Twig Newton: How to Grow a Fig Tree
Gorgeous fig trees yielding juicy, exotic fruit are surprisingly easy to grow and can even thrive in colder climates. Here are some things to keep in mind while selecting, planting and caring for your fig tree:
- Pick the right variety for your yard and climate. Some varieties, like Chicago Hardy, are meant to grow in colder regions, and a dwarf fig tree that you can grow in a container allows you to move the trees indoors for protection during the winter.
- Choose a sunny, warm spot to plant. Southern exposure is ideal. Planting alongside a brick or stone structure provides protection from the elements as well as extra warmth.
- Give them space. Because fig trees are self-fertilizing, you’ll only need one tree to get fruit. If you do plant more than one fig tree, space them out by at least ten feet. Keep in mind that fig trees will spread and provide thick shade, and have tough roots that can damage sewer pipes and other underground systems.
- Don’t over-water or over-fertilize. Fig trees do well in dry weather, and the fruit will be tastier if they aren’t over-watered. Using too much fertilizer can also lead to weaker fruit crops. Water every couple of weeks during a dry spell. If your tree’s leaves begin to turn yellow, it probably needs more water.
- Protect the tree from cold. Fig trees are meant to thrive in a Mediterranean climate, and may have a hard time surviving cold weather. Protect them during harsh winter months by covering the base of the tree with leaves or hay, and wrapping the branches with blankets, carpet padding or another warm protective layer. Finish with a plastic bag, bubble wrap, burlap or a tarp secured with rope. If your tree is in a container, bring it inside before the first frost and wait until the ground is warm to move it back outside.
- Time your harvest carefully. After about two years, you may see your first crop of figs. You’ll know the figs are ready for harvest when they droop, soften and change color completely. Figs will not ripen off the vine, so be sure to give them enough time before you pick!
Ready to get started? For a step-by-step guide to getting that fig tree in the ground, check out this tutorial on DIY Network!