Growing Figs in the Home Garden

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gby1707_3a_Black-Mission-fig_s4x3

'Black Mission' fig adapts to a number of soil types.

'Black Mission' fig adapts to a number of soil types.

Figs don't just come wrapped up inside a cookie. There are thousands of varieties of fig trees worldwide that grow in a wide range of growing conditions. Here are tips for growing them in the home garden:

"Figs are so adaptable; there are many types of figs for many different areas," says fig expert Ed Laivo. "Selecting the best varieties for your garden depends on where you live." 'Black Mission' and 'Black Jack' are popular selections that produce tasty fruit yet are very adaptable to a range of climates.

Arguably one of the easiest plants to grow in terms of general care, figs require soils that are neutral in pH, although they'll tolerate soils that are a bit higher in pH. However, they don't like overwatering and prefer well-draining soils. They don't require a lot of fertilization, especially if the soil is healthy.

Pruning figs

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gby1707_3e_fig-in-container_s4x3

Choose dwarf cultivars such as 'Violette de Bordeaux' for containers.

Choose dwarf cultivars such as 'Violette de Bordeaux' for containers.

Easy to prune, figs can be kept to any size you want and are excellent candidates for espalier. They are also ideal for containers, and Laivo recommends selecting dwarf cultivars, like 'Violette de Bordeaux', that are more suited for this limited growing space.

When pruning a fig to keep in a container, Laivo doesn't recommend making heading cuts where branches are completely lopped off. Instead make thinning cuts near the trunk of the tree. This discourages fungal disease and encourages fruit production by bringing sunlight and air flow into the center of the tree. Proper pruning keeps the height down which is especially helpful in an easy harvest.

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gby1707_3c_open-vs-closed-eye_s4x3

Fig types vary as to whether the eye is closed or open (on right).

Fig types vary as to whether the eye is closed or open (on right).

Closed eye vs. open eye

One of the most important things in growing figs is knowing whether a fruit has a closed eye or an open eye, shown here on the right. If there is going to be a problem with disease, such as souring, on a fig, the problem will most likely occur on the eye of the fruit. Souring is a problem in humid climates, and the eye can allow entry to various insects and diseases.

Picking ripe figs

It's helpful to understand what a ripe fig looks like as opposed to an unripe fig. A fig that isn't quite ripe is very firm and green. A ripe fig is more yellow in color and hangs much looser than an unripe fruit.

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