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Care of container grown figs question

Posted by karyn1 MD 7 (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 23, 06 at 10:21

I have some fig trees in the yard that I pretty much ignore except for pinching and adding some lime and very little fertilizer. I ordered some figs to grow in containers and want to know how to care for them. I assume that I can't ignore them the way I do my Brown Turkey's that are in ground. How much water and fertilizer do they need during the growing season? Can the pots stay out during the winter (Z-7) or should I put them in an unheated garage to go dormant? They are varieties: Hardy Chicago, LSU Purple & Violet de Bordeaux. I really don't want to kill these trees.lol
Karyn


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Care of container grown figs question

I also grow figs in pots. They can dry out more easily this way, so you must keep them well-watered in summer and watch for signs of heat stress (yellowing or dropping leaves, dropping fruit). In March I scratch in some organic fertilizer along with agric. lime, since figs like it alkaline. I also keep a thin layer of chopped leaves on the surface as mulch to retain moisture. My zone is warmer in winter by a few degrees, (7B) but you ought to be able to keep your figs outdoors in pots in MD come winter, so long as you site them in a sheltered spot and wrap the pots in burlap or bubble wrap. (The smaller seedlings do go in my garage until they're a couple of years old.) I've been able to harvest plenty of figs this way, including Hardy Chicago and Celeste.


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Make sure that the containers are big enough - probably ranging from 5 to 20 gallon depending on the size of the tree and how often you want to water it. Mine are in the 10 to 15 gallon range.

Keeping them pruned might avoid top heaviness - see Anton's recent tragedy about falling over.

Many people add limestone grael to the top to reflect light and contribute lime.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: container growing info


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Thank you both for the info and link. I was planning on putting them into 15 gallon containers and hoping that they could remain in that size pot. I did read about Anton's tree getting blown over. Even though he lost quite a bit of fruit, at least the tree didn't break. I plan to pinch mine to keep them a more manageable size. I hadn't thought about limestone gravel but do add lime to my BT figs in the spring.
Karyn


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

In the American Horticultural Society book on pruning they suggest as one option to the avoid the top heavy issue is after the second year to cut the entire tree to the soil line. Seemed a bit severe to me, but they say it encourages multiple shoots as opposed to a main trunk. I think the logic of this is that the weight is distributed better. Surely there are other benefits that I'm missing. I want to also note that they also said that figs won't fruit in the northwest and I've had both breba and fall crops for the two years that I've lived in this house.


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Steve that's why I prefer getting info here instead of books and horticultural societies. I seem to get better info from people who have actually grown the plant(s) in question.
Karyn


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

steve, You said that you live in the pacific northwest. Do you know how long it takes figs to ripen from the time you start noticing corn kernel sized figs appearing? I just need an estimate.


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

  • Posted by bjs496 z9 SE Houston (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 24, 06 at 3:56

I have two fig trees in 5 gallon pots which are over 7' tall. I've not had an issue with tipping, even during the worst storm. The secret is in the potting mix. Mine is 1/3 crushed granite which weighs the pot down. I have read the goal of a growing mix is to occupy 50% of the pot volume. Water and air split the remaining volume equally.

I'll add some balanced, slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season. After a few months I start using a liquid, high "P" fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer is applied about once a week (depending on how lazy I am). I water daily so I wash out a lot of the fertilizer. Your regime will vary depending on the soil you use.

You don't need to start with such a large pot. You will need to repot yor tree periodically to eliminate the circling roots. I start mine in 2.5 - 4 gallon pots depending on the size of the tree. Second year they are in a 4 or 5 gallon pot. You can choose to pot up or not during your periodic root prunings. There is a lot of talk about larger pots holding excess moisture causing root rot. I don't know how much of a factor this is, however, you will spend more for your growing mix than is necessary.

I prefer to grow mine upright. If you want to grow in bush form, you should cut the growing tip. You could cut it back to the soil level and it will send shoots up from below the surface.

Growing trees in pots has its own learning curve. Furthermore, not all trees like the same care. It is important to remember that unlike the trees in the ground, your potted trees are dependant on you for survival. Also, mistakes made to a potted tree (over feeding, watering issues, etc.) are potentially more damning than those made to a tree in the ground. The people in this forum each have a method that works for them. Anyone of them is probably a good starting point for you. Pay attention to what is happening and tweak the process to fit your specific needs over time.

Good luck,
~james


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Thanks for the info James. I never even considered that I'd have to trim the roots but it does make sense. I was hoping that I could plant them in a big pot and not worry about transplanting, the same way I treat my brugs and plumeria. Oh well, more work in the garden. lol
Karyn


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

  • Posted by bjs496 z9 SE Houston (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 24, 06 at 21:12

Karyn,

I have heard of people root pruning via the "pie cutting" method. Each year remove about a third of the root mass as a pair of 1/6th wedges. You will never have roots more than three years old, and you've eliminated most of the circling roots that may give you problems.

I'm not sure how effective this method is nor am I aware of any drawbacks of using it, however it seems much easier than bare-rooting the tree every couple of years.

~james


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

  • Posted by petem z7 Long Isl, NY (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 28, 06 at 18:55

Karyn,
I Used to keep my figs in my unheated garage against the wall common to my house. The soil never froze, I watered them about once or twice a month. come spring, I all ready had leaves. After converting my garage into kitchen space, I've kept my figs in the backyard shed. Big mistake. Somehow the wind got through, and killed almost all of my figs. I had 27 fig trees. Ranging in size from cuttings that rooted well, to about a 7 foot Lattarula that finally gave me figs after having it for 4 years. At this time, I have three trees. one Chios (greek variety) I placed that in the ground last spring and it did well over the winter. The other two, a Kephalonia another greek variety wintered in my basement however it wasnt cold enough and it started sprouting. The third, a Peter's Honey, purchased this year. Small property size has forced me to keep almost all of my other fruits and vegetable in pots. Water your figs everyday. I fertilize my container grown figs once a week 2tbspns miracle grow to one gallon of water until First week in September. It may be extended in your area. Not too much later, otherwise new growth wont harden off in time. I place granular limestone ontop of the soil to increase ph. You can repot your fig trees every two years or so. Root prune as mentioned by others above. I should be getting some figs from my Chios (first time ) this year. Kephalonia was a cutting I took from my main tree 3 years ago before it died. Good luck.


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Karyn, if you haven't seen it already, if you search gardenweb with 'fig container root pruning' you get a number of previous posts, including one with the sagacious Herman that I found very informative: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fig/msg031404304525.html

Jonathan, in terms of your kernal-to-fruit question, did you mean with the breba/summer crop? Since the breba fruit, amazingly to me, over-winters from the previous year's growth, it's hard for me to recall when it's at corn kernal size. There are some PNW folks on here who actually know what they're talking about and probably could give you a decent answer, but I'm still trying to remember when my fall crop ripens.

Steve


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RE: Care of container grown figs question

Karyn, Before growing figs in containers a few years ago, I have few figs to eat and nothing in most years because whatever figs came out didn't have enough time to ripe. The first year that I started to grow my conadria fig tree in a container, I had over 30 and close to a hundred the second year. I keep my fig trees in an unheated garage over the winter preferably in the dark part of the garage and water it sparingly. Tipping over is a problem. Using crushed stone as James had done does help, but eventually, you will need more than that when the foliage becomes massive - like driving stakes around the pot would help. Al


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