How to Grow Figs
One of the many reasons I was excited about moving to South Carolina, aka garden zone 8a, was so that I could grow my own figs. Homemade fig newtons and homemade fig jam/preserves are some of my favorite things.
There is nothing like eating a fresh fig right off the tree, either. Mmmmm…
Tragically, our 2.2 acres were so woefully mismanaged and overrun with garbage, shards of glass, poison ivy, thorns, and other invasive weeds, that it has taken a lot longer to clean up and transform our homestead and garden than I originally thought.
However, I’m cleaning up a section of the yard for our future orchard this month, and next spring, the first plant in my orchard will be a fig tree.
A bit of random info about growing figs…
**With soft, luscious fruit that is prized for preserves and fresh eating, it’s worth the work for this plant!
**Figs have been increasing in popularity, and there are many gourmet recipes available out there that use figs, so why not grow them yourself and show off at a future dinner party? My personal favorite combo is figs with goat cheese. <3
**With protection, figs can be grown in cooler climates. Choose the best varieties for your garden zone. I have seen fig tree varieties that are good even for zone 3!
**Limited space? You can grow figs in containers for your patio and bring them indoors during the winter (that helps with cold climate concerns, too). Make sure you use a large container. You might find these wheels (or a similar product) helpful for carting your plant inside and outside.
**Plant figs in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked after the last frost.
How to Grow Figs: Where to Place Fig Trees
**Place figs where they have plenty of room to achieve their final size. A space 15 feet wide and high is the minimum needed.
**Southern fig varieties do not need a pollinator, while California figs do need a pollinator. If you grow California varieties, then, you will need more than one. When purchasing a fig tree, make sure it is from a good quality garden website or local gardening store. Make sure they tell you if that fig tree variety is self-pollinating or if you need more than one.
**If you put a large fig tree variety in a small space, you will have to do heavy pruning, which can cause poor fruiting. So make sure you give your fig tree variety the space it needs from the very beginning so that you can get the BEST harvest possible.
**Fig trees need at least 8 hours of sunshine per day to ripen the fruit. In cold areas, plant figs on the south side of your house. Try to avoid early-morning and late-evening winter sunshine if you can.
How to Plant Fig Trees:
**Figs have a wide-ranging root system. Dig a hole at least 3 times as wide as the rootball.
**If you can more of a bush than a tree, begin training the plant to a bush form by cutting off the upper 1/3 of the fig at planting time. Doing this will force new sprouts to come out near the ground. When the new sprouts have grown 18 inches, cut off the tips to induce even more sprouting.
Proper Maintenance of a Fig Tree:
**Figs respond better than most fruit plants to regular applications of fertilizer. Spread some organic fertilizer, 8-8-8, are the preferred numbers, but I use this one without issue under the canopy of a well-established fig plant in March, May, and June. Use ½ the amount for younger plants. (By the way, if you know of a super safe, very organic fertilizer company, let me know in the comments! I’m always on the hunt for the most natural products).
**Regular watering during fruit swell (July through harvest) is important.
**Do not allow grass to grow under the plant because it will compete for available nutrients and water.
**If your figs grow vigorously but developed very few fruit, do not fertilize for six months.
**Avoid heavy pruning at all costs. It is better to prune monthly in the summer to avoid shocking the plant back into juvenile growth. Remove the tops of vertical sprouts when they are two feet long. Encourage horizontal branches since they will bear most of the fruit.
**Few insects and diseases affect figs. Birds are the most annoying pests. Some people grow figs tall and let the birds get the tall, hard-to-reach figs and the people can get the lower figs. The only real way to prevent loss of the crop is to cover the plants with netting (like this bird netting). Remove the netting immediately after fruiting.
**If you are having problems with ants, you can spread wood ash at the base of your fig tree to deter them from climbing your plants.
How to Grow Figs: Harvesting Time!
**Some fig tree varieties will give you TWO harvests of figs: in spring and fall. Most fig tree varieties, however, are ripe in early fall or late summer, usually in August around here in South Carolina. This will depend on your fig tree variety, your climate, and where you planted your fig tree.
**Unlike other fruits, figs will not continue to ripen when picked. You must pick figs only when they are perfectly ripe. Overripe figs are better than non-ripened figs, as overripe figs are very sweet and if you pick too early, the figs will be starchy-tasting.
**Figs come in many different colors and flavors, so it is difficult to go by color (especially in your first year of harvest) for when it is ripe. The best way of knowing when to pick a fig is how it hangs from the tree/bush and if it is soft. A ripe fig will hang/droop from the branch and will be soft when you squeeze it.
**Pull the fig from the base of the stem to avoid bruising your ripe fruit. Either eat them in the next few days (store in your refrigerator) or freeze or dry immediately.
So there you go! All the info I could find on how to grow figs. Do you grow figs? Are you planning on growing them in the future? Tell me your thoughts on figs in the comments below!
More Fruit Tree Tips:
Delicius Fig Recipes:
- Fig Avocado Salsa
- Fig Honey Jam
- How to Dehydrate Figs
- Homemade Fig Newtons
- Baked Figs with Goat Cheese
- Fig and Honey Snack Cake