In need of a fig expert...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by snoozy, Jan 3, 2004.

  1. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I posted this on the gardening forum and got one suggestion -- I am hoping for more input from this more active board:

    I have a Brown Turkey in the biggest pot they make. It is 4-5 years old, and severely rootbound. It has never produced fruit, though it seems to be happy otherwise up next to our chocolate brown house protected from wind. I don't have any other warm, protected place to plant it in the ground. I don't want roots growing right next to the house foundation -- and anyway, the dirt there is pretty dead.

    So, if I severely root prune this tree and renew its soil in the container, will it be happy and kick out some fruit, or will it simply never prosper or even just die? (Maritime NW Zone 8 here.)
     
  2. Ed in S. AL

    Ed in S. AL Well-Known Member

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    It should be fine. It's pretty hard to kill a fig tree. I usually put a few tablespoons of Epson salt dissolved in a couple gallons of water around my fig trees a few times a year. Really seems to help them fill out with fruit and new growth. If you can, start throwing all of your kitchen compost around it as well.
     

  3. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

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    First, I'm not an expert in figs. That said, a friend of mine grew a brown turkey fig in Tehachapi, CA (zone 8) which is up in the mountains, high desert, and the self-proclaimed wind-energy capital of the nation. It was about 60 feet from the house, not protected, and it still produced.
    Another friend grew one years ago in Oxnard, CA (zone 10) about 10 blocks from the beach. It was about 25 years old when I "met" the tree and its baskets of fruits!
    If you're in the pacific nw, I would think you could safely plant it out in the yard. You might try contacting one of the large nurseries up that way for best advice on root pruning and feeding. Try one of the big Washington mail order houses that sells figs.
    BW
     
  4. Earthbound

    Earthbound Well-Known Member

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    My DH worked in a nursery that specialized in fruit trees etc., and he said that it probobly won't produce in the container as they need a fair bit of root space to produce. he also said if you decide to root prune you should also top prune as well to keep a balance. If you are planning to put into the ground, don't bother root pruning, just break up the root base with your hands or cut verticle slices around the outside of the root ball, which will stimulate root growth and add alot of rich organic matter into the hole and feed regularily. if you decide to transplant, do it now as the winters are the best time to do so as the tree is dormant. Also wait until spring and do a basic pruning of all dead matter.
    good luck!
    corry
     
  5. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think Zone 8 in CA probably has a lot more sunshine than we do. Last year was an anomalous summer for us -- June had sunshine! and who knows, maybe this year will be, too -- right now it is 17 F out, and I can't remember seeing temps in the teens but a very few times in the past 30 years. The other reason why I have it right up next to the house is that is where we have the most sun, since we are in about a 3/4 acre clearing in deep woods.

    Thanks for the reminder to prune topside as well -- I'd have surely forgotten.
     
  6. Belle

    Belle Active Member

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    I grow figs (Zone 7) and they are on the semi-protected SW side of my house--it's off true north. They are planted in the ground and produce every year. They don't like containers and love water and fertilizer (OK is pretty dry). One word of caution, they do put out lots of roots and need a lot of space from buildings and each other too. I have seen them 8-10 feet tall, and 8 feet wide (the owner couldn't possibly be picking these!). Here they do not freeze back to the ground or die back much. A little ground cover of hay around the roots is all I do. Water is essential in the summer or they will drop their fruit. Mine are white figs and relatively small. I hope to get some turkey figs in this spring. Good luck with yours. :)

    Belle
     
  7. bearkiller

    bearkiller Well-Known Member

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    Snoozy,

    I, too, have a Brown Turkey fig growing and I am in Northern CA's USDA Zone 8. But I am in Western Garden's Zone 7...the Digger Pine belt, an area known for its great fruit climate. I suspect your major problem with this fig is it will require more heat than available unless you plant in a very favorable microclimate. I definitely agree with earlier post about planting it rather than keeping it cooped up in a container.

    My location is likely more similar to your area too in that we often see cloudy weather right through June. My tree puts on figs, but they never ripen because of the lack of heat until late. And the occasional year we get a severe freeze that does hurt.

    Hope this helps!

    bearkiller
     
  8. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    I've got figs planted out in the open, under trees, in the pasture, in the orchard. I don't think any of em are 'protected' from wind. Certainly not in any warm sheltered areas. I've got some of my most fruitful trees (20+gallons) planted on what used to be a roadbed. Put some rocks up to keep people from driving across the trees, filled the hole up with dirt, rotten hay, rotting logs, small animals, chicken manure. I use to not fertilize, was erroneously told fertilizing was bad for them. Well, they just sat there crying for three years, feed me, feed me. They grew maybe several inches a year. I thought I have nothing to lose, and started flooding the area with nutrients, cow manure, 'hot' chicken manure, anything and everything, with lots of rotten hay. That year they grew from 5' single stems to 12' giant bushy fig trees, loaded with mongo sized figs.

    If your tree is root bound, check to see if any of the roots have sprouts on them. Cut them, plant them in new pots, place them inside in a warm spot, they should make new trees...and plant the 'children' in the 'exposed' areas. It's easy to get daughter trees, just loop one of the limbs down into some potting soil, keep watered, and in the fall you'll have new trees you can put out.

    Some of my most exposed trees will get killed back in a hard freeze. As long as their's some mulch around the base, they'll sprout back with vigor in the spring.
     
  9. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

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    I have 2 fig trees from Raintree Nursery planted in cognac half-barrels on the south side of my house. They are not only protected from arctic blasts, they have plenty of reflective heat and light in the summer.

    I planted them 4 years ago and began getting fruit the first season. I add goat mulch every fall and spring and epsom salt in the spring. So far they are not showing signs of being too rootbound. I don't think they would do as well in the ground as our soil never really warms up enough for hot weather crops.

    I blend my own container soil which is supposed to be good for 6 years. When it is time to repot these trees and replace the soil, I will trim the roots back a bit. It they absolutely will not fit back in the barrels, I will have to build bigger tree pots out of pallets.
     
  10. PACrofter

    PACrofter Well-Known Member

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    I've had fig trees in a few places over the years, and the biggest problem I've encountered was not enough lime in the soil. In fact, I didn't realize it was a problem until I read an article in the now-defunct Kitchen Garden magazine which had an article by a guy in Connecticut (!) who grew figs outdoors on the south side of his barn. He said that every spring he would put up to two inches of lime around his fig trees.

    I couldn't believe that much lime would be needed, but since the soil I was using at the time I read that article was fairly acidic, I did as I was told and the trees produced boatloads more fruit that year than they had previously. Coincidence? Who knows...

    I recently moved and planted two new fig trees last year, so this spring I'll add lots of lime and see what happens. Particularly since they're located under a pine tree (for winter protection), this seems like it might make sense.

    Another tip in the Kitchen Garden article was to brush the young figs with olive oil around the base (where the opening is; I forget the technical term for it). I haven't tried it, although I keep meaning to; if anybody has experience with that I'd like to hear about it.

    Although I have no experience with growing figs in containers, it seems reasonable that your figs need more room to grow. Either get them bigger containers or plant them in the ground. If you're in Zone 8, you should be able to find a sheltered spot to put them. I'm in Zone 6B-7A and have mine under a pine tree, on the south side, and they seem to be doing fine (although I'm not sure if they're Brown Turkey or not) without any other protection. (Growing nearby is a row of arugula that has no other protection either.)

    Good luck!