Growing & Caring for Hardy Figs
One of the most appealing things about living in the garden state is that we are presented with the unique opportunity to grow fruiting trees. Fig trees are especially neat, as they are not native to our area. However, with the proper care, they can and will thrive here!
Where and when can I plant my tree?
Figs are native to the fertile lands of the Mediterranean and parts of Southern Asia. Despite this, we can cultivate them right here in zone 7! The soil you choose to grow your tree in will dictate its success. The soil should ideally be loamy and full of nutrients, with a pH between 6-6.5. Be mindful to not plant your tree where its light will be blocked by other vegetation or structures.
You can plant your fig tree any time between May-September (try to avoid planting in July or August, as it may be too hot). Be sure to give it enough space to grow, and do not include it in cramped garden designs. If you’re planting several fig trees at one time, try to space them apart with at least 15 feet in between them.
What kind of care does my tree require?
Your fig will require supplemental nutrients in the form of fertilizer. We recommend using organic fertilizer and applying 1 lb of it for each year old the tree is (the maximum poundage is 12 lb, once this is reached apply the same amount every year). If you’re planting in loamy soil, apply half when the buds start to swell, and the other half in late May; if you’re planting in less ideal soil, apply the full amount when the buds start to swell.
You can harvest the fruit while it’s still green and just as soon as it begins to soften. Leave it out on the counter for a day or two to fully ripen, then stow in your refrigerator until you are ready to eat them!
You can prune your fig tree in late Winter if you so choose. Before the hard frosts begin to set in, be sure to wrap your tree(s) to protect them from the cold. You can use a combination of newspaper, burlap, muslin, or any other breathable fabric to keep your tree nice and toasty during the frigid Winter months. Some people even use Christmas lights in their wrapping process to afford the tree a little bit of extra heat. Be sure to apply extra mulch to the area above the roots when you’re wrapping your tree to keep them warm, too!
See here for a personal anecdote from our manager, Mike Azzolini:
My grandfather had a beautiful fig tree while I was growing up. It grew in our very small yard in Manhattan. Many of our neighbors also grew fig trees, too. During the harvest season, our neighborhood was flushed with ripe figs.
Every fall after the leaves fell, he would cut it back. Then, he would wrap it with whole newspapers and roofing paper and put a galvanized bucket on top. What a sight it was to look from yard to yard and see all these tin topped soldiers standing at attention.
After the last hard frost, he would unwrap his tree. We were gifted a bounty of delicious figs about Mid-summer.
The trick is to wrap it and keep it dry. Protect your fig from harsh winds. Add some extra mulch around the roots after wrapping. Once harvest time comes you can enjoy fig jams, preserves, and even Fig Newtons!
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