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Fig leaves yellowing - PDX

 
Chris Holcombe
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Location: Zone 8b Portland
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Hey everyone! 

I planted 4 figs into my front lawn when I moved to PDX and they seemed fine the first summer but now during the second summer their leaves are turning yellow and dropping.  We have dry summers here and I've been watering them about 1 gallon per week.  The soil ( if you can call it that ) I planted them in was extremely low in organic matter.  I've been mulching around their base with black locust branches and some compost but it doesn't seem to be helping.  I remember in Philly when I planted figs they just took off like rockets.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.  I haven't seen any gopher holes around them.  I suspected that.  I can post pictures if anyone finds that helpful.
 
Amit Enventres
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Pics would definitely be helpful. Also, you say you are watering once a week, but before you water do you dig into the soil and see how wet/dry it is? Also, what do the leaves look like before they fall off? Do they start yellowing from the leaf veins, tips, or between the veins? Is there browning on the leaf tip? Young leaves or old leaves first? All these can indicate a nutrient deficiency which may or may not be linked to watering or pH. Also, figs are also deciduous. Although it is real early for leaf-drop, did something else change in their lives, like they got shaded and got a cooler of ice dumped on them?
 
Chris Holcombe
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Location: Zone 8b Portland
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You're probably right and it's a nutrient deficiency. It's the older leaves that are going yellow and dropping. The last picture I took is the one fig that's doing fine. I planted it in deep mulch were a shrub used to be that I cut down. I think the former owners either never mulched the lawn or chemically fertilized it. When I dig down the soil is dry and dusty. No real organic matter to speak of. I thought it would be fine since figs have low nutrient requirements.  Guess I was wrong
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Chris Holcombe
Posts: 97
Location: Zone 8b Portland
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Close up shots
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Tyler Ludens
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1 gallon of water per tree per week is nothing like enough, in my opinion.  Leaf drop is likely due to not enough water, I think.

 
Chris Holcombe
Posts: 97
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Thanks Tyler! I'll step it up and see how they respond.
 
Amit Enventres
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To me the biggest hint was you dug down and it was dry. Nutrients become less available when there is not enough water. Similarly, nutrients become less available if the soil is totally flooded. If you are watering with a bucket or hose, you may be putting on enough, but it might be running off either on the surface or under a few inches of debris. let a hose set to a nice leaky rate set on each of those trees for like 8 hours or something and see what happens. Continue checking the soil moisture by sticking a shovel in the ground or even a metal rod. If you have a fair amount of clay in your soil, you can feel where the soil dries out by the fact that it becomes impenetrable. Good luck! Let us know how it goes
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Like Amit says, you need to water figs deeply, once a week when there isn't enough rain fall to do the job.
In great, water retaining soil 5 gal. per watering would be a minimum amount. (my soil has been amended to a 2.5 foot depth and is 10% humus with mycorrhizal fungi and microorganisms)

The yellowing leaves usually mean you need manganese and magnesium at the least. Green sand and Epsom salts are a great start to correcting these defects.
When I water my fig trees I use a leaky hose setup and let it run for two hours, the hose circles a tree two times, once near the trunk(s) and one round closer to the drip line.
This setup puts around 5 - 7 gal per hour on each tree, water penetrates down three feet (I have a1/2" pipe sunk at the drip line for each tree in the orchard, a wood "dip stick" is inserted to check water depth).
My set up attaches the leaky pipes from all three figs together with regular hoses so I can water them all at one time.

I usually give the figs a half cup of Epsom salts in the spring, I also put down a half cup of Sea-90 each spring, about two weeks after the Epsom salts.
 
Julia Winter
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Portland's Friends of Trees - http://www.friendsoftrees.org is having a sale on their "ooze tubes."  These hold 15 gallons of water and will drip it out slowly.  Usually they cost $20, right now they are $18.

On their website they also have pictures of 5 gallon buckets being used to water trees - you can get those cheap at a hardware store, or often free at a bakery or grocery store.  I think you'd just make a couple of holes with a nail and then set it by the tree.  If it takes too long to empty, add more holes!
 
Alex Ames
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At that stage of growth, I recommend doing nothing. It has to get established and there may be some troubles it needs to struggle through but a fig should be good to go without a lot of nursing.
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Joseph Lofthouse
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Some of the weeds in the photo are crispy dry, even right next to the figs. So I agree with other's assessment that they need more water.  Also, fall is soon upon us, so this time of year I pay less attention to things like yellowing leaves.

If the diameter of the root ball is 3 feet, and you want to apply one inch of water per week to that area, the math works out to 4.4 gallons per week. An inch of water per week happens to be the design criteria for my community's irrigation system. When the trees are a bit bigger, and the root ball expands to 6 feet in diameter, it would require 18 gallons weekly to reach an inch/week.



 
Amit Enventres
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Location: Ohio, USA
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Alex,

Although figs tend to be pretty hardy and vigorous, in their natural environment they are usually found along stream corridors, and although the streams may dry up in the summer, there's usually under-ground water that continues to flow or at least keep them moist. Leaf-drop may also be a defense against completely dying where the plant might survive and come back at the next rain, but it will miss out on a lot of growth (most plants have a sort of shut-down prior to death stage). Rather, I would think that to increase the plant's vigor and reduce it's reliance on watering consider: shallow waterings result in shallow roots; deep waterings draw the roots downward, making them more hardy for future drought times because they can reach water deeper in the soil.
 
Alex Ames
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Amit Enventres wrote:Alex,

Although figs tend to be pretty hardy and vigorous, in their natural environment they are usually found along stream corridors, and although the streams may dry up in the summer, there's usually under-ground water that continues to flow or at least keep them moist. Leaf-drop may also be a defense against completely dying where the plant might survive and come back at the next rain, but it will miss out on a lot of growth (most plants have a sort of shut-down prior to death stage). Rather, I would think that to increase the plant's vigor and reduce it's reliance on watering consider: shallow waterings result in shallow roots; deep waterings draw the roots downward, making them more hardy for future drought times because they can reach water deeper in the soil.
o


I have always associated dates and figs with arid places. The food of nomads. They were very good in Morocco where I lived for a time.
 
Deb Rebel
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I have potted sycamore figs and have one plant yellowing also, either too much or not enough water is my guess. The Epsom salts, how much per gallon of water, it couldn't hurt to give them a feed/water of that too, I guess.

They are being kept in bonsai mix which is low organic and fast draining but I recently upped the amount of water and regularity of watering and one tree is yellowing and one isn't....
 
Paul Gordon
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Location: San Marcos, CA
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I don't know about the rest of the country, but my figs in Southern California are Deciduous.  The leaves your are showing look exactly like mine when they are ready to "Fall" off and go dormant.  In my case, I would just have a HUGE job ahead of me gathering leaves to compost... not sure about other parts of the country.  In my opinion, there is nothing to worry about... its just that time of year!

:  )

Tall Paul
 
Paul Gordon
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Also... of all my 70 different types of fruit trees... my "Negronne" fig is a "Set it and FORGET IT" tree!  I get HUNDREDS of DELICIOUS figs every season and never fertilize it or anything.  It might be best just to leave it alone and let Mother Nature take care of it  just like in the wild. 

Same with my tomatoes... I leave them alone... I don't fuss with them and they THRIVE!  (They are set on a timer for regular watering on a drip, but no fussing with all the typical things people like to busy themselves with regarding tomatoes.  I get HUNDREDS of tomatoes every season... the more I pick the more I get (on determinant varieties!)
 
M. Shiraz Kaleel
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Chris Holcombe wrote:Hey everyone! 

I planted 4 figs into my front lawn when I moved to PDX and they seemed fine the first summer but now during the second summer their leaves are turning yellow and dropping.  We have dry summers here and I've been watering them about 1 gallon per week.  The soil ( if you can call it that ) I planted them in was extremely low in organic matter.  I've been mulching around their base with black locust branches and some compost but it doesn't seem to be helping.  I remember in Philly when I planted figs they just took off like rockets.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.  I haven't seen any gopher holes around them.  I suspected that.  I can post pictures if anyone finds that helpful.


Sometimes yellowing leaves can be cured by ameliorating the soil with (a solution of) some Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts). In some other cases it might need some Nitrate fertilizer - eg bat guano...
 
Deb Rebel
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M. Shiraz Kaleel wrote:

Sometimes yellowing leaves can be cured by ameliorating the soil with (a solution of) some Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts). In some other cases it might need some Nitrate fertilizer - eg bat guano...


Epsom salts at what strength? I am having yellowing leaves and a serious leaf-fall on my sycamore figs right now. Poor little half nude trees.... they are kept indoors with 6500k spectrum lighting and on a timer.
 
Deb Rebel
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@ M. Shiraz Kaleel, thank you. I have never kept ficus before and I do hope this helps.
 
Amit Enventres
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So, a few things on some of the ideas here:

-Fig leaves falling off can be because of several reasons. They are deciduous so, yes- they will eventually yellow and fall off. So will sycamore leaves. That's why I asked about shading in my original reply. That's normal. The reason they turn colors when they fall off is because all mobile nutrients are moved to places the plant can store them without up-taking them again. The minerals left in the leave have to wait for the leaf to decompose and then they will get taken up again. This is why it is important to leave mulch around a deciduous tree.

Now, because the veins of plants (like in humans) use a water-based solution to transport nutrients, those nutrients that are water soluble are generally more mobile. That's the reason a magnesium deficiency will look a lot like leaf-drop time.

Back to the mode of transportation being mainly water: if there is not enough water in the soil, the plant will not be able to extract water-soluble minerals. This makes the plant look like it has a magnesium deficiency or it is time for it to drop it's leaves.

Another thing to consider is pH: certain mineral deficiencies will show up if the pH of the soil is wrong because the nutrients dissolve less. (https://planetpermaculture.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/ph-chart-showing-nutrient-availability/) So, like in your stomach, if you don't have enough acid, you cannot extract calcium, no matter how many sea shells you eat because CaCO is not readily available to your body for extraction but: calcium carbonate + hydrochloric acid -> Carbon dioxide + Water+ Calcium Chloride = you get calcium.

So what this means is leaf drop looks like a magnesium deficiency which looks like dehydration which looks like low pH. How do you tell the difference? Other observations. Is the soil bone dry? Well, then that's probably it (which is what Chris said was happening). If it wasn't August, but mid September or later, then leaf drop might be a cause, but I'm in Ohio and my little figgy is all green and smiley). If the soil was all wet and it rained a lot (which means mobile nutrients are more likely to wash away, then a magnesium deficiency or pH issue might be worth checking into. pH can be checked with a little $15 chemistry kit and magnesium deficiency is pretty easy to test by adding some and seeing if the leaves green up within the next 24 hours (for foliar, it might be immediate). As for how much, I usually add a table spoon to a gallon water jug and foliar apply, then give it a few days (watering my normal schedule to insure I avoid salt damage) and if I see some improvement, but not enough, I'll repeat the process every few days until I get the results I want. Note that Epsom salt is a salt, which means if the reason for the issue is dehydration, you'll make your tree sicker.

Good luck!

 
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