Thursday, 11 February 2016

Fig Season and Pruning the Tree

Woo-hoo! It’s fig season here at Chez Yard Tales and so time to stuff myself with figs for a month as they all slowly ripen. My tree is the incredibly delicious White Adriatic which has the advantage of looking great on a plate with its lime green skin and watermelon pink flesh. Look delicious don’t they? And they are.

One of the biggest bonuses with figs is that they are somewhat fruit-fly resistant. Not totally though - if they are left on the tree to over-ripen then fruit-fly maggots will appear in the fruit, but it does mean you can get away with not bagging them. Birds are a different matter, they love them. So I have an informal agreement with them – they get the high fruit and I take the low-hanging ones. Bird activity in the tree is a good indicator of whether the figs are ripe, something I can monitor from my spot on the back verandah without getting out of my chair as the season comes close.

General fig growing advice says they require a sunny situation. Mine’s in a spot where it gets morning sun plus about an hour in the afternoon. The big leaves on the fig tree are very prone to wilting in the heat and I reckon the shade saves it from dehydrating too much when you are in the middle of a long-running heat wave (like we are now). I have seen some very sad looking specimens in spots that get full afternoon sun.

So now to pruning. Here’s a photo of the tree, pre-pruning, at the end of last autumn.

And after. As you can see I pruned heavily. 

According to my fruit growing book, The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia by Louis Glowinski, you should aim to prune back to just above one of the ‘joints’ (it looks like an extended knee or elbow) that forms along the branches. Then the tree will re-sprout from that joint.

Fig trees have two crops per year. The first one is called the breber crop and forms on the end of last season’s growth. In the variety I have the breber crop remains as small, hard and inedible as a golf ball so I hardly need to worry about that. The real second crop forms on new season growth.

Here’s a shot of the tree as it is now. As you can see it quickly grew back to its former size.

With fruit all along the branches.

Happy gardening!