A native of Persia, the fig - Ficus carica -has long been a coveted fruit. It was grown in Britain by the Romans along with the vine. Cardinal Pole introduced 'White Marseille' to Lambeth Palace in 1525 and his trees are still flourishing. The flavour of fresh figs compares with any tropical fruit, although this succulent crop is decidedly easier to grow. A restricted root run is preferable for fruiting trees.
Figs are ideal in tubs or pots as bushes or half standards, and as such should be given inside winter protection, when they can produce 2 crops annually. If a greenhouse is not available a garage or garden shed from December to March will do. Grown for their architectural impact in the garden they add an air of distinction with large sculptured leaves. All our figs are container grown. Recommended compost is John Innes No.3 .
FIG TREES WILL GROW PERFECTLY WELL OUTSIDE IN MOST UK GARDENS - JUST CHOOSE THE RIGHT VARIETY FOR YOUR LOCATION,FOR ADVICE OR HELP CONTACT US VIA THE LIVE CHAT OR EMAIL LINK.
THE CULTIVATION OF THE FIG TREE
Figs perform at least two roles in the garden, providing exotic succulent fruit for the table and the benefit of exciting architectural shapes, whether grown in tubs or in the ground. Once established, figs are quite hardy, although some shoots may be damaged in severe winters; however those in pots can be protected in a shed or cold greenhouse and those on garden walls can be covered with fleece or shade netting quite easily.
A few varieties may be grown as bushes in the open and because of this ripen their wood earlier and survive frost quite well. A small commercial fig orchard was still operating in the 1950's in West Suffolk, where the soil was heavy and the winters quite cold. There was minimal winter damage, even at -4°F during the arctic winter of 1946/47 (36°F of frost).
Figs planted in the garden will produce one crop each season; those planted in greenhouses, or in pots which are taken into greenhouses in August and kept there until April, can produce two crops when the season is sunny and warm. Figs require the best possible site in the garden to take advantage of the sun's heat and, with some winter protection, will crop regularly for centuries if looked after.
FIGS IN POTS
Start figs in 12”/30 cm pots and progress up to 24 “/60 cm or larger, providing you can move it! Wood or clay pots are better than plastic; they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Plant your Fig 1-2"/2.5-5cm deeper than it was before.
Use soil based John Innes No. 3 with crocks (broken tiles/pots) in the bottom to provide adequate drainage. Soil composts should be firmed down well, remembering to leave at least an inch/2.5 cm at the top to allow for watering (more in larger pots). Water well at planting. If the plant has a single stem, cut back to about 9"/22cm. If a branched bush, take out growing tips of shoots (top bud).
Watering should start on a regular basis when growth starts (March or thereabouts). A little at first, but daily when full of foliage and fruit in hot weather in July to October.
We feed with high potash (tomato) fertilizer from April to end of crop. This is done weekly. As shoots grow, take out the growing tips after 4-5 leaves in spring only, do not tip back later in summer.
Foliar feed with seaweed every 2 weeks or so. This will strengthen the leaves and increase their size, also protecting the plant against pests and diseases.
During December take your fig in for the winter. Keep the soil just moist. Potting-on (March) to a larger size should be undertaken annually if growth is normal. We go up 2-3"/5-8cm at a time until the final size is reached. Each time, remove the crocks from the bottom of the root-ball and put them into the new pot before adding the plant and compost. Water in well.
Re-potting back into the same pot requires the removal of about 20% of the old rootball with a sharp knife, moving the crocks as before and replacing the plant,1-2" deeper than before, adding new compost to fill up, tamping down and watering in well. This is usually done every two years.
Pruning in late March, before growth starts, consists of cutting out any dead wood or dieback to clean white healthy wood. Remove tips of young shoots - but only the very tip, do not cut back shoots or you will remove the fruit bud. Remove any thin weak branches, just keeping 'thick' ones. which are the fruit bearers. When growing well there will not be many of the former.In mid spring the shots can be stopped at 4-5 leaves if they are growing rapidly, but do not do this in summer or later as it is unlikely the wood will have time to ripen properly.
At leaf-fall, remove all remaining figs larger than small peas. This is important: leaving them will delay or reduce the next season's crop and can also give rise to dieback.
Maincrop figs are produced on the previous years wood only - no new wood = very few figs.
FIGS AS FANS IN GARDEN BORDERS
Allow 8' - 15' 2.5-4.6 m horizontally and 6'-10' (1.9 - 3m) in height. When trained against walls or fences restrict roots as for Figs in Greenhouse Borders (see below).
Plant in the same way. Cultural treatment is also similar except that winter protection may be necessary, particularly in Northern locations, and is best achieved using 2 to 3 layers of windbreak-type netting tied over the plant. Polythene is not recommended. Cover in December and remove, depending on area/weather, mid - late March.
FIGS AS BUSHES IN GARDEN BORDERS
Figs as bushes in garden boarders and planted in the open do not need root restriction on heavy soil, but on lights soils I would make a box 4' x 4' x 2'/120x120x60cm deep of paving slabs and proceed as for Figs in Greenhouse Borders (below). The cultural treatment will be similar to the above but when pruning, an open bush shape is preferred; annual mulching is important and on heavy ground this should extend to the branch line. Allow 12' or so/3.7m between plants as the minimum for 'orchard' planting.
Watering - most loss of crop, dropped-off or dry figs, is caused by lack of water. From the middle of May, all figs should be watered when soil becomes dry and this must continue in dry spells at least to July, keeping an eye on them right up to picking around August. Pot grown figs will need additional water from May - October, daily in very hot weather.
FIGS AS FANS IN GREENHOUSE BORDERS
Allow 8'-15' 2.5-4.6m horizontally and 6'-10'/1.9-3m in height per plant. Root restriction is required. Construct a box of 2'/60cm square paving slabs 4' x 2'/120 cm x 60 cm against a wall or side of greenhouse, leaving 3” 8cm showing above ground. Put 9” 24 cm of rammed brick rubble in the bottom and fill up with good soil such as John Innes No 3. When planting loosen root ball carefully around the outside and plant 1-2"deeper than before. Water in well.
Pruning - treat as above fan training- the plant should be fan trained on horizontal wires 12” 30cm apart.
Feeding - treat as for Figs in Pots plus mulch with 3” 8cm of well-rotted FYM or garden compost at leaf fall and top dress in March with 2 oz per square yard (sq m) 'Growmore' or 'Blood, Fish and Bone' over the root area. Do not allow mulch or fertilizer to touch stem.