How to Grow Figs – REGENERATIVE.com

How to Grow Figs

While you can buy dried figs all year round, they are a very different proposition to fresh figs, particularly those that you have grown yourself. While dried figs have a uniform texture and a necessarily dry (although still flavorful) taste, fresh figs have a bit more going on to intrigue the palate. The skin is smooth, but then gives way to chewy, sweet flesh, with the crunchy seeds giving a final surprise in the middle. Not only that, fresh figs are also nutritious, giving you a good dose of fiber, potassium and calcium. The other good news when it comes to cultivating your own figs on your permaculture plot is that the leaves of the plants can also be used in the kitchen, which makes the fig tree very amenable to the permaculture principle of maximizing yield from the elements of a site.

Some gardeners can be put off cultivating their own fig trees, as they fear they may lack the warm temperatures that help to ensure a bountiful harvest. But as permaculturists we can manipulate the microclimate around the fig tree to help ensure a good setting of fruit. And in fact, figs will grow in most locations – in garden beds and in containers – as long as they are protected from strong, cold winds and too much direct winter sunlight (although they need direct summer sunlight), which can cause them to grow before spring and potentially suffer damage when a winter frost or snowfall settles.

Variety
There are lots of different varieties of fig that the permaculture gardener could choose to cultivate, and their choice will typically hinge on the sort of climate that the plot experiences. For example, the Brown Turkey variety is a good all-rounder, capable of being grown in beds or in containers, and renowned for producing heavy crops of fruit. The Osbourne Prolific variety, as evidenced by its name, shares this tendency for profusion, but is more suited to warmer temperate and even tropical climates. In contrast, the Hardwick is a hardy variety and can be grown in most locations as long as it’s protected from early winter frosts.

Position
Place your figs trees in a location that gets full summer sunlight. Planting beside a fence or wall, or even close to a line of taller trees, that allow this access to summer heat will also serve to shade the figs from the winter sunlight that is not required and can potentially inhibit growth. Such a structure should also protect the trees from damage by wind. If growing in containers, you can move the trees around to take advantage of the sun’s position during summer, and can relocate them to a greenhouse or conservatory in winter to protect them.

Soil
Figs need soil that drains well. While they can be thirsty, they do not thrive if the soil becomes waterlogged. Adding organic matter to the soil will help improve the drainage and also add nutrients that they fig will use to grow. However, avoid having too much nitrogen in the soil as this can inhibit growth. The ideal pH of the soil for growing figs is between 6 and 6.5.

Planting
Being deciduous, figs are best planted in the garden in winter. Typically you will plant juvenile trees that are sourced from an organic supplier. If growing from seed, start the seeds off in pots in a greenhouse or conservatory over the summer and fall before planting out in the garden. Fig trees can grow up to 3 meters tall and develop a broad canopy, so give them plenty of room. You can prune your figs to restrict their growth and fit them into a smaller space. Figs can also be trained to grow on trellises if you are short on space. If left unencumbered, figs will develop extensive root systems. This can mean competition with other plants species for soil moisture and nutrients, and mean that energy is diverted from fruit production to root growth, giving you a leaner harvest. When planting your fig trees, line the sides of the hole with recycled concrete slabs to encourage deep rather than broad root development.

Water
Water the figs well during the summer months, preferably with harvested rainwater. You don’t need to water so much during winter, and can set straw or woodchip mulch around the trees to preserve soil moisture and protect from ground freeze. Remove the mulch in the spring when the chance of frost has receded and fertilize with organic matter to give new growth a kick-start.

Harvest
Once established and mature, most fig varieties produce two crops. The first develops on the previous year’s growth of wood and ripens in the summer. The second crop sets on new branches and ripens in the fall. Figs stop ripening once they are picked from the tree, so you want to ensure that they are ready to eat before harvesting. The fruit should feel soft and the skin seem almost at the point of bursting. You want to pick fruit before the skin actually does split, as this will cause the flesh to take on a sour taste. Harvest early in the morning by pulling gently at the stem end.

Once picked figs are best used immediately, but you can store fresh figs for a few days in the refrigerator if you are not ready to use them grow figsstraight away. Place the fruit in a single layer in the coldest part of the fridge. Do not store them in proximity to vegetables as, like many fruit species, after harvesting figs release ethylene gas which can cause vegetables to spoil, so perhaps use the crisper drawer at the base of the fridge for your figs – this also protects them from fluctuations in temperature caused by the refrigerator door opening and closing.

Propagation
If you have one or more fig trees that have provided you with a plentiful harvest of tasty fruit, you may wish to propagate those trees. Figs are relatively easy to propagate from cuttings taken from successful mature specimens. You want to take a hardwood cutting of around thirty to forty centimeters in length. Plant, with about half the cutting in the soil, using the same criteria of position and soil as above, in winter, remembering to leave enough space for the mature tree to grow into.

61 comments

Fresno used to be surrounded in fig orchards…went the way of housing…made me very sad.

what zones can they be grwon in?

My gardener’s dream!

Big question: How do you keep the birds from decimating your fig crop?

Phil Lake

Grow a fig tree in your yard and find out .

Figs are also on a very short list of foods (the other one I know is grapefruit) which contain the components our bodies use to manufacture serotonin. Happy food!

And if you have trouble crapping, figs are the shit.

Ewwww I had a um

Figs are so good.

Fig trees were in several of the places we visited in Israel. The ripe ones were so delicious, like candy. I wonder if they would grow in Missouri ??

Simona

Merrijo, it depends on variety – I live in Vancouver BC area, and the city has many fig trees; seems like lot of the older developments have a fig tree in every second garden here, and they do very well 🙂

love fresh figs – in season, I have yet to see organic fresh figs… anyone seen them available in season?

Wendy, I believe you’d have to grow them in containers, and bring them in in the winter. They go dormant so they can take freezing, but not too far below.

I have yet to see any kind of fresh figs. When do they arrive in the stores?

Bernadette Mann plant a fig tree where the pepper tree was

i have a baby fig tree in my greenhouse right now 🙂

My grandparents lived in south Louisiana and had a fig tree in the backyard for many years. They told us not to eat the figs raw or we’d get a blistered tongue. I believed them. My brothers and cousins didn’t. The brothers and cousins were right. 😛 I’m pretty sure my grandmother was trying to make sure there’d be enough figs left to make her fig preserves!

sometimes it will give you a blistered tongue

I love fig trees!!!

‘Chicago Hardy’ does well in KY; however, these much colder winters have forced us to relocate our 1-2 year old trees to the high tunnel for additional protection and long term production. There is nothing like a just picked fig.

love figs one of my favorite

helen

see no mention above on how you’d use the fig leaves in the kitchen…

Cormac Barry

ya dirty divish

One of my favorite plant and fruit!:-)

igrow three kinds in zone 7b

Who doesn’t?

I planted one last year

Yes. I got a root from a tree and it grew very well.

Yes in a big pot in Brisbane, Australia

Just got a small potted fig tree this fall. Hoping for some fruit here in Michigan next summer.

Yes. Just love figs but have to be careful as they don’t always love me.

yep, everywhere…lol

Even Alaska?

I harvest figs every year from a tree that I carefully move inside at the first hint of frost.

how to grow figs….. live in a warmer climate.

I agree Adam. Just plant the tree in Alabaster, Alabama and sit back and relax. However, we did lose the top half of our tree last winter when it was in the teens several days in a row.

Ours are near the grapes in the produce aisle

Have successfully grown and harvested Brown Turkey Figs in NE PA for years…….overwintering is work, but it can be done. Much easier in zones 6-and south.

what do you do with the leaves??

Yes in a big pot in Toronto, canada. We have to over- winter them indoors here.

Have one in my living room. here in Ontario Canada. Just a young one but got over 50 figs last time!

No, because they’re gross and I wouldn’t eat them anyway.. rather have broccoli

I L-O-V-E figs (oh, and dates too!

I had a landlady, Maria Girimonte, who grew nice figs on trees in her backyard in the shadow of he Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, ON. She didn’t do any special procedures but the climate there is the ‘sunparlour of Canada, where even prickley pear can grow.

We cut ours down because of the rats. Alas. Living in the city…

My cat eats them.

svanessa

Seeds are not the way to go to get a tree. Depending on if the caprifig, male fig, is persistent or not you will end up with mostly male trees, Inedible, or Smyrna varieties which require pollination. Whoever wrote this article doesn’t know much about figs.

For backyard figs you want a common fig, doesn’t need pollination like the Smyrna, or a San Predo variety. This variety is recommended for northern areas as most are not hot enough, long enough to ripen the main crop. You can get a good breba crop though. Best San Pedors are desert king, lamperia, and Gillette (sp?).

The leaves of the fig make a very healthy tea. Dry the leaves, crush and steep.

The leaves are also used in place of rennet in making cheese.

The young leaves can be used like grape leaves in making dolma.

The leaves can be used to cook food in like banana leaves. Wrap your fish in them, tie and bake, etc.

Anonymous

I’m in Spain but don’t have a garden. What container would I need to grow a small fig?
Thanks.

Abbi Webber

Rachel Guim

Thank you!!

April Harper

Craig Spicer

Oh I love figs

Mandy Kirwan

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