Now that summer is slowly coming to an end and the season for figs is coming to an end, there have been many calls lately about what do in taking care of fig trees to prepare them for a large harvest next summer. For the best fruit production next year, water your figs regularly during the growing season unless rainfall is adequate and make sure the soil is not constantly soggy or waterlogged. When fall arrives, stop watering and allow your plants to harden off.
Fig trees can grow very well in our climate with little disease problems and your main concern in the form of pests will be the birds. Mature fig trees can reach 15 to 30 feet tall and are fully cold hardy to 15 or 20 degrees F, but if the tree is not well established, a cold drop in temperatures could cause damage and dieback to the fig tree. Protecting the plant from winter freezes can be done by applying mulch around the base of the tree to keep in the warmth from the soil and also watering well before a hard freeze will help protect the roots. If the tree is very tall there is not much else that can be done to protect it from freezing temperatures.
If you are thinking about planting a new fig tree, plant when the tree is dormant, early spring would be best once the threat of winter freezes has passed. Ideally, fig plants should be planted in a well-drained loam with plenty of organic matter, but they will tolerate average to poor soil. Once they are established, they are somewhat drought tolerant. Figs tolerate soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0. Growers who have acidic soils should apply lime to bring the soil pH up to the fig's preferred pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Fig plants need at least 8 hours of sun and heat, which helps ripen the fruit. Figs respond very well (better than most fruit trees) to heavy applications of manure and compost. Be sure not to apply fertilizers too late in the growing season, this encourages new growth that cannot harden off before winter and can cause winter damage to the tree. Apply 2 to 3 cups of a balanced fertilizer such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 with micronutrients three times a year to mature trees. If you grow figs in containers, a complete slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote plus miconutrients is a good choice. Growers who want to grow figs organically should apply generous amounts of compost and a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed, soybean, or alfalfa meal. Fig tree roots will not damage masonry foundations of buildings or steel pipe, but if you plant fig trees in a lawn, keep a 2- to 3-foot area around each tree free of grass for a year or two until the tree becomes established, the grass will compete with the figs roots for nutrients.
Do not begin pruning until the danger of frost has passed, but before new growth has started. Do this by removing about one-third to one-half the length of the annual growth. Also, prune out all dead wood and remove branches that interfere with growth of the leaders. Cut off low-growing lateral branches and all sucker growth that is not needed for replacement of broken larger limbs. Do not leave bare, unproductive stubs when you prune. These stubs are entry points for wood-decaying organisms. Make all pruning cuts back to a bud or branch.
If you are thinking about propagating from your fig trees Late Winter or Early Spring is the time. Figs are easy to propagate because they root very easily. There are several ways to propagate them. The most common method is to root leafless cuttings taken in late winter or early spring. For more information on propagating and pruning and for more general information on fig trees please visit our website articles at:
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