How to Grow a Fig Tree: Everything You Need to Know

How to Grow a Fig Tree? [Everything You Need to Know]

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You would like to grow a fig tree in your garden or your backyard, but you want to make sure that you have researched everything carefully. Many people, like myself, want to know everything about what they are looking for, in this case, growing a fig tree, before they invest time and effort into it. That is why we have decided to make an article about how to grow a fig tree?

So here we will first tell you in short how to grow a fig tree, and then we will go deeper into it.

  • fig trees have to be planted in warmer areas
  • it is best to plant them in early spring or late fall
  • water them well
  • give them plenty of organic materials
  • give them space
  • and give much love and great care to your fig trees

The fig is one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world and belongs to the mulberry family (Moraceae). According to the fossil remains found, it was concluded that the fig was grown long before wheat and barley and thus represents the first example of organized agricultural production. It originates in Asia, between eastern Turkey and northern India. The life span of a tree ranges from 50 to 70 years.

Ecological conditions for growing a fig tree

Temperature

The fig is a thermophilic fruit species. The resistance of fig trees to cold depends more on the maturity of its tree. During standstill, vegetation can withstand temperatures of 5 °F although it does not tolerate temperatures below 14 °F for a long time. With irrigation and a temperature of 95 °F, the fig gives excellent production results with high fruit quality. Older, more mature summer figs contain less water (they are dehydrated so no ice can appear in the cells) and are rich in resin and starch, ingredients that provide excellent frost protection.

Water

Figs grow in inaccessible, karst areas where they bear fruit without any human concern, but this does not mean that they do not need to be provided with sufficient water at certain stages of vegetation. It takes about 30 inches of rainfall a year to grow figs. Because it has a very well-developed root system, it can tolerate drought and cultivation relatively well on uncultivated fields.

In the search for water, the root adapts to the soil structure and the parent substrate, penetrating even through the cracks of the rocks. However, in modern plantations with a built-in system, the root-by-drop system develops in a shallow layer of soil because it contains sufficient amounts of water there.

Soil

Figs require fertile, loose, and lighter soil. It adapts well to various soil types due to drought tolerance, salinity, chlorosis (jaundice in iron deficiency), and active calcium. It is exceptionally well suited to alluvial soils, dolomite spurs, lime soils (limestone) and brownish reddens. The optimum pH is between 6 and 7.8.

Soil preparation for planting a fig tree

Soil preparation consists of flattening of the ground, removal of superfluous stones and stumps, deep tillage, and basic (meliorative) fertilization aimed at improving soil fertility up to the depth of rooting of future seedlings. This is followed by splitting the parcels, between them the road network, followed by rows, and marking the planting points in a row.

Then the pits are dug for planting 15 inches deep and 20 inches wide on rigid soil. If the soil is not deeply plowed, then the dimensions of the planting holes are slightly larger. When ejecting soil from the pit, care must be taken not to mix the plow, surface, and deeper layers (dead), as they need to return without changing position in the profile. Before raising fig-trees, on several occasions, over three years, calcification should be carried out by introducing lime in the soil.

Fig tree propagation

Fig can be propagated in three basic ways:

  • By cuttings – stunted cuttings are taken from stem trees from mid-January to early February. They are about 8 inches in length and it is not crucial to leave a top pup. They are stored in moist sand where the temperature is about 40 °F. They remain so until spring when they are vitalized and moved to containers filled with the commercial substrate or quality fertile soil, where they are left for a year to grow best by the time of planting to a permanent place.
  • By vaccination – grafting is usually applied to the fig (on a wakeful and sleeping bud) and cleavage vaccination.
  • By seeds – seeds are usually uneven in their growth, fertility, fruit quality, root system development, etc. They have a longer unborn stage, so they give birth very late (only for about 8-10 years).

Selection of varieties

According to the color of the fruits, there are three groups: green-yellow fruits, purple and purple-black. In cultivation, a large number of fig varieties have been expanded which differ from each other in terms of fruit quality and a range of economic traits. Different varieties were observed to respond to environmental conditions, so the choice of assortment was selected for each growing area.

Choice of breeding form

How to Grow a Fig Tree? [Everything You Need to Know]

Free-grown figs tend to be pyramidal and more or less widespread. In the cultivation of figs, spatial cultivation forms are used in which the branches are arranged in all directions. The most common cultivation forms are pyramids and vases.

Planting time and technique

Before planting, we shorten the roots of the seedlings and soak the roots briefly in a pot with a mixture of loam and beef manure. The seedlings so prepared and planted are placed with a layer of soil that covers the root and compacts in such a way that no larger air cavities remain, taking care that the seedling is placed to the depth it was in the nursery. Fertilizer is applied to the soil layer above the roots and the rest of the soil to it. The fertilizer must not come in direct contact with the root veins. After the planting is done, watering is carried out in the pelvis (raised furrow in the form of a circle around the seedling), which are formed after the surface filling of the pits. The planting distance, or density of the assembly, depends on the lushness of the variety and the rootstock, the cultivation form and the fertility of the soil. The optimal row spacing is 20 feet and the row between seedlings is 13-16 feet.

Plantation maintenance

After planting the seedlings, an incision is made with the aim of forming a certain growing form, and when the tree reaches reproductive age, every next year an incision is made with the aim of maintaining the condition of the tree and ensuring high yield. Most often a combination of winter and summer pruning is performed.

Types of pruning in fig are: thinning (removing shoots to the base), shortening (shortening the length of shoots), and bending (bringing the shoots to the proper branching angle relative to the base branch). Irrigation conditions for early varieties are pruned after harvest and with late varieties in May.

During the first fertilization interval, during the autumn (or immediately after harvesting) a complex fertilizer of NPK with low nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium is introduced into the soil. Manure is introduced but every third year. In the second interval, in the early spring, fertilization is carried out with URE 46%, while in the third interval KAN is introduced 27%.

Fertilization

Fertilization introduces manure during the breeding season in the amount of 16-20 t/ac. In poor soils, 535 lb/ac of phosphorus and 625 lb/ac of potassium (2050 lb/ac of NPK 5:20:30) are introduced, while the aforementioned quantities of fertilizers are reduced in medium and well-fed soils. Namely, a small amount of nitrogen is needed because it promotes the bacteria that carry out the mineralization of the plowed plant debris. Organic or manure fertilizer is introduced during the autumn with organic fertilization.

Irrigation

Lack of water causes the fruits to burst and the development of fungal diseases. More recently, a drip system has been used to soak fig trees. The system is economical because it is cheap, water does not drain from the surface, evaporates in insignificant quantities, does not damage the structure of the soil, does not create conditions for the emergence of cover and only supplies the zone around the fig roots. The downside is the clogging of the eyelids, the damage done by the rodents and the sun’s rays because the pipes are made of polyethylene.

Harvest

Although fig trees give birth early, from an economic point of view, significant yields are only manifested between the ages of 5 and 7. Most of the harvested fruits are consumed in a fresh state. Harvesting is carried out from June to October, several times due to the uneven ripening of the fruits. The fruits are harvested with a petiole and do not have the ability to ripen after picking. Harvesting is done in gloves to prevent the hands from contacting fig milk (white juice in the petioles of fruits and leaves) that irritates the skin. It is best to harvest in the early morning when there is no dew.

Figs are stacked in shallow crates that hold cartridges with places for each fruit separately, preventing them from touching and thus spoiling. They are stored in refrigerators at 32-40 °F and 85% relative humidity. In such conditions they can be successfully preserved for 15-21 days.

The fruits of the figs to be used for drying must be fully ripe, since they then contain the highest amount of sugar. They can be dried in the sun or in drying rooms. Before drying, figs are sulfurized to prevent mold, fungus, bacteria, and fly larvae from appearing or submerged in seawater.

How to successfully grow a fig tree in the backyard?

In the gardens and in the backyard, it is often possible to see a fig tree. Although this subtropical fruit is sensitive to low winter temperatures, it is planted in some corner or shelter of the yard – it manages to defend itself against frosts almost every year. So its fresh fruits are sweetened by children and adults at the end of summer and can be dried for consumption during the winter.

Young trees susceptible to spring frosts

However, it should be noted that the fig is sensitive to temperature fluctuations in early spring. It freezes when the nutritious juices in the tree move and the temperature drops sharply. How much damage will sustain then depends on the age and nutrition of the tree, varieties, fertilization… Namely, young trees up to the third or fourth year of age are more sensitive to low temperatures than older trees. Also, trees too late and abundantly fertilized with nitrogen are more likely to suffer from cold.

The fruits ripen from July to October

The multicolored fruits of this fruit (white, yellow, purple, black …) ripen in July, August, and September, depending on whether they originate from one or two-row varieties. In nurseries, grafted seedlings can be obtained.

When a few figs are planted in the garden and in the yard, it can be a scarred stalk of an older tree. However, for a larger plantation, one-year-old seedlings produced from wild fig cuttings, to which certain varieties have been grafted, should be procured.

It is obligatory to protect the planted seedlings against frost by wrapping with multilayer paper or straw. After the winter, if the spring is dry – fig trees need to be watered moderately.

When and how to form the crown of young figs?

The canopy of young figs will form in the next four to five years. This is done as follows: In the first year, the seedling is not shortened but is allowed to grow freely, and only if it chases a side bud – it is removed in order to grow and strengthen the seedling as much as possible.

It is only in the second year after planting that the seedlings can be shortened to grow lateral branches. In the third year, if a growing pyramid is desired, the extension is shortened again to develop branches of the second row or, if desired, a boiled vase, then the extension is removed, leaving only three branches of the first row.

In the fourth year, green pruning removes all the shoots that compete with the remaining branches for development. Then the crown formation was completed and in the following years, only a slight winter and summer pruning would maintain the desired growing shape.

Fig trees occasionally and moderately fertilize

Immediately after planting (in the fall) fertilize the seedlings with half a kilo of NPK fertilizer, which contains more phosphorus and potassium. The fertilizer is spread in a wide circle around the tree and covered with a hoe.

In the second, third and fourth year – the amount of fertilizer increases. The native trees are fertilized with 10 ounces of urea and about four pounds of NPK.

Types of figs

The fig tree is the fruit of a tree from the mulberry family which we call the Latin name Ficus empress. There are over 150 types of figs that differ in color and slightly in structure. The most famous and widespread species are Mission (black-violet bark with pink flesh), Kadota (green bark with purple flesh), Calimyrna (greenish-yellow bark with amber flesh), and Adriatic fig (light green bark with flesh-colored flesh).

Figs have a very short growing season and are extremely sensitive. Therefore, they are most delicious if eaten immediately after picking, after they have been aged in the refrigerator for a short time. Although fresh figs are only available for a few months of the year, you can enjoy dried figs throughout the year.

Medicinal properties of figs

To find ingredients with potentially beneficial effects on health, scientists have analyzed the composition of polyphenols, anthocyanins and the antioxidant capacity of six commercial species of figs that differ in color (black, red, yellow and green). They found an impressive content of polyphenols and thus a strong antioxidant activity, and the darker and brighter the species the more useful molecules and antioxidant power were. For example, the highest proportion of polyphenols and anthocyanins and the strongest antioxidant activity were observed in Mission species, characterized by a black-purple crust with pinkish flesh. Interestingly, most phytochemicals were found in fig bark, and smaller quantities were measured in meat.

Previous research has also shown that figs are an extremely rich source of polyphenols. Many will be amazed that figs are significantly richer in polyphenols than, for example, apples, blueberries, grapes, oranges, plums and strawberries, and even foods that are considered extremely rich in polyphenols – such as red wine and tea.

Figs also contain plant sterols, a substance that has been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels. Plant sterols (such as stigmasterol and lanosterols contained in figs) bind to cholesterol molecules in the gut and thus interfere with its absorption.

But that’s not all! Compounds with potential anticarcinogenic activity – benzaldehyde and coumarins – were also found in figs. These compounds have been tested in scientific studies and the results are promising, especially for prostate and skin cancers and squamous cells.

Figs are a great source of minerals and vitamins:

  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • copper
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • vitamins B, C, A and K

They are an excellent source of phytochemicals such as proanthocyanidins. Figs also contain Tequin, an antioxidant ingredient that lowers blood cholesterol levels.

A 2015 study examining the impact of long-term consumption of fresh fruit states that, due to its nutritional composition, figs have many properties such as:

  • antioxidant
  • antimicrobial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • hypoglycemic
  • hepatoprotective
  • antifungal
  • anticarcinogenic

Fresh figs are packed with antioxidants such as:

  • carotenes
  • tannin
  • lutein
  • vitamins A, C, B and K

Antioxidants protect organisms from premature aging, cancer, and various heart diseases.

In addition, figs help to prevent diabetes because, after their consumption, blood glucose levels can be lowered. Figs also have laxative properties because they stimulate the intestinal muscles and can thus improve digestion.

Removal of warts and corns

Figs effectively solve the problem of corns. Put in half sliced, fresh figs in a sore spot overnight. Repeat the procedure for several days in a row and try to get rid of the corns.

To treat warts, use the milk found in the fruit and twigs of the hard figs. Apply fig milk once a day to the wart site and repeat the procedure five to seven days in a row.

Dried figs – a concentrated source of nutrients

Although dried figs are high in calories because they contain 50-70% sugar, they are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as fresh figs.

Figs – side effects

Figs are generally safe to eat and no frequent or serious side effects have been observed.

However, some people may be allergic to them. Also, figs have a laxative effect, so too much intake could result in unwanted digestive problems.

Vitamin K found in figs is involved in the process of thickening the blood, so it is not advisable to intake too much in people who are taking blood thinners.

Consuming

The ideal fig is soft to the touch, full of meat and has a firm “tail” (petiole). It is very sensitive and degrades quickly, so it should be eaten within 24 hours of picking. Keeping it in the refrigerator is not advised as it loses its aroma.

Raw figs contain up to 80% water and have the highest content of natural sugars, making them an ideal source of energy.

Besides raw it can be prepared in:

  • cakes
  • salads
  • compotes
  • jams and other various dishes

It also goes well with salty dishes where it can often be found as an addition to prosciutto ham or goat cheese. Dried figs are a special delicacy and a great dessert.