July always brings the blessing of abundant figs on my trees. A new crop waits to be picked and enjoyed every day for nearly a month. The tender sweet fruit can be enjoyed fresh, prepared into jams or used in a myriad of recipes.
The fig (Ficus carica) is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean regions of the world and has been cultivated for an estimated 7,000 years. Spanish explorers brought the fig with them to Florida in 1575 and it has had a presence here ever since. Since the fig is adapted to a dry climate in its native regions, the humidity it encountered in Florida can cause fruit to split; but new cultivars have been developed to minimize this problem.
Fig trees usually grow to a maximum of 25 feet and have large bright green leaves that fall in the autumn. Fruit develops from June to August, depending on the chosen cultivar.
Choose a spot for planting a fig tree that receives full sun and good drainage. Once established, figs are drought tolerant and only need supplemental irrigation if we have an extended drought. No structural pruning is required but you can prune to keep the tree from growing so tall that you cannot pick the delicious fruit. Be sure to do your pruning just after the fruit is gone as the fruit develops on the terminal ends of the branches from last year’s growth.
Many figs grow and fruit sufficiently without applied fertilizer, however, a light fertilization with a 10-10-10 with micronutrients can be helpful for small trees getting established and those with reduced fruiting. Young trees can benefit from a ½ pound three to five times from February to August while large trees could use up to 4 pounds per application on the same schedule.
There are a few pests that do damage figs; the most common, though, are the birds and squirrels that get the fruit before you do. Seldom do figs need to be sprayed when grown in the home garden.
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