Fertilizing Fig Trees

foolishpleasureJanuary 3, 2011

What is the best time to apply fertilizer to Fig Trees. This is one of my questions the other question is what kind of fertilizer. The Fertilizer comes with three numbers. For example I use 10-10-10 for vegetable what about Figs.


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

How did you determine that your figs needed additional nutrients? What did your soil test indicate? It's impossible for someone else to know what your situation requires without being familiar with your situation in the first place. We (at least I) don't even know if your figs are potted or planted out.

Personally, I'd never fertilize any woody plant without some type of indications that it was needed. Mild fertilizers are less likely to cause harm if existing soil nutrient level is unknown, and adding nutrients by compost is almost always a good thing.

BTW, I wouldn't even recommend fertilizing vegetables without some basis for your choice.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:41AM
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My fig trees are planted in pots (50% top soil and 50% saw dust) and the pots are planted in the garden soil. My soil is not that good it is basically sandy soil and building debris the builders use to fill the landscape after they take and sell the top soil originally. I added several truck loads of top soil I purchased to improve my soil but still not good I have to fertilize every thing shade trees grass and Vegetables to get any thing to grow of any value. The Nurseries fertilize the FIG trees before they sell to us why don't I do the same. I don't have any compost because it is Missy however I keep adding grass clipping, tree leaves and mulch to my soil before I work it up with the teller.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 8:56AM
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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

In ground figs don't always require fertilizing, potted figs do. I found that the best fertilizer for figs is a slow release with high Nitrogen. The best time to apply it is spring or early summer. You only apply it once since it's slow release and can feed up to 5 months.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 9:23AM
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The slow release fertilizer is the one with high first number or high nitrogen content. I used some of that for my Blueberry plants which was recommended by a friend and really worked very good and made the Blueberry bushes very good looking dark green color and vigorous growth I think it was 38-10-10. I use general fertilizer like 10-10-10 for vegetable and Grass. Some body told me trees are different they need more acids.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 11:03AM
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One can do a search on the subject and fine a range of
comments on subject.
Link Below

Here is a link that might be useful: http://search.gardenweb.com/search/nph-ind.cgi?term=+Fertilizing+Fig+Trees&forum=fig&forum_name=Fig

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 12:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There is not only an ideal level of o/a fertility in mineral soils (trees in the ground) that is measures by the electrical conductivity (EC) of, and total dissolved solids (TDS) in, the soil solution, but there is also an ideal combination or ratio of these nutrients. A soil test determines the level of fertility and reveals any nutrients in excess, as well as any deficiencies, then makes recommendations that will bring soil fertility into line with both TDS/EC as well as balancing the ratios of nutrients to each other.

For example, a soil test might reveal that there is ample Fe (iron) in the soil, but Mn (manganese) is present in excess. Even though there might be enough Fe, high levels of Mn can prevent its uptake. This is called an antagonistic deficiency. This might be approached by suggesting the addition of a sulfurous compound that will lower pH to make the Fe more soluble/available, or by simply adding more Fe.

What I'm illustrating is that in mineral soils, adding ANY fertilizer without a soil test is simply a crap shoot. Most of us do it, of course, but a soil test every couple of years will go a long way toward allowing you to get the most from your trees.

For container culture, things are easier. We can pretty much consider our media as being devoid of nutrients, unless you buy a soil with a starter charge or a controlled release product (CRF) in it. Even at that, starter charges last only a few waterings and the amount of CRFs added is usually inadequate.

Almost all plants use nutrients in roughly the same ratio - some just use more nutrients overall, but the ratio used changes very little from plant to plant. Here, you can see roughly how plants utilize nutrients

I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
Mo(lybdenum) 0.003

To read this, starting with P(hosphorous): For every 100 parts of N plants use, they use between 13-19 parts of P, for an average of 16 parts for every 100 N, or about 1/6 as much P as N.

Since it is a considerable benefit to have the EC/TDS of soils as low as possible w/o them being so low there is a nutritional deficiency, there are two things we can say. It is counterproductive to furnish any element in excess because it contributes unnecessarily to EC/TDS, nutrients the plant can't use (relative to N), and an excess of any one nutrient can be as undesirable as a deficiency. We already saw how an excess of one nutrient can cause a deficiency of another, so it makes the best sense to supply nutrients to plants in as close to the same ratio they actually use them in as possible.

I probably grow about 125-150 different species of trees in containers, covering about 30 genera, and I use fertilizers in the 3:1:2 ratio on all of them. My preferred 3:1:2 ratio is Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, but any of the 'all-purpose' 24-8-16 formulations are good, as well as MG 12-4-8.

If you are concerned about excess foliage using a 3:1:2 ratio, simply fertilize at a lower rate and add a little potash to the soil or supplement your reduced rate solution with a little Pro-TeKt 0-0-3, which has the added benefit of containing silicon, which helps with tolerance to heat, cold, insects, and disease via strengthening cell walls.

Foolishpleasure - I would expect that you would need a high-N fertilizer because sawdust will cause some substantial N immobilization. Because a partially buried pot is essentially a mini-raised bed (hydrologically speaking), you might get away with using such a water-retentive mix, but if the container was above ground so you didn't have the earth acting as a giant wick, I'm pretty certain there would be considerable issues with a sawdust/topsoil 50/50 mix.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:52PM
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Thanks Al. Wow you have lots of trees. I have about 40 trees and I thought I have a lot. Appreciate your help.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 5:56PM
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i have two fig trees what is the best fertilizer im very new at this thanks

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 4:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If I had to recommend ONE fertilizer for all your containerized plants, including figs, I'd suggest Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. Second choice would be any other soluble fertilizer with a 3:1:2 RATIO. If you need clarification on 'ratio' vs NPK %s, read my post on 1/4/11 upthread.

It makes no sense to supply 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers like 10-10-10 when plants use 6X more N than P and only about 3/5 as much K as N. You're ENSURING either deficiency or toxicity levels of one or more of the majors (NPK). 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers (like 24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 ...) supply nutrients in almost exactly the same ratio as plants actually use.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Hi Al,

Do you apply this fertilizer directly to the leaves or do you water the soil/roots?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 1:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You can apply it to foliage if you want, but the roots are the most efficient pathway for getting nutrients into the plant. If we NEED to use foliar applications to alleviate nutritional deficiencies, there is something wrong with our nutritional supplementation program, or the cultural conditions we're providing are inadequate and preventing uptake of certain nutrients. It's better to concentrate on eliminating the limiting factor than it is to try to 'make up' for it by foliar feeding.

Generally, foliar feeding is limited to periods of growth so rapid that the plant cannot acquire certain specific elements fast enough, even though those elements may be present in the soil in what would normally be considered adequate amounts.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 3:23PM
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EVERY single University in the South which has an agricultural research department recommends using either 8-8-8, 10-10-10, or 13-13-13 "all purpose" fertilizer for the fertilization of in-ground figs trees. ALL of them......and that includes LSU which once had a fig breeding program (one of the few such programs in the world). LSU has studied the growing habits of many fig cultivars for over one hundred and twenty five years. They have studied figs way before chemical fertilizers were around. Even the internationally recognized French fig authority and noted fig-book author Pierre Baud recommends using this very same type of fertilizer (i.e. 8:8:8, or 10:10.10, or 13:13:13). And to add to that, some of these very same fig experts have empirical research data which supports the claim that using a high nitrogen fertilizer on fig trees will actually DELAY the ripening of fig fruit. That can become a very important consequence of your fertilizer selection and program when growing figs in a short season.

The best "TIME" to fertilize in ground fig trees is a couple of weeks prior to bud break. You gauge the yearly "AMOUNT" of fertilizer to add to your trees by how much they grow in a season. If after the early spring fertilization your tree does not respond by growing at least 6 inches to 1 foot, then you can apply another round of fertilizer to your tree. The ideal time for the second application of fertilizer (if needed) is a couple of weeks before the second fig flush on your tree. If you happen to live in an area where citrus is grown. Fertilize your fig trees at the exact same time you fertilize your citrus....because both figs and citrus usually will flush at the same time.

With that said, I do agree that Abe needs a higher nitrogen content fertilizer content for his unique situation (non-composted saw dust in soil).

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 3:29PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Dan - I've been growing trees in containers for more than 20 years, and I get paid to lecture people on the topic. Some may choose to blindly follow someone's interpretation of what someone else might or might not have said in a book somewhere, without even considering the physiology of the plant and how nutrition actually works, but hopefully they will see the sense in what I said as it applies to containerized plants.

If you actually sat down and talked to these people you referred to, you would find that to the man, they will tell you you're just shooting in the dark when fertilizing anything in the ground without a soil test. Since the conversation is about containerized plants, all you need do is actually read what I said to see how much sense it makes.

Practically, there are many hundreds (much more likely thousands) of GW growers tending hundreds of species of trees, including figs, using 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers on containerized plants with wonderful success, a goodly number of them led in that direction by my offerings and by witnessing to the fertilizers' effectiveness by large numbers of growers.

We've been through this over and over, so let's not make it a point of contention - let's just agree to disagree and let the jury decide.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:46PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

The recommendations report by King.Fig reminds me of a doctor who would recommend every single person reading this post, no matter what their current diet or medical conditions, stop using whatever vitamin supplement they might currently be on and start using only 9mg of vitamin B6 along with 2.3 mg manganese, no more no less.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 8:27PM
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a friend of mine uses a 10-10-10 on all of is many potted trees and yes is results are very good, fertilizing potted trees is important ,but so is watering,good soil,good drainege and a lot of sun.Ciao,Giuseppe

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 11:53AM
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I bet that the timing and amount of fertilizer application and the overall soil quality are more important than whether it's 8-8-8 or 9-3-6. And I bet you can achieve great results with either.

I bet that if you pressed Al, he'd probably concede that if you give a little extra P and K, it's not the end of the world, if you do the other stuff right.

And I bet that if you pressed King Fig, he'd probably admit that the 8-8-8 recommendation is probably a blanket, catchall type recommendation rather than one tailored for a specific set of circumstances. Also the simpler you make it for the public, the better, since confusion is bound to ensue otherwise.

Why not take two identical plants, with identical soil, and use 8-8-8 on one and 9-3-6 on the other. See if there is any difference, and report back.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 1:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Science isn't about compromising, Rob. 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers are significantly different from 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers. We can allow that soil composition is probably more important than fertilizer choice, but what if two growers are using the same container soil? Fertilizer choice could then be the next most limiting factor, so you want to be as close to optimum as possible.

Will 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers like 10-10-10 (much more common is 20-20-20 soluble or 14-14-14 controlled release) work for containerized plants? YES

Can you grow healthy plants with 10-10-10. YES

Does 10-10-10 or other 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers have equal potential to produce healthy plants as 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers? NO

Why? Because we know that anything in the soil that is an excess has the potential to be a limiting factor. Because plants use about 6X more N than P, if you're fertilizing to provide adequate N, you're automatically supplying far more P than the plant could ever use. The excess P raises pH unnecessarily, inhibits uptake of Fe and Mn (iron/manganese), and causes other problems. IF, you're fertilizing to guard against an excess of P, you're automatically dealing with a N deficiency.

I doubt the claim that 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers inhibit fruiting. 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers provide nutrients in the same ratio in situ plants take them up, whether they are artificially fertilized or growing in situ and unfertilized. It's not the fertilizer ratio that controls the amount of N supplied, it's the OTHER fertilizer - the GROWER that determines that. You can supply excess amounts of N as easily when using 10-10-10 as you can when using 9-3-6. When you do, the higher % of P & K in 1:1:1 fertilizers more than doubles the potential for harm.

You simply cannot build a scientific case FOR using 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers over 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers when there is a choice. Not long ago (August) I was scheduled to follow the president of the Michigan Nurseryman's Assn with my own presentation on another topic. He was talking about fertilizers and was telling the group about the folly in using fertilizers like the ubiquitous 12-12-12 (and 10-10-10 by association) that everyone seems to want to use on their gardens & trees. I was actually very pleased to hear someone telling the group exactly what I'm telling you now. I even made a few comments in enthusiastic agreement with his offerings before I got into my topic.

You can find anything you want in books and on the internet, but if we think for ourselves it's not hard to see that a fertilizer that provides nutrients in the ratio plants use them is sure to have advantage over one that doesn't.

Cheers! Have a good weekend. I sure hope the Red Wings win tonight. I'm not used to them losing! ;-)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:08PM
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You claim that almost all plants use all nutrients in the same proportion.

This is a new concept to me. It may be that you are correct. I'd like to understand this issue better, so I'd appreciate your thoughts on the following:

1. Do they use this same ratio all year long? For example, in the spring when they are putting out mostly foliage versus in the fall when they are ripening fruit?

2. What about soil organisms? Does their usage of nutrients impact what is available for the plants? For example, if there is a high carbon content (such as sawdust) in the soil, I have read that the organisms that break this down use nitrogen in large quantities.

3. To what extent does pH influence available nutrients? If the pH is too acid, reducing the relative availability of P, let's say, does adding extra P help the situation?

4. In an earlier post you described an antagonist relationship between Fe and Mn. Perhaps excess P is not as antagonistic as if a different element were excessive? Just trying to explain the difference between a 1-1-1 recommendation and a 3-1-2. Seems like if the extra P hurt a lot it wouldn't be recommended as much.

I agree with you that in science there is an optimum to which we should strive. So really I'm just trying to understand the cause and source of the apparently large gap between that optimum (which you claim is 3-1-2) and what you see recommended and available for sale. For example, I have a "tomato" fertilizer that is 12-10-5. Why? Is it all just smoke and mirrors to extract profits from the unwitting consumer, or is there some basis in fact for these various ratios you see out there that are claimed to be better for various plants and situations?


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 4:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

1) The nutrient uptake ratio changes during the growth cycle, but not significantly. Even if it changed significantly, both 3:1:2 and 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers would offer the same disadvantages, so that point is sort of moot to the discussion. Remember, no one in nature is out there changing nutrient levels for the plants - they remain virtually constant, other than the influence temperature has.

2) You almost have the soil organisms thing right, but you put the cart before the horse. When you use soil amendments that break down quickly (straw, sapwood chips, hardwood bark, sawdust, unfinished compost .....) soil biota populations explode due to the rapid increase in N levels. These microbial populations are more efficient users of N, and can out-compete plants for available N. We usually refer to the condition as N tie-up or N immobilization.

3) The impact of pH on nutrient availability is significantly greater in mineral soils than container soils because of mineral soil's significantly greater bulk density. Many nutrients precipitate as they form insoluble compounds with other elements in mineral soils as pH increases, particularly the micro-nutrients. In low bulk density soils like container media, it's not as critical. If you put the nutrients in, regularly, your plant will easily assimilate them.

4) How much hurt is acceptable before you say uncle? ;-) Why subject your plants to ANY hurt when it's easily avoidable? Excess P raises pH, makes it more difficult for the plant to take up water and thus, all nutrients (dissolved in water), but particularly K, Ca, Fe, Zn, and Cu. Because an excess causes chlorosis, the grower often thinks more of the same fertilizer is needed to 'green up the plants', and of course more of the same only exacerbates the problem.

Remember - I was careful to say you can grow healthy plants using 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers, but they are inherently limiting BECAUSE of their ratio. Fertilizing perfection is having all the essential elements plants usually take from the soil available in the soil at all times, in the same ratio as that at which plants use the nutrients, and at a concentration high enough to ensure no deficiencies and low enough to ensure that water uptake (osmotic water movement) is not hampered by a high TDS/EC soil solution. It's in our and our plant's interests to try to meet that end, even if the world won't end if we don't. I think the closer you are to wanting plants that thrive instead of survive, the more important the nuances of growing become. What matters to me isn't what growers actually do; what matters is they have the tools, the information to guide their decisions.

You asked why 1:1:1 fertilizers like 10-10-10 are so often recommended. I have to say I don't know, but probably for the same reason that fertilizers like the 'bloom booster' 10-52-10 is so often recommended to help produce more blooms - people just don't know any better ...... and they BUY it, so YES, there's a market. 10-52-10 IS a disaster waiting to happen, because of it's P content, yet several manufacturers shamelessly foist it on the unsuspecting. See? Ratios DO matter. ;-)

I'll link you to something that goes into more detail and might help clarify. See below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizing containerized plants.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:38PM
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My fig tree is about 2 feet tall and its been that way for three years. Last year i plant it it in ground and it just stop doing anything, leaves and fruit drop off. This year i put som 10 10 10 under it, i am hoping that soon i will have some figs. I don't know what i am doing wrong!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:40AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It may be horribly root bound, which would certainly account for the stalled growth. Planting a tree out (in the landscape) without correcting that condition will result in a tree the growth of which is permanently limited.


1 Like    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 8:51PM
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Al a red wing fan eh ?

Anyways i always have used MG 21-8-16 for many years with good results with my fig plants growing in containers.
There are many threads on this subject.

Al im a Chicago Blackhawks fan !

Martin - member-garden web, figs4fun, friends of figs society, ebay since "96"

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:21AM
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I would caution,that People like Bass,(nursery owner),need to have plants grow fast so they can be sold,for better price,so they use Hi nitrogen fertiliser,and that is OK for them.
The poster wants to fertilise for fruit production,and in this case I will not use Hi nitrogen if I was him,especially on fig trees.
Hi nitrogen fertilizer makes the tree grow fast but with poor fruiting results.
Also the poster live in zone 6 ,and fig trees that had high nitrogen in Summer die down a lot in Winter,so these are my 2 cents.
I understand the poster uses saw dust,and like Tapla say,it does need nitrogen,but he might have to change the soil composition a little if he wants a good harvest.
He did not say anything about applying a lot of Limestone powder to the potting soil,and I think it needs,it.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 8:50PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)


All I know is what I see here and that is, when my two in-ground Celestes had a higher-nitrogen fertilizer on them, they shot up with all kinds of growth and the distance between nodes was very wide and they didn't get as much fruit on them and it ripened later, plus, it wasn't very good. These were both older trees.

I put a 3:1:2 fertilizer on my potted fig trees the first year and they also shot up and had little fruit, which didn't bother me much because I was taking off what few fruits they got on them. A few ripened, but they didn't taste good, maybe because they were such young trees, but the older Hunt tree's fruit was awful-tasting. Last season, I didn't put 3:1:2 fertilizer on the trees and those that bore fruit had very tasty fruit on them.

Figs seem to be very sensitive to higher nitrogen food. Is that possible?



    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 9:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Many growers seem to think that you control the amount of N a plant gets by the NPK% of the fertilizer you use, but it's just as easy to supply too much N by over-fertilizing with 10-10-10 as it is with 30-10-10. Ultimately, it is the GROWER that is responsible for the amount of N a plant gets - not the fertilizer label. IF, every time your tree loses that dark green color we all covet we feel the need to add another shot of fertilizer, you'll find yourself in equal trouble no mater what the fertilizer ratio you choose. It's just that with the 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers you'll be grossly over-fertilizing with P if you're trying to keep up with N needs.

Cultural influences other than fertilizer ratio have a much more profound effect on fruit taste. Watering habits, light, age of the plant, all bring much more to bear on fruit taste than fertilizer ratios.

In mineral soils, figs prefer a pH of about 6.0-6.5. In containers, and as typical, they prefer a pH about 1 full point lower, or about 5.0-5.5 (charts provided on request). Most commercially prepared potting soils are pre-limed with dolomite and adjusted to a pH of somewhere near 6.2, which is already on the high side of ideal. I really think the excessive amounts of limestone many of you guys choose to use is much more likely to be limiting than a benefit to the plant. There is no evidence that figs need excessive amounts of either Ca or Mg, or the higher pH associated with the addition of liming agents, so I would not add lime unless the soil in the landscape was known to be acidic below 6.0; or to container soils other than the normal liming materials (dolomitic lime) you would use when making bark/peat-based soils.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 2:16PM
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One thing I didn't see anyone address is the potting mix used. Using 50% sawdust is going to consume all of the nitrogen in your soil until it has broken down. You may want to look at alternative potting mixes.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 3:48PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)


I have one Celeste inground and the other is in a frame that has no bottom on it, so it's like it's inground and they are in different locations. One is in the front and the other, in the back. They grow like crazy and the space between the nodes is very wide. The trees are from different sources, but act the same. If given fertilizer, they grow even more vigorously. They have done that even without fertilizer. What could be causing that to happen?


    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Hi, I read the posts about fertilizing and thank you to everyone who gave advice. I have another question. Have any of you every sprayed foilage with Gibberellic acid to keep fruit on the vine? I heard some commercial orange growers do that to keep the oranges from falling off.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 10:06AM
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I'm told that my figs are not sweet enough and that I should fertilize for sweetness. Please help me figure out how to 'sweeten the fig!"

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Interesting to read the experts recommendations for container fig fertilization. I purchased my first fig in May of this year from a local garden center. It was 18 inches tall. I immediately repotted it into a 10 gallon pot and placed it in the sunniest part of my deck. I began fertilization with every watering using soluble 20-20-20. By late June, the first figs appeared on new growth. I immediately switched to 10-60-10 and now have a 6 foot tall fig tree that is absolutely covered in figs from pea sized to walnut size fruit. It sounds like I have done everything wrong by the experts, but my tree looks incredible!!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:32AM
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Tony Ayliffe

i planted mine 3 years ago south facing surounded by paving slabs. its about 7ft and coverd in figs. i get ripe ones to eat about every 3 days. plenty of sun. water from barrel. my grapes i treat the same::

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 8:33AM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

That's real nice Tony, but what does that have to do with fertilizing the OP was asking about?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 3:12PM
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