You may remember with nostalgia the fig tree in your grandmother’s yard or the mouth-watering fig preserves your mother used to make.
“Home grown figs are not a thing of the past. Many Alabamians still plant figs and still make those delicious preserves,” said Mike McQueen, a regional home grounds agent for Alabama Extension.
In most of Alabama, figs can produce two crops a year. On the Gulf Coast, they can produce three crops. Some recommended varieties are Celeste, Brown Turkey and in South Alabama only, Green Ischia. These are self-fruiting and don’t require cross-pollination.
Fig trees should be planted in late winter and early spring. For best growth, fig trees need full sunlight and freedom from competing trees and shrubs. If fig trees are planted in a lawn area remember to keep at least a 3 foot area around each tree free of grass and covered with 3 to 4 inches of mulch.
To keep them producing, they should be pruned before growth begins each spring. “Pruning also helps figs that are hurt by cold weather, said McQueen. “Damaged branches should be cut back to shoots where leaves are growing. Badly damaged plants may have to be cut to the ground. This type of pruning usually delays future fruiting.”
Figs can also be successfully grown in containers if the grower is diligent about watering and feeding them. The easiest approach is to use at least a 15 gallon container and let the fig tree grow 5 to 10 feet tall. To control the plant size, the tops and roots should be pruned annually.
McQueen said younger trees (those less than two years) need to be fertilized with one-third pound of 8-8-8 per month during the growing season.
Have a gardening question? Call the Master Gardener Helpline. To reach the helpline, dial 1-877-252-GROW (4769).