Fig Trees in Your Orchard

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started from seeds now on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Choose rose bushes now from the many beautiful and fragrant varieties available in bare root plants now.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.

Fabulous Figs

Figs were brought to California by the Spanish missionary fathers who first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, through California. The Mission fig, California’s leading black fig, takes its name from this history.

The fig is a picturesque deciduous tree, typically growing to a height of 10 – 30 ft. Their branches are strong and twisting. Figs that are completely dormant before severely cold weather arrives can tolerate temperatures down to 15 to 20° F with little or no damage. When temperatures drop below that, fig trees may be killed to the ground in the winter. When they re-sprout from the roots in the spring, they will often grow as a multi-branched shrub.

Figs are a very popular fruit and they grow best where the summers are hot and dry. Though native to the Middle East and grown throughout the Mediterranean region, there are several varieties that are worth growing in our climate.

Figs usually bear two crops a year. The early crop is called a ‘breba’ crop. These fruits form on wood that grew last season. Main crop figs form on the new branches that grow in the spring. Some varieties only have a breba crop or a main-crop.

‘Black Mission’ figs, with their purplish-black skin, strawberry-colored flesh, and rich flavor are a favorite the world over. The bear heavily and are a large, long-lived tree. The fruit is delicious fresh, dried or canned.

‘Brown Turkey’ is a large, brown skinned fig with pink flesh. It has a sweet, rich flavor, and is mostly for fresh use. It is widely adapted to both coastal and inland climates and makes a small, very hardy tree.

‘Celestial’ is one of the sweetest figs. With a purplish-brown skin, the pink flesh is of rich flavor and excellent quality and almost seedless. It is widely adapted with high yields and good cold tolerance, and bears two crops per year.

The ‘King’ Fig is a good variety to plant in colder, wetter areas. The light green ‘white’ skinned fig has strawberry colored pulp with a rich flavor and excellent fresh-eating quality. It has a large breba crop while the later crop is light in hot climates, heavier in coastal climates. It is also called ‘Desert King’.

‘Peter’s Honey’ is a beautiful, shiny, greenish yellow fruit when ripe with very sweet, dark amber flesh. It is superb for fresh eating, and good for drying and canning.

Fig trees need plenty of sun, at least 8 hours a day, and lots of heat to ripen the fruit. Near the south-facing wall of a building is a good location. Figs respond very well to heavy applications of manure and compost applied three times a year.

Figs are a healthful fruit that can easily be dried for winter use and they are worth growing in our climate.