Fig trees? Yes, Fig Trees. Found around the world from northern to southern hemispheres. The fig is a Subtropical tree most of the time. The fruit is actually an inverted flower so you're eating a flower, not a fruit. There are two types of figs: the self fruiting type and those that require pollination. Fruiting season ranges from May through December depending on variety and season. Most figs will set two crops of figs. The first crop is called Breba or first crop, then the primary set. The Breba is a lower set of fruit on last year's growth and is large in size and early in the season. The Main crop is more plentiful, smaller and very flavorful. The figs can range from small to as large as small pears. Colors can range from red, black, brown, violet, green and yellow to anywhere in between. Flavors can range from juicy sweet to dry sweet. We grow over 125 varieties and have over 250 trees in production in our greenhouses in Rome.
We started with buying trees many years ago. A few years ago we bought our trees from a local chain store selling them during the summer. That year I started to propagate a few in the greenhouse during the winter. After a few trials I figured out how to do them and do them with great success. In 2015 we propagated over 1500 cuttings and had a 75% survival rate. We sold over 450 trees and 300+ rooted cuttings. We also started doing what is called air layering, where we take a growing tree and root a branch while it is attached to tree. This has a 90% take rate. We also have done fresh cuttings pre-rooted in water and then finished in plugs. The water must be changed every other day and cuttings need to be rinsed off to keep algae from growing in the water.
We like using Promix BX with Bio fungicide, Mycrosis which works with the roots to start plant growth and ensure the tree lives and produces well. We start trees in a 21 count plug tray or about a 2.5” plug, then move them up to 4.5” pots. From there we go up to 1 gal, 3 gal, 7 gal and 15 gal pots. When potting into large pots we need to watch for soil moisture and be careful about over-watering as root rot can occur. We like keeping our trees on the moist side and they prefer this.
Figs do need fertilizer. In the ground they don't require much, however in a container they require fertilizer. We like using Jacks General Purpose 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer. We feed our trees at every watering during production at the rate of 200-300 PPM nitrogen. This pushes growth and production very well. The faster and taller the tree grows, the more fruit it sets. We grow for production and growth. We also use an Osmocote fertilizer with micro nutrients. We even use micro nutrient folliar spray during the season as fruit set is better. A tree should grow at least 5-7' per season.
Since we're in a greenhouse we are restricted to what we can use, and must follow chemicals for greenhouse use only. We use SubDue Maxx for systemic root rot control and other water problems. We also use Admire Pro once a year during the dormant time prior to leaf bud and or before fig set, observing a 45day PHI. We also use, only if needed, insecticides or miticides for greenhouse.
Fruits first start setting in March and these are the breba crop. About 100 days later they are ready to eat. The main crop sets in May as the breba crops are growing; these too take 100 day or so to ripen. Figs are day length and degree day dependent as far as ripening.
Figs become enlarged and soft to the touch as they ripen. They should fall off into your hand when lifted from the branch; they are then ready to enjoy. The average fruit set can be from 20-300 figs per tree depending on variety and growing season.
Fig trees go dormant during the winter months, sometime in December. Once they go dormant we then prune them back to induce a better crop the next year. Pruning is good for the tree as they produce better on new growth and it also allows the roots not to become root bound. We traditionally cut ½ of the new growth back each year. We then take the prunings and turn them into cuttings to root during the winter. We cut at a 45 degree angle, the same as you would for any fruit tree.