Growing Fig Trees: Ground + Containers
Figs are a fantastic fruit, they have been highly regarded for their taste and health benefits and can be easily grown in the right conditions.
Figs have always been a valued delicacy – coming from Western Asia at least 5.000 years ago, this exotic fruit was among the first to be cultivated by humans.
Becoming popular in Ancient Greece and Rome, fig cultivation then spread to the West, and now the fruit can be found in every corner of the world. It is not surprising – fig fruits provide several health benefits, such as constipation relief, boosted immunity, and lowered blood pressure.
Not only they are rich in vitamins and nutrients; these fruits are also delicious and have several uses in the kitchen.
Growing figs is easier than it seems, and by following these 7 steps you too can harvest and enjoy this timeless delicacy coming from your own garden.
Details for Growing Figs
September – October
Temperature to Plant
70F and higher (can survive 15 F frost)
6-25 feet apart
South or south-west
Needs good drainage
slightly acidic to neutral (6.0-6.5 pH)
Relieves constipation, rich in vitamins A, B1 and B2, reduce hypertension, boosts immunity
Seven Steps to Growing Figs
Figs can be grown in almost any type of soil – loam, sandy, limestone, and even clay, provided that other conditions such as good drainage and adequate planting depth are met. The soil must be of neutral or slight acidity, around 6.0-6.5, otherwise, the plant will die.
Soil pH Testing
You need to make sure that you accurately test your soil to give your plants the best chance. This Apera kit has ±0.1 pH accuracy, see the star ratings over at Amazon.
If you are growing figs for drying, then medium-dry sandy soil will be best for growing them. The soil can also be of moderate salinity. Adding compost or manure will provide additional nutrients to the fruit and help you grown healthier figs, and putting some bark chips will help with drainage.
To select fig seeds for planting, take a couple of fresh figs and soak them in lukewarm water for 1-2 days. After that, take the seeds that have sunk to the bottom of the container – these are the fertile ones, whereas the floating seeds are infertile.
For germinating, take a 5-cm deep seeding tray filled with a mix of vermiculite, sand, and soil, and carefully place the seeds in there, putting a plastic cover (a plastic bag will do fine) over the tray to create a humid environment.
Water vapor for seedlings
The seeds don’t need to be watered if you can see condensation on the plastic, but the cover should be removed every day for about an hour to keep fungus from growing. The germination process can take up to 8 weeks to be complete – the seedlings are ready to be transplanted when they have grown a couple of inches and 4-5 leaves have appeared on them.
Gently transplant them into 2-3 inches pods and wait for a couple more weeks until they are ready to be planted in the ground.
The best way to germinate your seeds so that they have a great start is with a germination kit. Seeds that are grown this way produce greater results. Check the specs of the MXIC over at Amazon.
Plant the seedlings in the spring, when they are dormant. Choose a sunny spot facing south or south-west where your plant will get a full day of sunlight and will be kept warm.
Plant the figs 6-25 feet apart from each other – one of the popular decisions is using 13×13 feet spacing. Make sure the hole is big and deep enough for the root system (8-12 inches deep) and do not water or prune the plants right away.
If you are living north of zone 7, the plants will need winter protection, so it is better to grow them in large plastic containers so they can be moved as the seasons’ change.
For additional protection, fig trees can be planted near rue and strawberry plants. Rue protects the trees from insects, whereas the mulch used in growing strawberries is good for keeping the soil humid, which benefits the figs.
Fig trees do not need to be watered frequently – make sure the soil gets 1-1.5 inches of water a week. Usually, rainfall is enough, but feel free to irrigate the plants yourself once a week by slowly running a bit of water from a hose.
The trees growing in containers, however, need to be watered more often, but even then, it is better not to overdo it and wait until the soil gets very dry.
Nematodes, or roundworms, are the fig tree’s main enemy, but they can be kept away with the help of nematicides or heavy mulch.
Leaf rust is another problem gardeners face when growing figs. This rusty-colored fungus affects the leaves during rainy seasons and is fought with fungicides. Pests like birds and squirrels can also damage the fruit, but placing a net around the garden can help to keep those animals away.
The figs do not require fertilization, but if you want to keep the plant extra happy, add a layer of mulch around the tree and around a pound of nitrogen supplement.
Usually, fig trees yield two crops a year in warmer climates – in June and late summer in warmer climates, and once a year in late summer or fall in colder climates. To be sure, check the fruit – when it is ripe it should be drooping from the branch and be soft to the touch.
The color should be dark purple. Ripe fruits can be harvested by hand or using a mechanical sweeper that picks up figs that fell on the ground. Fig is a fragile fruit that can be easily damaged, so take extra care when gathering it.
Figs perish very fast and should be kept in a refrigerator for a maximum of a week. They should be cooked immediately, or dried by baking them at 140 degrees for 8-24 hours.
One of the issues people have is that their crops produce all at once. The best way to overcome this is with a dehydrator so you can store your food for years. The best one on the market is the Excalibur with a 10 year guarantee, see it at Amazon.
The dried fruit can be stored for 12 to 24 months in the refrigerator and provide the same health benefits as the fresh ones. If frozen right away after the harvest, the fruits can be kept in the freezer for several months, as well.
Fresh figs can be blended and used as a healthy spread or a cookie filling, or simply cut up and served with meat and red wine, and dry figs are a good substitute for candy.
No matter what your taste is, you will love growing figs in your garden and having this fruit in the kitchen!