The Q&A Archives: Ficus carica 'Brown turkey' Fig tree

Question: Full year round caring, winterizing ( I live on Long Island ,New york).Sunny area next to building ? wind protection? Is osmacote a good fertilizer ? Pruning?
Parasites & insects?

Answer: Most people are fond of figs, (Ficus carcia) and rightfully so. They are very tasty and can be eaten fresh, preserved, or used for baking and making desserts like ice cream. Figs can be grown successfully in most parts of the country.

The selection of the planting site is more important with figs than with many other fruits. Figs need at least eight hours of sun during the growing season. The south side of a building is a preferred site in the colder areas of the state, because it offers more protection from winter winds and cold temperatures than an open site or a site on the north side of a building. Reduce the chances of cold injury by planting the fig out of the early-morning and late-evening sunlight during the winter months. Plant them a minimum of 3 feet away from the wall. Plant figs before they break dormancy in the spring. Remove the top half of bareroot plants. Do not remove growth from container-grown plants. Set the plants 3 to 4 inches deeper than the soil line on the stem of the plant. Do not fertilize at this time. Allow the plant to grow unpruned the first season. At the beginning of the next growing season, select three to four strong shoots to serve as leaders. These shoots should be spaced widelyenough to allow them to grow to a 3- to 4-inch diameter without crowding each other. Prune all other shoots to the soil level. Pruning then can be done on an annual basis, removing up to one-third of the growth. This pruning should be done after the danger of frost has passed but before spring growth has started. Remove any dead wood at this time.

Although drought tolerant, figs need 1 inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation for good growth and fruit production. Annual applications of straw or other organic mulches to a depth of 4 to 6 inches is beneficial for moisture conservation and winter protection of potential replacement shoots near the root collar. Figs require little to no fertilization. Heavily fertilized fig bushes are more prone to cold injury. If the fig bush is showing very little vegetative growth, apply about a half-pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer when growth begins in the spring.

Harvest figs for fresh consumption when their necks wilt and the fruit droops. If you notice a milky, latex-like material, the figs are not quite ripe. For preserving, harvest the figs a few days before maturity. The milkysecretion can be irritating to some persons, so you mayconsider wearing rubber gloves as you harvest the figs. Picking the figs before they become overripe will lessen insect and disease problems. Birds may feed heavily on figs. Picking early in the morning will decrease bird damage. Netting is available to protect fig bushes fromfeeding by birds but is seldom practical.

Insects and diseases are rarely a serious problem on figs. Various wood-boring insects may attack weak or dying trees. Use good growing practices to keep the trees vigorous.

Best wishes with your fig tree.

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