AgCenter: include fig trees in the home orchard

Home gardeners around Louisiana frequently have fruit trees in their landscapes and when it comes to producing home-grown fruit, nothing could be easier than figs.

Figs are an attractive addition to any home orchard because the fruit is tasty and can be eaten fresh, made into preserves and jams, or used with baking various pastry dishes. Besides the delectability of the fruit, another reason many home gardeners include fig trees into their backyard production is because figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to care for. They adapt well to Louisiana’s weather and are virtually left alone by most all insects.

Figs are commonly grown throughout all areas of Louisiana and often produce more than one crop in a single growing season,. A light crop in the spring produced on previous season’s wood. The current season’s wood produces a main crop later in the summer. Sometimes fig trees will even produce a third, light crop in mid fall, lasting well into December. It is the perfect tree for small back yards because the common fig varieties grown in Louisiana are parthenocarpic meaning they do not require pollination. So just one tree is all that is needed to produce a bounty of fruit!

As there are multiple varieties of figs to choose from, the most popular fig varieties for Louisiana production include Celeste, Improved Celeste, Alma, LSU Purple, LSU Gold and Brown Turkey. Since fig trees can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet, including developing a width that equals the trees height, they should be located in an area of the yard that provides enough room to grow and expand. Therefore, fig trees should be planted in a location away from shade especially large trees with overhanging branches. The site should also be one that is well drained and that provides full sun to the area.  Figs generally will not produce well unless they receive at least six hours of direct sun daily.

Newly planted figs definitely will need to be watered their first summer as they become established. During summer dry spells, newly planted and mature, fruit bearing fig trees should be watered weekly and mulched with pine straw or leaves to help conserve moisture.

Although fig trees require little pruning, a light pruning annually during the winter months, and preferably after the coldest weather has finished, helps to maintain the trees vigor, shape and overall size. In turn, controlling the size helps to make for easier harvests. It is better to cut a fig tree back a moderate amount every year or two than to let it get to the point where a severe pruning is required. If you prune, focus on keeping the crown open to sunlight and air, and removing any suckers and dead or broken branches.

Newly planted trees should not be fertilized until established the second year. For established trees that are 2 years and older, apply 2 pounds of a 13-13-13 fertilizer in early April and again in early May. Beyond that point, no additional fertilizer is needed.

Rene’ Schmit is the LSU AgCenter County Agent for St. Charles Parish and can be reached at 985-785-4473.

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