's a pic of my 3-year-old "Backyard Orchard Culture" - fruit tree hedge - dwarves - cherries, pears, asian pear, nectarines, peach, apricot, plum, almond and Granny Smith apple.  I used white clover as the nitrogen-fixer.  I was afraid to plant chop-'n-drop acacia trees due to small space.

Chris
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Panache Fig
Panache Fig
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Blackjack Fig
Blackjack Fig
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3y.o. Fruit Tree Hedge
3y.o. Fruit Tree Hedge
 
Steve Thorn
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The fig from above is putting out leaves at the top and also the buds long the trunk are swelling and it has put out a small leaf from one already. It seems to be recovering nicely after being transplanted.
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It will give me the powers of the gods. Not bad for a tiny ad:
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
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