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5-6 year old fig tree w horrible inedible figs... does it need a pollinator tree, graft, or replace?  RSS feed

 
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Hello! any assistance will be greatly appreciated. We bought this tree four years ago from a local nursery in a 5-gallon pot. It gets full sunlight and plenty of water & some manure fertilizer, in Los Angeles, California. The figs are abominable! The first couple years we got a few figs  that were no good but we thought oh well they’ll get better next year. This year the tree is much larger and it had a sizable crop - and all the figs are bad tasting/dry texture. Otherwise, they look healthy and the size is normal.
We have a brown type fig tree that produces beautifully and were hoping for white figs also. I can't figure out what to do based on online research as most fig "experts" seem to have fragmentary information.
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pollinator
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I'm not an expert but the figs in the pictures look immature to me. How easy were they to harvest? What is the texture like? In my limited experience the figs need to be almost falling off the tree before they are all they are cracked up to be
 
Ernest Kestone
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stephen lowe wrote:I'm not an expert but the figs in the pictures look immature to me. How easy were they to harvest? What is the texture like? In my limited experience the figs need to be almost falling off the tree before they are all they are cracked up to be



Hi, thank you. Undoubtedly, they are as ripe as they’re going to be. They are droopy and soft. Even if they were green the flavor is abominable, unlike the brown figs that we have that taste ok even when green, just not as sweet.

I hope someone can figure it out!
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Some kinds of figs need to be pollinated by a specific kind of fig wasp. If you aren’t in a traditional fig growing area, you might not have them. Not sure if an unpollinated fig can develop that far.  My Hardy Chicago doesn’t need a pollinator.

Is this the first year?

There are some species of fig trees that aren’t usually grown for the fruit because it’s very poor quality.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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This might be helpful. https://www.gardenguides.com/130652-pollination-fig-trees.html
 
Ernest Kestone
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Ken W Wilson wrote:Some kinds of figs need to be pollinated by a specific kind of fig wasp. If you aren’t in a traditional fig growing area, you might not have them. Not sure if an unpollinated fig can develop that far.  My Hardy Chicago doesn’t need a pollinator.

Is this the first year?

There are some species of fig trees that aren’t usually grown for the fruit because it’s very poor quality.


It’s the 5th year. The tree is pretty good size.

If you’re right about needing the pollinator wasps then grafting or pulling it out and replacing it would be the only options. We’ll see if anyone else is able to guess what’s happening, thank you
 
pollinator
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Obviously, that fig is being pollinated, otherwise you wouldn't have such a nice big lovely looking fruit.  That's not the problem.  The tree itself looks really healthy and lush.  My guess is that you got a bummer plant from the store.

I've got 3 figs and they all do well.  We live in the same region.  

If you chop it down and start over, I'd go with the variety: Improved Brown Turkey.  It grows well in our area, it fruits generously, and it tastes wonderful.  If you want that real "figgy" tasting fig, the classic Black Mission Fig is the one to get.  If you want something sweet, Kadota is a good variety -- almost like honey, it's so sweet.  Personally, I don't like figs that are cloyingly sweet.  Brown Turkey meets somewhere in the middle --- not too sweet, and not too figgy.  It's a great fig to eat fresh, to dry, or to cook with.

Figs are cheap.  And they are super easy to propagate, if you want to get a cutting from someone.  So if you don't want to buy one from a nursery, you can grow one yourself.  My advise: buy one from Armstrongs.  If it's bad, they'll take it back.

Best of luck.
 
Ernest Kestone
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Marco Banks wrote:Obviously, that fig is being pollinated, otherwise you wouldn't have such a nice big lovely looking fruit.  That's not the problem.  The tree itself looks really healthy and lush.  My guess is that you got a bummer plant from the store.

I've got 3 figs and they all do well.  We live in the same region.  

If you chop it down and start over, I'd go with the variety: Improved Brown Turkey.  It grows well in our area, it fruits generously, and it tastes wonderful.  If you want that real "figgy" tasting fig, the classic Black Mission Fig is the one to get.  If you want something sweet, Kadota is a good variety -- almost like honey, it's so sweet.  Personally, I don't like figs that are cloyingly sweet.  Brown Turkey meets somewhere in the middle --- not too sweet, and not too figgy.  It's a great fig to eat fresh, to dry, or to cook with.

Figs are cheap.  And they are super easy to propagate, if you want to get a cutting from someone.  So if you don't want to buy one from a nursery, you can grow one yourself.  My advise: buy one from Armstrongs.  If it's bad, they'll take it back.

Best of luck.




Thank you, the first part I was thinking myself - I believe this local nursery propagated it on site like they do hundreds of other plants (they pointed to a large fig tree they have and said it was taken from it). The only problem is, they're not fig specialists. It's not like propagating an ornamental plant. It has to give fruit, and the fruit has to taste good. On the other hand, I would imagine Armstrong probably buys from a wholesale nursery that produces large numbers and knows what they're doing.


If it really is the tree that's bad, I'm leaning towards saving the established root system and big trunk, by grafting onto it. I could buy two or three varieties and graft onto the main branches. It will probably fruit much earlier and heavier that way. I'll keep you posted!
 
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Any chance it is a male tree?
 
gardener
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I didn't even know there were male and female fig trees. Google gives this article https://www.hunker.com/12001620/how-to-identify-the-male-fig-tree-plant which tells how to identify if it is a male tree. It certainly sounds like the taste of a male fig would match what you're describing Ernest.

I'm impressed on your thought to graft more desirable figs to the well established root stock. What a great way to turn a problem into an solution. I wonder (assuming you determine this is actually a male tree) if you might want to keep a couple of the original branches for pollinating the other varieties. I don't know if figs are like other fruit trees that produce better when their fruits have multiple parents.
 
Panagiotis Panagiotou
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You can also tie up the male figs in a collar and wrap it around the female tree . You pass the thred/rope  inside the fig male fruit making a  fig collar. It will help the pollination
In the old days in Greece some people were doing such practices and even some were making these fig collars and were selling it to the farmers market.
 
gardener
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Lots of good ideas to check have been brought up by folks. Do check to see if it is a male tree, (I'd do that first off).

Ripe figs fall into your hand when you go to pluck them.
Softness is not always a sign of ripeness (but usually it is) it can also be a sign of infestation by bacteria or a fungus, but those are usually evident when cut open.

The interior of the figs in the photos look like there is a soil issue, either missing nutrients from a lack of microbiome organisms including a lack of mycorrhizae in the rhizosphere (around the root zone).
It is quite possible that some mycorrhizae injected into the root zone will make those deficient minerals available to the tree and thus improve the fruits.

If it does turn out to be a male tree, I'd just get a female to go with it or graft some female buds or branches.
 
Ernest Kestone
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UPDATE April 16, 2019

I joined a local gardening club, actually the California Rare Fruit Growers, CRFG.org Anyway, I went to the annual scion exchange and got fig cuttings to graft to this tree.

Even though I am a newbie, nearly all the grafts have taken! So it looks like I’ll have my wish to change over the tree completely to two varieties, yellow long neck, and white Greek.

I enclose two pictures, the whole tree - now around 4 foot high, spreading about 6 feet. The other picture shows one of the grafts sprouting out of the parafilm wrapping, protected from the sun by a paper shroud - growing nicely.

I believe this was a faster path to a good size crop of figs.  

Probably in a year I’ll be posting pictures of figs. I’ll let you know!
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pollinator
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Thanks for both the update and the pics.  

Did you ever figure out what the issue was?
 
pollinator
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I wonder if they are using a rootstock that is more vigorous for the climate and instead of getting something that was grafted on, it was actually from the rootstock. This wouldn't necessarily be a cultivar that was valued for its fruit.
 
pollinator
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Do nurseries graft figs? As easy as they root....
 
Dale Hodgins
pollinator
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You know, I have never planted a fig from a nursery. I have bought apples and cherries and other things that were grafted. And he mentioned grafting new bits on. But that's probably not how his original tree was created, since fig send up so many suckers that can be rooted.

Figs that have been water-stressed can turn out shity, even if they're given adequate water later. But I wouldn't expect that to happen on a multi-year basis. I've seen inadequate light do it, when everything else seems right. But I'm still leaning toward, they sold you a bad one.
 
wayne fajkus
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Thats what i was thinking. Ive bought a few from different sources. Ive never seen a graft.

In my area they die back each winter but grow bigger each year from stored root energy. A grafted top would no longer exist.
 
garden master
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I know of some sellers who graft varieties that grow slowly on their own roots or are very hard to root, but this is not a common practice and figs are almost always on their own roots in my experience.  I think in Los Angeles there is a decent probability that this is a caprifig (so called male fig) that is used to pollinate figs that require that.  Most figs grown in the US are "common" figs that have a copy of a gene that allows them to ripen without pollination, but in places like Los Angeles that have the fig wasp caprifigs are desirable because many of the very finest flavored figs don't have the persistence gene that makes them common types.  Heck, I've been told that even common figs taste better when pollinated because the seeds that then develop bring a bit of crunchy nuttiness.  For that reason it might be nice to let one branch from that rootstock grow to provide for pollination of the common figs that have been grafted onto it.  Lovely tree, btw!
 
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