Planting a Fig Tree in your Garden
Figs are one of the earliest recorded grown fruits, with several biblical references to their cultivation. Not only that but planting fig tree in your garden gives a look that is simply unachievable with any other tree: a look of honor, of tradition. In this article we aim to show you the dos and don’t’ when planting a fig tree, to hopefully make your growing experience more fruitful!
Selecting your Fig Tree
Fig trees come in all different shapes and sizes. Before choosing a fig for your garden, consider if it is compatible with the other elements of your garden design, and are you likely to have plentiful resources from which it can draw and grow?
Additionally, you should consider the cost of the tree, and balance this up with quality. A great source of fig trees and invaluable information is your local garden center, stocked to the brim with experts on gardening through years of first-hand experience. Ask the employees anything: you may be surprised at how willing they are to enter into discussion, particularly when it comes to planting a fig tree or choosing a healthy tree for your garden.
One way to get around this problem altogether is to grow the tree from a cutting. Cuttings are advantageous because they have no roots initially and can so be simply planted into the ground. However, this opens your tree up to the dangers of early growth and is by no means a guarantee of success.
Planting and Growing Your Fig Tree
Fig trees where once considered heirlooms, and passed through many generations for their fruit-bearing properties. It is important when growing a fig that you dedicate time and patience towards it, to produce the best results in terms of appearance, color, and fruit. Trust me, after successfully growing your own, you will notice a real difference in taste.
The first thing you have to bear in mind when planting a fig tree, or when planting a cutting, is that fig trees need sunlight. A warmer, sunny location will help to ripen the fruit in its later stages and simply produce the best results for your tree. Having said that, in hotter climates, the tree does appreciate some shade in the afternoon to keep the worst of the baking heat at bay.
It is also an important consideration that, whilst not invasive, fig-trees eventually require a strong root system, so it is important to ensure planting well below the ground to avoid roots showing and potentially causing structural damage. Make sure you give the tree plenty of space and allow it to take its natural progression. It is also imperative to ensure the roots do not freeze during harsher climes, as this will kill the tree, so the element of winter protection is also something worthy of considering.
When planting a fig tree, there are many considerations that need to be balanced, and many factors that can ultimately go wrong. If you care for your tree religiously and ensure it is given the optimum conditions within which to grow, you will see an eventual outcome that will reflect your efforts. It is fun, but hard work.
A fig tree can be very demanding, and if you have any plants in the proximity, this may cause the problems associated with the natural competition. When planting a fig tree, there are lots to think about, but it really is worth it in the end.
Cultivation of Fig Trees
With the right care, the cultivation of fig trees can be achieved in even quite hostile environments, even when temperatures can plummet down to -2C. Being quite a hardy plant, established fig trees can be grown outdoors in a planter or directly into the earth. However, they are best at least started off in a greenhouse, especially over their first few winters. When established a garden fig tree can add an unusual shape to the plants in your garden as well as one that can provide a delicious fruit.
Beginning the Cultivation
If it is a single stem cut it back to about 220mm high, or if it has branches cut off the tips of any new shoots. Start a fig tree in your greenhouse in a 300mm pot, transferring it to a 600mm or larger one when required. When you transfer the plant to another pot always plant it 25mm to 50mm deeper than it was in the previous pot to encourage new growth. Also, always use clay/terracotta pot or a wooden planter, not plastic, as the natural materials are better insulators for the young plant being cooler in summer but warmer in winter.
Use a soil-based compost well firmed down to about 25mm below the pot top and after an initial good watering – keep it moist, adding plenty of broken tiles or stones at the bottom of the pot or planter for drainage. Expect growth to start around March with foliage and fruit starting to appear around July. When the fruit starts to be produced give it a regular feed of a high potash fertilizer or tomato feed.
An outdoor fig tree planted in a position in the garden giving it plenty of sun will quite happily grow to 3m in height and have a spread of up to 5m. So, when planting fig trees make sure you’re giving them plenty of room to grow into and dominate. Although they like being against a wall for the reflected heat they get and protection from winds, walls can inhibit the root growth making them unstable.
So, despite being a hardy plant in extreme northerly locations protect the fig tree over winter with layers of a windbreak type of plant blanketing. This precaution should only be needed during the real depth of the winter and can usually be safely removed by March. Make sure you give the tree good mulching in either March or April, ahead of the main growing season, other than that there’s very little you need to do in terms of further cultivation.
If you want to use figs as bushes in a border they don’t fare very well in light soils as the roots don’t bind well. You can have figs in a light soil border but you’ll need to either artificially make the earth heavier or, a better idea is to, put them in planters about 3m apart. The planter needs annual mulching too and any pruning to maintain the bush shape should be done before the main growing season.
Other Comments for Cultivating
If you can manage to move large planters around it’s probably best to grow your fig trees in planters so that they can spend the warm months outdoors and the colder ones indoors in the greenhouse. A bonus for doing this is that an outdoor fig tree will fruit once a year whereas a greenhouse one will fruit twice.
The fruit can be picked when the
fruit hangs down and the stalks are bending; you’ll also see the
eye at the bottom of the fig fruit open and drip sugar. The main
threat to fig trees is fig rust, a mottling of the leaves caused by
getting over wet in growing seasons of heavy rain, which can be
treated with a copper fungicide.