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fig guild

 
                                
Posts: 55
Location: Savannah, GA
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I recently planted two figs, then discovered the whole concept of guilds. So now I'm wondering what to plant with them. What do figs need? They don't need a lot of nitrogen (very low requirement). They don't need pollinators. I haven't seen any bugs on them. So probably they could use a ground cover to keep weeds away and some dynamic accumulators wouldn't hurt. Attracting some pollinators is always good for the garden as a whole and ditto with insectaries. So is anyone growing figs in a guild? Any specific suggestions for zone 9?

 
Lf London
Posts: 96
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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Fruiting eleagnus at a distance, mint, blueberries, lemonbalm, all within a lawn of clover, plantain, grass.

Just suggesting a nice landscape combination, no idea whether these work together synergistically.

The eleagnus would fix nitrogen, provide shade and wildlife habitat and fruit
The blueberries would form a nice random hedge and more fruit
The rest would make a nice diverse wild lawn with clumps of the herbs mixed with random volunteer clovers, the two common plantains (greater & rattlesnake) and grasses
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 714
Location: Zone 5
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I also recently acquired 2 baby fig frees.  I am in zone 6 so wish me luck.  I accidentally planted horseradish in the pot with one tree (meant to go in with cherry) and they are doing well. 

Horseradish is a repellant... even the dogs, horses, and chickens tend to leave those trees alone so I plan to divide HR when I can and put it all over.  I would like to know what you find but not all of what you can grow in zone 9 will grow in zone 6.

Please share what you know of figs in general.  I know little but I like them and they grow well in CA but not MO.
 
                                
Posts: 55
Location: Savannah, GA
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I, too am new to growing figs. I grew up in Los Angeles and a neighbor had a fig, so fresh figs have always been a favorite of mine. People who think they don't like figs have generally never tasted a tree ripened one fresh. Since I planted mine I've been doing a bunch of research, so I'll try to condense what I've learned.

Sexually, figs are kind of strange. Male and female flowers are on different plants. The "fruit" is actually a flower cluster with a thick meaty surround. The little hole on the bottom is where tiny wasps would get in to pollinate the flowers so the seeds would be fertile. Male trees have similar structures that hold male flowers and the wasps actually live inside them! The figs we generally plant are female plants that hold on to their flowers even when they are not pollinated, so they don't need male plants and they don't need pollination at all. These plants are propagated by cuttings. There is another kind of fig that is cultivated called Smyrna or Calimyrna where the females don't hold on to their flowers if they are not pollinated. These need male trees (with wasps) and a climate like California's. These are the figs with lots of crunchy (pollinated) seeds. For lots more information and tons of varieties see www.treesofjoy.com

In warmer climates they are evergreen and grow larger every year. Fruit occurs on last year's growth. In colder climates they may freeze to the ground but the more vigorous varieties can grow fast enough to make a crop later that year. They are not bothered by many pests and don't need a lot of nitrogen. Like the rest of the fig family, they have a large, vigorous root structure that can invade pipes, so be careful where you plant them. They can be trained as trees or as bushes. Trees are hard to maintain in colder climates and its easier to reach the fruits on bushes. They grow to about 15 feet in height and width if not frozen, varying by variety.

From my own observations - one of my recently planted figs already has a fruit on it. Mine are planted on the west side of the neighbor's concrete block garage (painted white) about 5 feet out from the wall and about 10 feet apart. They get full sun from about 10 am on in the summer. The more vigorous one (Brown Turkey) will get some shade in the winter from trees that are on the lot of the neighbor to the south. I put a deep mulch next to the wall a few weeks after they were planted and they have not wilted in the afternoon since I did that, even in 100+ degrees F. The mulch is essentially partly decomposed compost with mostly leaves, some twigs and branches, vegetable scraps and sod I removed when I planted the figs. It started out over a foot deep and has now settled down to about 4 to 6 inches. This goes out from the wall about 3 feet then there is large chunk pine bark mulch, then fine bark mulch right around the figs. More large pine bark is in front of the figs up to about 5 feet in front of them. They look kind of dwarfed in this bed currently, but they should eventually grow to almost fill it up. Right now I have some flower bulbs between them and some fibrous begonias in front of them because these plants would have been in the way when we replace the fence on the south side of the yard. It's an urban lot with poor depleted soil that I'm just starting to improve and plant, so mostly I'm looking for smaller plants to go along with the figs.
 
                                
Posts: 55
Location: Savannah, GA
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Anybody have any idea if horseradish would repel squirrels? So far the birds and squirrels have left the figs alone, but other things I'm planning on planting probably won't be so lucky. I'll plant stuff for the birds and squirrels, but some things I want mostly for me.
 
Neal McSpadden
Posts: 269
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Just as a note, there are two general types of figs.  The male/female type is what CBostic was talking about.  If you live in an area without those tiny wasps, you need to get the self-fertile kind, like my brown turkey fig.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Around my figs (within touching distance of the end of the branches) I have:  trailing thornless blackberries on a 4' high fence, a European pear, Cabernet grape on a 7' fence, a lemon verbena that comes back each year and bush cherries dotted around the perimeter.  I use up any open space on the perimeter with herbs (fennel and dill mainly, but some garlic and greens such as miners lettuce), but this is being reduced each year.  I don't do any groundcovers under the figs except for pine straw mulch.  The shade is very deep during the growing season and the figs have VERY aggressive roots.

I tend to keep the figs pruned to ~ 8 feet high with each tree having ~ 10-12 main branches.  production has been great since year 3 and these trees are ~ 8-9 years old.  Haven't had to add any outside fertilizer for years to any of these plants (just occasional compost/sheet mulch under the pine straw).
 
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