Fig Care

Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon
Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon

Whether you’re growing a vegetable garden or a fruit orchard, there is one key to success that can especially be applied to growing figs – Consistency! Consistency of watering; Consistency in monitoring (especially when fruit needs harvesting); Consistency of feeding.

The watering is the most essential of those three. In fact, figs will produce much faster if they are watered heavily and fertilized until May, especially during their first year, and watered heavily all summer when mature.

The interesting twist on that feeding is that mulch or compost used as your mulch can be considered the feeding. Probably no fruit responds better to heavy mulch/compost than figs. I dare say that they even “require it”. In fact, after the tree is of adequate size, I’ve heard from countless fruit tree experts that they rarely need fertilizer, especially if they are properly mulched. I also know others, and this is sort of my camp, that just throw some organic citrus/fruit tree food down occasionally, but not on any sort of regimen.

That minimal, but consistent care, also applies to pruning as well. Unless the fig gets so tall that it makes picking the fruit an impossible task, then pruning can always be put off on figs. Pruning of water sprouts or dead branches is just normal care practices and not something I lump into the “pruning” category. So, if you see sports or water sprouts near the trunk, take them out whenever and wherever you can. If you see a dead or broken branch, take them out whenever and wherever you can.

Here’s my ultimate heads up however: Many figs do have a tendency to grow horizontally, as opposed to vertically. Make sure you have lateral space in which they can grow. But also be aware that the lateral growth will want to sucker from there. Those kinds of figs need to be ‘maintained’ so they don’t get out of control. Ultimately, that makes it hard to remove those suckers if the growth pattern has not been kept clean.

 Birds and squirrels may love figs even more than most humans. So, my best advice other than timing bird netting exactly right, is to simply grow lots of figs so you share some – even with the wildlife. Frankly, most birds and animals are after the moisture content within the fig. So, by harvesting early in the day you can beat the birds. And by offering up a source of easy-to-access water for the squirrels, you’ll make it where the squirrels won’t work to get the moisture from the fig.