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Figs ripening game  RSS feed

 
Posts: 200
Location: Zone 8b Portland
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It’s that time again. Time to play the: will these figs ripen before the weather turns cold game 😄.  The black Spanish have been green rocks for quite awhile now. The heat seems to be slowing down and I’m wondering if these will make it.  What changes the speed of fruit ripening? Tree size, heat, ground moisture, all of the above? The only truly reliable fig in Portland seems to be my desert king which ripens a breba in august.
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pollinator
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Chris,

I am trying a new thing here, we lost 99% of our figs last year before they were ripe.

First, I quit peeing on them. They really need little nitrogen, and while they grew like crazy, they just kept piling on new growth with little figs and never set much.

Second, I thin the new branches, just chop and drop, anything that comes in from early august. They have enough leaves, now set me some fruit you freeloaders.

Third, I am pinching the little figs coming out now. They don't have a prayer. I think the tree is lacking some mineral relatively, and it needs to use them on the existing fruit.

Fourth, I think the most likely mineral deficiency is calcium, that is generally required for fruit maturity, and the area they are growing is wood chips and has been for years. That is often low in calcium and super high in potassium. I used calcium carbonate this summer to hopefully help them out, and put down some rock dust last summer as well. Figs are mostly grown in the Mediterranean areas, which tend to have limestone soils, so I suspect they need the calcium.

We have already harvested as many figs this summer as we got all last summer. Two...

 
Chris Holcombe
Posts: 200
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haha I love it.  Yeah I'm growing mine in deep woodchips also.  The desert kings seem to love it.  The black spanish and latarulla not so much.  I'll try the things you mentioned here.  
 
Tj Jefferson
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The rock dust I used last summer was probably the big win. This is just dust from the local granite quarry. I threw in some dolomitic lime as well as the local stuff is not high in magnesium, and this summer the calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate should be available much faster.

They are massive and ripening a month sooner, so far so good.
 
Chris Holcombe
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Wow that is impressive!  A month early is huge.  
 
Tj Jefferson
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Next to a good size Roma...

I've been picking them and letting them ripen inside. Ants are a problem on this tree, its low growing...
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pollinator
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Thanks TJ -  Good tips!    I think you're in central Virginia?   So our climate is similar (Greensboro here).   My 3 yr old figs are really going to town this year but now I'm dealing with ants - considering a wrap around the trunk schmeared with vaseline just for the season.   The flavor is good but not optimum so I'm doing Sea90 next spring.   Meanwhile, I pruned a little late this spring so I have a plethora of small to medium green ones right now so is it too late to add lime and epsom salts?.   And you reminded me to nip the new growth :)
 
Tj Jefferson
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Susan,

Honestly, the ants are only an issue on a couple trees, which were impulse buys a couple years ago for 6 bucks. They are very low growing, and they are a pain in the butt.

None of the others have as many issues. I think the ants are part of the game, there are lizards all over the place and I will get figs from the others. I have put in 14 different figs and I can give you a rundown of the ones that are performing. Can't comment on the fruit quality, survival is my first criteria!

Brown Turkey/Chicago/LSU purple/LSU gold are all doing well, they all died to the ground last bitter winter.

VdB has been a total disappointment. It is smaller than when I planted it and it is well protected. All the other ones are totally neglected. Little ingrate.

I have two that I don't know the type, doing very well. One was sold as Nero, which is any black fig. Not helpful. It's my favorite, nice growth habit. And one I rescued from Lowes or something which had no tag at all, might be a Celeste. That one is nice.

Most of them get literally no input from me at all, except that stupid VdB.

I think the one in the picture is an Ischia. They never turn much in color.
 
Tj Jefferson
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The calcium worked. We get a few a day at this point.

The only problem is I got it down pretty late in the summer and the figs swell so fast they are splitting!

Highly recommend checking calcium levels, that is often the reason stuff grows vegetatively but doesn't fruit. The small figs are more of a vegetative growth in my opinion nutritionally.
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split fig
 
Chris Holcombe
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Oddly enough the summer heat held out and all of the figs on my tree ripened up nicely!  I'll check the calcium levels though so I don't have to count on luck for next year
 
Tj Jefferson
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We had an exceptionally cool and rainy summer, so this is more than I hoped for. I'm putting down calcium carbonate based on my soil samples. Any more figs will get a couple shovels of rock dust when planted. They seem to need quite a bit in my soils.
 
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I just planted a Brown Turkey fig here in South-central KY about a week ago.  It was sold at the local Tractor Supply store, so I'm hoping it will do well in this climate.  Can the fruit be used to make dried figs that will look and taste similar to the dried figs at the grocery store, or are those a different kind?

Kathleen
 
Tj Jefferson
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There are several figs marketed as brown turkey unfortunately. There's at least three I know of, California Texas and just brown turkey. They all are basic sweet figs and dry well.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Thanks -- of course, I have no idea which one this is!  

How long does it usually take to see fruit from newly planted trees?

And how do I keep it small?  I don't want it to turn into a big tree (I suppose it's likely to freeze to the ground at least some winters here, anyway).

Kathleen
 
Chris Holcombe
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Hard to say.  It depends on a bunch of things.  It took my plants about 3yrs to start fruiting but I'm in a cool summer climate which they don't like all that much.  
 
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Next to a good size Roma...

I've been picking them and letting them ripen inside. Ants are a problem on this tree, its low growing...



Did they actually ripen inside? I read that they have to ripen on the tree and don't ripen inside. I'd love to be proved wrong, though! Last year I harvested my (one) fig too early. There's one on my fig tree now, but I'm terrified of picking it too soon! It's a Vern's Brown Turkey, and it's turning a little brown. I picked off all the other figs as they appeared, in hopes that this one at least will ripen!
 
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Rock dust was mentioned. The soils of Vancouver Island art mostly glacial till. And I've seen some amazing figs here. There are several of them in Victoria here that produce two crops per year. The largest figs in Canada are grown in Nanaimo by a guy named Franco Diaco. Franco has trees a foot in diameter on the stump. It seems to be all about creating a hot microclimate of well drained soil with plenty of minerals. Lots of phosphorus and not too much nitrogen. Franco uses seaweed, so I'm sure he's getting a wide variety of nutrients.
 
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About figs …

Most of my limited knowledge on figs comes from: observations of Italian neighbours that I grew up with, asking relatives who grew them, and growing them myself. I suspect a lot of people are growing them outside of their normal dry and hot climate range, so should expect significant variations in productivity.

The Italian neighbours had exceedingly prolific crops with the following regime:
 
1. They’d pot older wood cuttings in late Winter, by early Spring the cuttings had sprouted leaves. These would stay in the pots until quite established
2. Once the trees had good growth, above and below the soil, they’d be planted in the yard – that’s the important bit – a large hole dug in the clay soil with a big flat piece of concrete or large paving stone placed into the hole and the fig tree planted directly above it
3. Soil type was not a major concern, and no real effort was made to improve it

The concrete slab may have provided slow release lime, but the objective was to stress the tree, making its roots travel outwards instead of down – it stunted the growth so it was manageable and therefore encouraged the tree to set much more fruit. (I believe it was given one bucket load of chook manure, and sprayed with a copper solution to control mildew only once a year.)

The tree was occasionally watered, the more attention the less production – they thrive on neglect, pretty much like their native habitat in the dry parts of Asia/Middle East.

Like radishes, fig trees are good introduction plants for kids because they are so easy to grow from cuttings and very tough, so children see the rapid evolution and get interested in growing stuff.

In regards to ripening, to maximise flavour, keep the fruit on the trees for as long as possible – they should feel soft to touch, not firm - smell, touch and appearance being the typical ways to gauge. Fruit will ripen off the tree, but lack the complex flavours of tree ripened ones.

Below is a photo taken today showing the ‘grandchild’ and ‘great grandchild’ plants that were from an unknown variety originally grown by my Grandparents, and now long since gone. It was inadvertently saved 50 years ago by an Uncle who took cuttings and planted it at his home. I obtained cuttings from that tree and intend to re-establish it back on the Grandparents property. Further cuttings will be taken and shared with relatives to ensure continuation of the variety.

The chair and (empty) beer bottle serve as scale references!

My trees will be espaliered. The larger tree is only about three years old and has cropped well considering the neglect it has experienced. The cuttings in the small pot were taken about two months ago in mid-Winter, no hormone powder or honey was applied, just carefully pushed into a free draining commercial potting mix and kept moist, out of direct sun until about three weeks ago.

Obviously, yes, they could be grown in a pot on a balcony or small courtyard!

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I grew Kadota & Texas Everbearing figs in TX. Hot & dry climate. Hard rocky limestone soil. I never gave them any special treatment but they would steal water & nutrients from the garden by growing roots into it. They produced massive amounts of fruit every year. Had some ant issues but they were only interested in the over ripe split open fruits. The trees lost all leaves & went dormant in winter but did not die. Fruits might partially finish ripening indoors but they need to be somewhat soft before attempting that. Best to let them finish on the tree if possible. I was never happy with the results of dried figs. I much prefer to cook them down & can them as preserves. They store for several years like that.

Cold weather figs have eluded me so far. Only had one survive TN winter then it died the following spring. I have seen some that are well established here. So it's possible. Most winters they go down hard & lose their top growth. Then they start over in spring. The trees never get very big. So more trees are needed for the same yield. Next year I'm trying some colder weather varieties & will also probably grow some in big containers to be over wintered in a greenhouse. Seems wrong to have figs in containers but desperation prevails!

Stay calm & fig on.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I'm wondering if I chose the best location for my fig tree -- it's in a corner of the house that is open to the south and the east.  There is a similar corner open to the south and the west, but it gets a lot more shade (the house is shaded on the south and west sides by several large black locusts).  Alternatively, I could move it to the south side of one of the barns as they both have good south-facing walls with no shade.  (It would be easy enough to move the little tree since I only planted it a few days ago).  Or I can move starts off of it to those locations later -- it sounds like we may not have any trouble keeping it small and may need more plants.

 
Tj Jefferson
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I'm wondering if I chose the best location for my fig tree -- it's in a corner of the house that is open to the south and the east.



That depends on what you want from your fig. If you are in a more mild climate you may protect them enough to have green figs overwinter and you will get breba figs. Mine are mostly unprotected in alleys and as noted in this climate will die back every year. They still get around 10' high. I have five on a southern exposure next to the house and they didn't die back in the early frost of 28F. This being a brick house it is an excellent thermal mass.

However, they are not long for that location because I am putting the Yuzu and other hardy citrus there along with my olives and guava.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I'm in zone 6b, so near the northern limits to grow figs outdoors, I think.
 
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Kathleen, I’m in 6b.  I’ve had a Hardy Chicago in the ground around 5 years. It freezes to the ground every year but grows back 8’ tall and still produces at least a few figs on the new wood. It does have a lot of figs that don’t ripen in time.  I do put some extra dirt around the base in the fall and move it away in the Spring. I’m hoping that we’ll get a mild winter sometime and it won’t die back. Older wood is supposed to survive colder temperatures. I heard there is a mature, producing fig tree about 45 miles from here.

I’d sure like to find a hardier variety than Chicago. Does anyone have a suggestion? I have a small Marseilles in a pot in an unheated greenhouse. It will go in the ground next year. I’ve read mixed things about how much cold it can stand.
 
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I have the Chicago Hardy cultivar too, and it dies back about 1ft grom the ground.
I am going to have to try the calcium trick too to see if it helps. And also remove the late fruits too because they never ripen before 1st frost. but I do get to eat quite a few every year.
 
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I have the same problem with my Chicago Hardy. It freezes down to the ground each winter, so I never get figs on "old wood" and then by the time the new wood starts producing it is late August/early September. My figs never get bigger than a large gum ball. Here's an article that talks about other cold hardy figs. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/figs/cold-hardy-fig-trees.htm
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I've got some old hay, and plan to mulch around my Brown Turkey with that.  We've only had one light frost here so far.  This is our first winter in Kentucky, so I'm not really sure how cold it can get here.  I've been looking, and finding average low temperatures, but that's not telling me the extreme lows.  Like, where we lived in Eastern Oregon before we moved here, the average lows are in the teens, but it can get down to twenty or thirty degrees below zero F -- and does so fairly frequently.

 
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