Monday, February 15, 2010

Fig Tree

Things are beginning to pick up in my South Texas garden and I couldn't be happier!  We still have some very cold nights but the days are getting longer and it won't be too long before spring is here.  Which brings me to my project for the day...transplanting my fig tree from its home in a pot to a hole in the ground.

I bought this beautiful Texas Everbearing Fig Tree (Brown Turkey variety) last summer and transplanted it into a big clay pot.  It only produced a few figs for me but I didn't expect much for its first year.  When fall came, it lost all its leaves and went dormant...just as it was supposed to :)  I moved it into the greenhouse and it has lived happily there all winter.  After consulting my favorite online and print resources and talking with folks at the local nursery, I realized that if I want to get any fruit production out of the tree, I will have to put it in the ground. 

Luckily, in anticipation of this purchase (I've wanted a fig tree for a loooong time), the last time we had major landscaping work done on the property, I had the guys dig me a hole, about 6' wide, 4' across, and 4' deep.  I's overkill, but I figured it would be easier to fill the hole up than to make it any bigger.  We live on a hill on solid rock!

I picked a spot on the hill that gets full sun. Plentiful sunlight is key to maximizing fruit production.  Otherwise, I can expect reduced performance from my tree.

Good drainage is important as well.  Avoid soils and sites where water stands for more than 24 hours after a rain.  In areas of poor drainage, roots receive insufficient oxygen and they will die, resulting in stunted growth and eventual death of the tree. 

So this morning I went to the nursery and bought 12, 2-cubic foot bags of gardening soil and 8, 1.5 cubic foot bags of soil revitalizer compost.  Now I was ready to get to work.

I began by dumping three bags of gardening soil in the hole, mixing in a bag of compost and then a few pitchforks of cedar bark mulch.  I continued with this process until the hole was 3/4 full.  Next, I removed the fig tree from the pot, shook some of the soil loose from the roots and made sure the roots looked healthy and were not compact and knotted up.  The roots looked good and I saw no sign of root-knot nematodes.  I placed the tree on top of the loose soil, about 2-4 inches deeper than it was in the pot.  Then all I did was fill in the hole around the tree with soil, compost and mulch, mixing well.  After the tree was in the ground, I put about an inch of cedar bark mulch around the base of the tree then put the soaker hose on it for about 30 minutes...and Voila...I now have a fig tree!

I'm so excited!  I love figs.  To me, they are the perfect summer fruit...sweet and so versatile.  I bought this variety (Texas Everbearing) because it is well suited to central and East Texas. Although it is not quite as cold hardy as the Celeste variety, it will, if injured by a freeze, produce fair-to-good crops on sucker wood the next season.  This is important to me because we live in an area prone to late spring frosts.  Since it is so new to life outdoors, I will cover it with a frost blanket if a freeze is predicted.  I worked too hard today to have a cold snap take my fig tree!

The fruit on the Texas Everbearing fig is medium to large, with a reddish-brown skin tinged with purple.  The pulp is reddish-pink and delicious, excellent for eating raw; stuffing with blue cheese, wrapped in proscuitto and briefly baked; and for making home preserves.

So...that's what I did today in my South Texas garden.  I will keep you posted as my little fig tree grows and begins to produce wonderful fruit.

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