Introduction

» The fig - The Tree of Life - The Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil - The Sacred Tree - The Tree of Heaven - The Holy Tree. The fruit of the gods. The Queen of fruits. Just some of the names given by many cultures around the world.

» Considered by many historians as the actual tree of which the fruit was forbidden to be eaten in the Garden of Eden and not the Apple tree as believed by most.

» No other fruit has more history, stories, folklore and mystique than the fig. The fig is the oldest cultivated fruit by man; dating back to at least 5000 B.C.

» The fig is mentioned various times in the scriptures of most of the world's religions. There is plenty of very interesting information available on the internet and it is worth looking into it further!

» The fig tree is associated with fertility, health, peace and abundance. Many believe that planting a fig tree will help with these virtues.

» The common fig (Ficus carica) is a small deciduous tree or large shrub with three of five deeply lobbed fragrant, hairy leaves.

» All parts of the fig contains a white latex-like sap called fig milk.

» The tree produces edible fruit. The "false" fruit is actually a hollow ended stem containing many small flowers.

Origin of Figs

 

» The botanical name for the common edible fig is Ficus carica and it originated from the Mid east and Asia (Persia). It was quickly spread by humans to the Mediterranean and then to the rest of the world. Figs are accustomed to climates with long, hot, dry summers and cool winters.

» Since figs and pomegranates originate roughly from the same area, we like to see them respectively as the "Queen" and "King" of all fruits.

Types of Figs

The original wild figs all needed to be pollinated by the fig wasp in order to set the fruit. This process is called Caprification and each fig species has its own unique fig wasp. Plenty of information are available on the internet about this very interesting process but we are going to skip it here. Over time, strains of figs were discovered that did not need Caprification and it is these figs that most gardeners grow today.

As figs spread throughout the world into different climate zones and growing conditions (as well as active breeding by man), different varieties and clones started to appear. Over a period of 5000 years more than a staggering 1000 varieties were created!
Figs (Ficus carica) are classified into four main groups:

Group 1: Smyrna figs
These figs need pollination by the fig wasp which in turn lives on the host fig tree (called a Capri fig). These type of figs are rarely grown in South Africa and only certain areas in the Western Cape (where the fig wasp can survive) are suitable to grow them. Figs pollinated by the fig wasp are called: "Caprified figs". Caprified figs are more superior in taste and quality than common figs and most are imported from Turkey and surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that these specific figs produce viable seeds that are able to germinate and produce new fig plants. This is the way that new cultivars are developed.

Group 2 : San Pedro
These figs have an early crop (called a breba crop) which produces figs without the need for pollination. The second crop however needs to be pollinated by the fig wasp otherwise all the small developing figs will drop from the tree.

Group 3 : Capri Figs
This is the host tree for the fig wasp. It has figs containing both male and female flowers. The female wasp lays her eggs in the female flowers. The wasp can only reproduce in Capri figs although it visits Smyrna and other figs in which eggs cannot be laid. Capri figs need to be planted close to Smyrna figs for successful pollination (Caprification). The male flowers contain pollen that is needed to pollinate the female flowers of Smyrna & San Pedro figs.

Group 4: Common figs
This group of figs is the most widely known and grown as they set figs without pollination and are called parthenocarpic figs. Common figs only have female figs but they can still be pollinated by fig wasps and produce viable seeds that can also germinate. The fig wasp, however, cannot lay her eggs in the figs as the flowers are too long.
 
Why Plant Figs

Nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked fig from your own tree!

It is the fruit of the gods!

» Fresh figs are not readily available and rather expensive. Figs have poor shelf life and storage abilities and thus only the immediate surrounding areas can benefit from fresh figs. Furthermore, figs that are not picked fully ripe will not ripen further in storage.

» Many people believe that fig trees bring good luck.

» Figs are very rewarding, easy and fun to grow. They are tough and can survive a lot of neglect (at the expense of the fruit of course).

» Figs are waterwise and can withstand drought well. They love hot conditions and tolerate heat very well.

» They are one of the few fruit trees that grow exceptionally well in confined spaces, containers and pots.

» Figs have many health benefits (see special section for more information).

Figs used in Landscaping

We know this suggestion sounds a little crazy! We South Africans love our Tuscan styled houses and love planting olives, cypress trees, lavenders and rosemary to enhance the look but what about the most important one, namely, FIGS!!! This is as Mediterranean as you can get! You don't have to plant fig trees only in orchards. Make them part of your ornamental garden.
 
» Figs can look very effective pruned into Standards, small trees or planted into containers. Even in winter with no leaves on the bare, grey-white, twisted branches give a beautiful silhouette.
 
» Another great advantage is that fig leaves give off a strong, pleasant smell and the fruit also attracts birds
into your garden.
 
» Some of the best varieties to use in landscaping is "Pastiliere" and "Noire de Barbentane". "Pastiliere" has a strong, upright, robust, look with attractive, large greyish-green leaves. "Noir de Barbentane" has a lush look with a dark green attractive leaves that reaches up to the sky. "Ice Crystal" has attractive finely cut leaves that almost look like lace trimming. Another beautiful ornamental variety is called "Tiger" and it has pretty yellow and green striped figs which are also edible.
 
Health Benefits

» Figs have one of the highest overall mineral content of all common fruit.

» Figs contain high levels of Calcium that helps strengthen your bones.

 
» Figs help to reduce hypertension and high blood pressure as they contain high levels of Potassium.
 
» Figs are great in aiding digestion and acts as a natural laxative as it contains high levels of dietary fiber.
 
» Antioxidants in figs help reduce the growth of cancer cells in the breast, colon and prostrate areas.
 
» Fig leaves are also edible and contains phenolic antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease.
 
» Fig leaves and sap are also used to treat various skin disorders.
Warnings

» A small percentage of the population might show signs of allergy towards figs.

» The fig sap can be very irritating to some people's skin.

» Eating too many figs can cause diarrhoea.

 

Introduction

When it comes to growing food crops there will be no escaping pests and diseases and this includes figs. Mother Nature likes balance and there are pests and diseases for every single species of plant on this planet. It gets worse if large areas of the same crop is repeatedly planted.

» Large urban areas also create micro climates which are a perfect breeding and hiding place for all types of pests and diseases.

» There is good news and there is bad news when it comes to figs in our area. The good news is that there is only a few major problems with fig production but the bad news is that if nothing is done about these problems you will have no figs to harvest (this counts for all other fruit crops as well).

Important Tips

Hygiene:

» Good hygienic practices in and around your orchard is very important.

» Regularly remove spent, rotting and fallen fruit.

» Throw it away or bury it at least 1m deep in the soil. Do not throw it on the compost heap as pests and diseases can survive there.

» Inspect your trees carefully at least every week and act immediately if any problems are noticed.

» Keep the area around the trees neat and weed free.

Using chemical or environmental friendly products?

» As technology and cultural techniques improve the use of chemicals will hopefully be much less in future.

» Unfortunately, some pests and diseases (especially in the Agricultural sector) can only successfully be controlled by chemicals to justify the economic viability and to keep up with demand.

» However, some pests can easily be controlled by other less harmful means.

» Always use chemicals only as a last resort.

» If chemicals are used responsibly and sparingly their use can greatly improve yields without doing too much damage to the environment or impact negatively on your health.

Using Chemicals

» Always use chemicals as a last resort!

» Always be very careful when using chemical sprays!

» Read and follow all instructions carefully!

» Do not exceed the recommended strengths.

» Make sure about the maximum waiting period before fruit is safe for consumption.

» Always wash the fruit properly before consumption.

» Always supervise your gardener when using chemicals - be present at all times!

» Keep away/out of reach of children and animals.

» Always use gloves, wear shoes and be fully clothed.

» Wear safety glasses and wear safety masks (respirators).

» Take a shower or bath after working with chemicals.

» Avoid spraying chemicals on windy days.

» Try spraying early in the morning or late afternoon. Avoid spraying during the hottest part of the day.

» Destroy empty chemical containers in a safe and responsible way (do not re-use them for something else!).

» Wash out all spraying equipment properly after use.

» Adding a mixing agent greatly improves effectiveness.

» Spray the plant properly and thoroughly so that all parts are covered with the spray. If you do not spray properly, pests and diseases can build up resistance against chemicals and it may lose its effectiveness.

» Stick with your spraying programme. Sometimes follow-up sprays are needed to get rid of pests for good.

» Act immediately on any problems as it gets more difficult to control large outbreaks.

 

 

Fig Flies

Silba Adipata)» For me, personally, the most serious pest and threat to fig production in our area. It was first observed in the Western Cape Province in the summer of 2000 and quickly spread to the rest of the country. It is believed that these flies were accidentally imported with some fresh figs from overseas destined for the local fresh produce market. The fig fly occurs naturally in the Mid East and Mediterranean where the fig originates from.

» This very annoying little fly seeks out small developing figs detecting the smell of sugar present in the fig milk which is very strong in young developing figs. The female fly normally lays her eggs close to the ostiole(small opening at the bottom of the fig) and then the small white larvae burrows their way into the fig fruit and starts eating it from the inside.

» Sometimes larvae penetrate through other parts of the skin leaving small black dots.

» You will not know that you have an infestation until you notice that immature small figs start to colour prematurely and drop off the tree in their hundreds. Only if the fig is cut open will you see the telltale brown centre of the fig sometimes crawling with small white grubs. This is of course one of the main reasons of figs dropping off in South Africa.

» The flies can have up to 5 generations per season if it is not controlled. The worst infestations happen from mid summer onwards when temperatures are at their highest. Infestations are also very high in areas where a lot of fig trees are planted.

» The only way to control this pest is to start spraying as soon as the first small figs appear and to stick to your spraying programme.

» All figs that dropped off should be removed immediately and thrown away. Do not bury or throw them on the compost heap as the small grubs will burrow into the ground to pupate and start a whole new infestation. The pupae can also succesfully overwinter between old leaves and figs as well as in the soil.

 

 

Quarantine Control:

» The pest is widespread in areas with high concentrations of fig trees. Some isolated farms and small holdings are free of the pest. To keep it that way all new fig plants should be inspected carefully and all figs, no matter how small, should be removed. The figs should be removed and disposed of before you transport the plants to your property. When arriving at your premises the whole plant as well as the soil should be drenched with a solution of broad spectrum insecticide. Do not purchase or bring any fig fruit from other sources onto your property.

Chemical Control:

» Although not the ideal way (especially nowadays) to deal with this pest but it is certainly justified in areas with high concentrations of fig trees.

» There are currently products on the market that are used to control the common fruit fly and these will also control the Mediterranean Black Fig Fly.

» Consult your nearest Garden Centre for advice and recommendations on which product to use.

» It is very important to read the warnings and instructions carefully on the label provided.

» It is also very important to check for the minimum waiting period before figs can be harvested after spraying.

Bait Station Control:

» Alternatively, bait stations can be hung away from trees . This is a more environmentally friendly way of controlling fig and fruit fly pests but it is, unfortunately, not 100% effective. In order for this method to work you are going to have to change the bait liquid on a 2 weekly basis. There are a few recipes available. We are going to discuss the best 3.

» Bait stations work on the principle of attracting the flies and trapping them in a container filled with liquid into which they will eventually fall and drown. You can purchase expensive bait stations or use cheap soft drink bottles.

» For your homemade container use a 2lt plastic soft drink bottle. Ensure that the cap is screwed on. Using a drill make about 5-6 small holes at the top part of the bottle about 5mm in diameter. Avoid making the holes too big. You will need one bottle for about 5 mature fig trees. Fill the bottle to about one third of its capacity and add one of the following mixes:

Recipe one:

(This method was developed by Dries of the company "Protek")

» One tablespoon of Protek "Fly Bait"
» One tablespoon of sugar
» One teaspoon of "Bovril"

Recipe two:

(This recipe is recommended by Alternafruit in the Western Cape )

» One tablespoon of "Marmite"
» 2grams of ammonium sulphate

Recipe three:

(Recommended by Keith Wilson)

» One tablespoon of sugar
» One teaspoon of beer yeast

(All recipes are to be diluted in 1 lt of water).It is believed that the fig fly likes a more sour/salty to sweet bait as fig milk in young figs are not yet that sweet as when it is mature.

What I have noticed is that some varieties are more prone to attack than others. For instance "Parisienne" is the one variety which is always attacked first and very hard. Other varieties like "Ronde de Bordeuax" seems to be left alone. The breba crop of "White Genoa" is normally spared but the main crop is attacked.

Birds

» If you live in one of the major urban centres of South Africa this will be a major problem.

» Large urban areas like the Gauteng city province creates a micro climate where a wide variety of birds breed that are normally not found here naturally. The bird populations are also much higher in number here than in their native areas due to the abundance of food found in people's gardens.

» It is not only figs that are targeted but most fruit and vegetable crops are also attacked.

Controlling the problem

» Birds normally target fully ripened figs. Try to harvest figs just before they are fully ripe.

» A feeding station put far away from your orchard will keep them occupied and hopefully attract them away from your figs.

» The most effective way, however, to stop the problem is to either grow your figs and other food crops under shade nets or cover them with bird net during the ripening stage.

» You can also cover your figs with organza bags just before they start to ripen.

» Old Cd's hanging on strings from branches also help to scare off some birds.

 

 

Stem Borer

(Phryneta spinator)» Also known by its common name "the long horn beetle".

» This is a very serious pest, especially in the Western Cape and Limpopo areas. The pest is not only limited to the fig tree but attacks a wide range of other tree species as well. This pest is indigenous to the African continent.

» The female beetles lay their eggs on the base of the stems that are normally close to the ground.

» After hatching the small larvae start to feed on the softer bark. As the larvae grow they tunnel deeper into the harder wood and start hollowing out the branches.

» It takes about two and a half years for the larvae to mature and to develop into adult beetles which starts the infestation cycle all over again.

» Infestations are small at first but increase rapidly if nothing is done. Typical signs of infestations are small holes on the branches and traces of wood shavings. Pieces of bark may come off and whole branches can die back or break off. The adult beatles also feed on the young figs, branches and leaves.

 

Photo copyright (all 6): Full credit and thanks to Barbara Mueller for allowing us to use these great pictures.

Control:

» With this disease, prevention is better than cure!

» Heavily infested trees should rather be destroyed and the wood burned or completely removed from the property.

» It is very important to inspect your trees regularly and at the first sign of infestation treatment should be started immediately.

» If you live in an area prone to this pest, regular monthly preventative spraying should be done. Consult your nearest Garden Centre for advice and recommendations on which chemical to use.

Environmentally friendly control is difficult but achievable:

» For small infestations, long pieces of wire can be pushed down into the tunnels thus killing the larvae.

» With prevention techniques I have heard of farmers using pieces of hessian cloth that were soaked in tar and then wrapped around the bottom one meter of the main trunk and also on the immediate surrounding soil. The beetles will find it difficult to lay their eggs on the bark.

» Another method that is being used by farmers is to wrap the main trunks with fine plastic or wire mesh. Start wrapping the tree from the root crown upwards to the main scaffold branches and as high as possible. The mesh prevents the beetles from laying their eggs directly onto the bark of the tree.

» With especially large orchards good hygiene is important by keeping the surrounding soil clean and free of weeds. It is also important to remove all dead pieces of wood and bark where grubs can live in or any dead trees or shrubs found nearby.

» It is very important to do regular inspections and to act immediately if there is any larvae or beetles noticed.

Chemically dealing with infestations:

» If you already have an infestation it is unfortunately a totally different story. The problem is that the fat white grubs (larvae) are hiding inside tunnels that they ate open for themselves. The only way to destroy them is by injecting insecticide into these tunnels or killing them by pushing a wire into these tunnels. This is, unfortunately, not very effective, very time-consuming and only recommended for light infestations and small trees.

» The best treatment is to use a systemic insecticide. Systemic means that the poison is taken up by the cells and tissue of the plant. Remember most insecticides are contact based. The advantage about these insecticides is that it will spread throughout the plant and reach in all the places where they are hiding where contact insecticides can't. Another advantage is that the plant will be protected for longer as it can't be washed off by the rain as it is taken up into the cells. Also, it is easy to treat big trees as the poison can be taken up by the roots by watering the base of the plant with the poison.

» VERY IMPORTANT: This insecticide is like "Antibiotics" and should be used properly otherwise the insects can build up a resistance against it. The bigger the tree, the more dosages should be given. For instance, a 5 year old tree will need at least 25lt of mix ,weekly for a month and this can only be given when there is sap flow that is during the growing season (not when dormant). I can't stress this enough: it is useless giving a big tree small quantities of poison and especially if only one dosage is given.

» It is best to drench the soil around the tree with the systemic insecticide.  The plant should be drenched and in severe cases also be sprayed, if possible. Remember to do 3 follow-up treatments at weekly intervals. A rough guide is to give 5lt of mix per every year of the age of the tree with a maximum of 50lt (for very large trees).

» Consult your nearest Garden Centre for advice and recommendations on which systemic product to use.

» The tree should be protected up to 6 months after the 4 applications and should wipe out the infestation. Thereafter you should switch back to preventative spraying.

ONE WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME ANY OF THE FIGS DURING TREATMENT. SYSTEMIC POISON TAKES A LONG TIME TO BE WORKED OUT OF THE PLANT'S SYSTEM. A PERIOD OF AT LEAST 3 MONTHS SHOULD BE GIVEN! PLEASE READ THE INSTRUCTIOS OF THE PESTICIDE PRODUCT CAREFULLY BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER.

Souring

» Souring of figs occurs normally during damp and humid conditions. Only figs that have started to ripen are affected.

» Souring of figs is caused by a fungus which is primarily spread by small flies called "Vinegar Flies". They are attracted to overripe, rotting figs but they are also attracted to any other kinds of fruit. Furthermore, they multiply very quickly during damp and wet weather.

» Good sanitation practices should be followed by regular removal of spoiled, split or rotten figs from the tree. Regular spraying for fig flies and stemborers should keep them in check.

» Improved or good air circulation will also greatly reduce infection rates.

» Souring can also lead to other diseases like Botrytis (rotting) of the figs, but yet, again good sanitation practices should keep this in check.

» Some fig varieties are more prone to these diseases than others and more suitable varieties should be planted, especially in areas with humid and wet summers. Fig varieties with small ostioles or varieties which produces a sugar drop on the ostiole should be chosen.

Fig Rust

» This disease is common in the summer rainfall areas and especially troublesome during very hot and humid summers. It most often occurs during the months from December until February.

» This fungal disease causes brown, powdery bumps on the underside of leaves. Small brownish patches can also occur on the top of the leaves. In serious cases all the leaves can drop off. It occurs during hot and humid weather and especially in areas with poor air circulation. It is easily controlled by using fungicides. Consult your nearest Garden Centre for recommendations on which product to use.

 

Splitting

» Splitting of fig fruits happens normally during very humid and wet weather and is worsened if the fig trees were kept to dry and suddenly receives a lot of water.

» Some varieties are also more prone to this than others. If you live in areas with overly wet and humid conditions it is best to plant resistant varieties like "Deanna" and "Black Mission".

» Varieties like "White Genoa" and "Adam" split easily.

» Although you can't do anything about the weather, you can lessen the impact of the weather a little bit by watering your fig tree at regular intervals and not letting the soil become too dry. Under no circumstances should the fig tree be irrigated from above as figs will take up the water directly through the skin. Only water the fig tree at root level.

» When it comes to high humidity there is little that you can do. If possible, plant your fig tree in an area with good air circulation.

» The good news is that only figs that are close to ripening are affected. Luckily the follow up figs may escape the wet humid periods all together.

 

 

 

Frost

» Figs are remarkably hardy and they tolerate a good deal of frost.

» Most figs will withstand temperatures as low as -5°C but some varieties can tolerate temperatures as low as -10°C.

» South Africa's climate varies between USA Zones 8-10.

We use the the following terminology to classify frost hardiness:

Tender below 1°C

Semi-hardy below -3C

Hardy below -5°C

Very Hardy below -10°C

(The above indicates at which minimum temperature the plant will sustain noticeable frost damage.)

» Frost is not generally a factor in suburban areas due to a micro climate that is created. It is the more exposed areas like farms, small holdings and lowlying river valley properties that have the biggest problem with frost.

The following areas experience severe frost during winter and special care should be taken in choosing the correct varieties:

Far Southern Gauteng, Western Mpumalanga, Free State, Southern Northwest, Northern areas of the Eastern Cape, high mountainous areas of the Western Cape and the southern part of the Northern Cape.

» Winters are often underestimated in these areas and this is the reason why these regions mainly consist of grasslands and very few indigenous trees.

» Black frost is the biggest challenge in these areas. Black frost occurs when all the air freezes from groundlevel up into the atmosphere. It worsens ifin the presence of wind.

» Black frost normally occurs 1 or 2 days after large cold fronts have passed over inland areas.

» Black frost normally does not cause any formation of icecrystals on plants but literally "dry freezes" the whole plant.

» Snow rarely falls on the inland areas of South Africa with the exception of the high mountainous areas. Snow is generally not a problem for figs but the trouble starts after the snow has melted and black frost sets in.

 

Fruit Flies

» The common fruit fly, which attacks all fruit, is not nearly as serious a pest as the Mediterranean fig fly but can be a problem during the warmer summer months, especially in areas with high concentrations of other fruit trees like peaches.

» Fruit flies can be kept under control with fruit fly bait stations or by regular spraying with preventative chemical spraying.

» Unlike the Mediterranean fig fly, the common fruit fly will only attack ripening figs.

Wilting

» Luckily, figs are perfectly adapted to dry and hot conditions. They crop much better if well watered but at least they will recover again. Figs that suffer from drought will typically drop their figs and, in serious cases, their leaves.

» Figs standing in water for long periods of time, especially if grown in clay soils, will develop root rot. The leaves will start to go yellow and start wilting. They often recover if they weren't exposed too long to these conditions.

» If serious damage occurred, it is better to cut back the plant.

Fig Mosaic Virus

» This is more an irritation than a serious disease. Infected plants show leaves with marbled, irregular patches of different shades of green or distorted leaves. It is noticeable only under certain conditions like stress situations or certain times of the year when there is rapid growth. In many cases it disappears when the leaves mature.

» It normally doesn't affect the general health of the fig or its fig production and is generally not seen as a major concern in agricultural production.

» Some varieties are more resistant than others while some varieties might be affected negatively but this is rarely the case. Varieties like "Deanna" and "White Genoa" seldom show signs of infection, where as "Cape Brown" and "Mission" varieties often show symptoms throughout the growing season.

» Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease as it is a virus. You can either live with it or remove and destroy the plant.

» It is spread from infected plants to healthy plants by small sucking insects called mites or by pruning plants with secateurs used on affected plants and not sterilizing it. This disease occurs worldwide and no continent is spared.

» Branches that show severe signs of infection can be cut back into healthy wood (remember to quick dip your secateurs into Jeyes fluid after every cut is made).

» Only branches that show no signs of the disease should be used for cutting material.

» Some inpidual plants can be severely infected and never recover and should therefore rather be removed and destroyed.

» I have researched about this disease extensively and some authors claim the disease is present in all fig plants. I have come to the same conclusion and found that most plants in South Africa were infected with the disease no matter where I bought them from.

» In poor growing or stressful conditions, it is much more prevalent.

» There are a few companies that uses micropropagation to side step the virus but exposure somewhere down the line is inevitable.

» It is believed that there are several strains of the virus.

» Fig mosaic virus varies from variety to variety as the following pictures show:

 

Nematodes (Eelworm)

» These are microscopic small worms that live in the soil. Most of them are beneficial or "good" as they prey on dead plant material or other insects but a few prey on live plant's roots.

» The plants can become stunted, grow very slowly or die back. The plant will have little fine roots, with a lot of dead, stumpy roots and some roots will have knots on them (swollen galls).

» Preventative care is better than the cure, however, it is difficult to control this disease. It is more of a problem in the agricultural sector due to monocultures. It is also more serious and widespread in dryish, sandy to slightly rocky soils.

» Chemical control is possible but extreme care should be taken when using these pesticides.

» You can also plant nematode repellant plants like Marigolds in areas with heavy infestations. Heavy mulching and adding a lot of organic matter such as manure or compost also helps to reduce the number of harmful nematodes in the soil.

» If you have eelworm infested soil try not to plant plants prone to this pest for at least 6 years. There is a lot of information available on the internet about which plants you can use.

» There is a few fig varieties that are resistant to eelworm but unfortunately they will only be available in a few years' time.

» If you do have eelworms in your soil, try planting your figs into large pots and purchase good quality bark-based potting soil.

Thrips

This pest occurs on a wide range of ornamental as well as agricultural crops. Most damage on fig trees is done on the figs themselves. The figs will have rough, thickened surfaces and new branches can also be affected. Regular spraying for other pests (fig fly and stem borer) should keep it under control.

 

Aphids

» Always present on the new growth sucking out the sap.

» Tiny round insects, normally black or green, which multiplies quickly.

» Normally not a problem with fig production.

» Aphids are also easily controlled by various Organic Pesticides like Margaret Robert's Organic Insecticide or Ludwig's Organic Insecticide.

» Good orchard management and hygiene will prevent fig trees from being attacked by these diseases.

 

Figs Dropping

» The most common cause of small figs dropping off is either caused by severe drought or Mediterranean Fig Fly.

» It is essential to keep figs moist for the first half of the season when new figlets are produced (please read more under Watering). Small figs can drop if the plant was exposed to severe drought.

» In the majority of cases the Mediterranean Fig Fly is to blame. Cut the figs open and inspect the center. You will see typical brown patches and sometimes also the white larvae.

» Mediterranean fig fly larvae destroys the figs from the inside. The center of the figs will be brown and from the outside the figs will appear healthy (please read more in Major problems section).

» Another cause can be due to poor pollination but this is seldom a problem in our area as thus far only self pollinating varieties are sold in the Northern provinces. Some fig varieties need the fig wasp for pollination otherwise the figs will fall off. Most of these kinds of figs (called Smyrna types figs) are found mostly in the Western Cape.

» In some cases overwatering and over or under feeding might also cause figs to drop but this is rare.

» Very low temperatures during summer may also cause figs to drop (most fig varieties need hot weather to develop properly). Parisienne (Bourjasotte Noire) is one such example and drops figs very easily.

» It is common during autumn for young figs to drop as temperatures can be too low to fully develop the figs.

 

Die Back

» Branches that show signs of dying back can be attributed to various reasons. On very old trees this can be due to old age and can be rectified by rejuvenative pruning.

» Frost damage is a major cause of die back. Other causes can include stem borer infestation or poorly drained soils causing rotting of the roots or severe drought stress.

» Nematodes (eelworm), especially in sandy soils, can cause dieback.

» If you have die back, it is best to cut back into healthy (living) tissue and then sealing it with a good tree sealant. If you can determine the cause, try to rectify the problem.

Tasteless figs

» Figs like well drained soil and should not be overwatered.

» Figs trees that do not receive enough sun will produce figs with inferior taste.

» Figs need hot, sunny days to bring out their taste. Figs that ripen during rainy spells will taste inferior to ones that ripen during dry, hot spells.

» Figs grown in cooler climates will normally taste inferior to ones grown in warmer climates.

» Overwatering or wet weather during the ripening stage can cause the fruits to take up too much water and then taste watery. Remember the fruit of figs can take up water directly through their skin.

» Fertilizers, especially those with too much Nitrogen, will also affect the taste negatively.

» There are many varieties of figs with many different tastes so make sure you choose one that suits your taste.

» Figs taste at their best when they are fully ripe. Remember, figs do not ripen further once they have been picked.

Slow Growth

» I often get this complaint. The most common cause of slow growth is neglect. Regular watering and feeding of especially young trees is important. I put the emphasis on REGULARLY - not now and then when you remember. If a plant is exposed to stress conditions like drought, it is easily set back a month before it will recover again. Only watering will also not help: plants need food like you and me to grow! (see Feeding).

» Nematodes (eelworm) can also cause this but that is unlikely in our area. It will be a good thing to inspect the roots though.

» Fig mosaic virus can also cause some varieties to grow slower but this is rare (some inpidual plants of the same variety can also be negatively affected).

» Figs grow much slower in poorly drained and waterlogged soils. Well drained soil is crucial!

» Figs need warm, sunny conditions to grow at their best. Cool, rainy summers will cause slower growth.

» It is important to note that some varieties of figs grow faster than others. Some varieties can grow into big trees and others only into small shrubs. Bigger varieties will normally grow faster. Varieties like "Dalmatie" and "Cape Brown" grow very slow while "Deanna" and "Parisienne" grow fast.

» Figs in pots will grow slower than their counterparts in the soil.

» Figs in pots can become rootbound and cause stunted growth. Annual root pruning or re-potting into a bigger container is recommended.

» Sometimes trees need to establish themselves properly for the first few years before rapid growth can start.

Remember that old saying:

 

Red Spider Mite

(various species)» These are very small spider-like insects that suck out sap from the leaves and cause small white dots on the surface of the leaves. Sometimes small webs can also be seen.

» This pest is normally only a problem in tunnels, under shade nets,patios and stoeps,areas with poor air circulation or if plants are planted very close to each other.

» Red spider infestations are at their worst during very hot, dry weather conditions.

» There are various products available for the control of the pest.

» It is important to get rid of this pest as soon as possible as it can spread the Fig Mosaic Virus to other figs.

African Bollworm

(Helicoverpa armigera)

» Although not a common or serious pest on figs it can attack especially soft growing tips and leaves of fig trees during summer time.

» Adult moths lay their eggs during night time on the tree. They quickly hatch and small larvae start to devour growing tips and leaves of the fig tree.

» The larvae are very variable in size and colour but all have a horizontal stripe on their side.

» The pest is easily controlled by spraying with Margaret Robert's Organic Insecticide or Ludwig's Organic Caterpillar Control

Scale

» Small flat, grey, brown or black armoured insects present on the younger bark, sucking out sap from the tree.

» Normally not serious pests when it comes to figs.

» Scale is easily and safely treated by spraying with Oleum which is environmentally friendly.

Yellow Brown Leaves

This is always a very tricky problem to resolve as many factors can cause leaves to colour yellow or turn brown.

» Browning of leaves is normally caused by the following:

· severe drought coupled with severe heat and sun.

· overwatering in some cases.

· fig rust normally on the underside of the leaves.

· overfeeding or fertilizer burn (normally edges turn black then brown).

· overuse of chemicals causing burn.

· frost damage (turns black then brown).

»Yellowing of leaves is normally caused by:

· poorly drained soil or overwatering.

· severe drought.

· plants in need of feeding.

· plants not receiving enough sunlight (often leaves on the lowest branches fall off first).

· it is normal for older, lower leaves to yellow and fall off especially during late summer entering autumn.

· presence of nematodes on the roots.

· presence of fig borer inside the stems.

· presence of the red spider mites on leaves.

Introduction

No space or garden to plant figs? No problem... plant them in pots!

» Figs will grow very well in pots and will tolerate a lot of neglect and suffering but at the expense of the fruit.

» Figs will happily give a good crop of figs in pots with the right care.

» Figs also make great bonsai specimens. The variety "Round of Bordeaux" particularly makes a good subject.

» I always remind people that any plant for that matter in a pot is like a "pet". It is totally dependent on you for its food and water and the caged in roots can't go and look for this on their own.

» I am amazed that figs are not more commonly planted in pots, especially those on the premises of Tuscan styled houses. They are perfect to give that "Mediterranean feel" and the leaves also give off that typical fig scent. Although they are deciduous, they will still look decent during winter. For me, the bare grey-white branches are quite attractive.

Varieties for Pots

» Some varieties will do better in pots than others. There are a few varieties that grow more compact than others and a good crop of figs can still be achieved.

Here follows a list of varieties that we found to grow particularly well in containers. We will add more to the list as we keep on experimenting:

Ornamental varieties

» If you are more interested in nice foliage and not a lot of fruit, I strongly suggest using "Ice Crystal". This variety has deeply and finely cut leaves that almost looks like lace.

» Another excellent ornamental variety is called "Tiger" (Panachee). It has attractive striped yellow and green fruit. The fruit are edible and taste sweet if it ripens during hot conditions. It tends to grow slow in pots.

 

 

Varieties for eating

» If you want varieties more for fruit we suggest the following:

"Alma"
· Excellent for pots.
· Strong and robust growing.
· Interesting leaves.
· Heavy bearer with good disease resistance.
· Rounded, brownish-purple figs with sweet amber flesh.

"Black Genoa"
· Excellent variety for pots.
· Compact growing and heavy bearing.
· Large sized brownish-black figs with sweet pinkish flesh.

"Cape Black"
· Small rounded black figs
· Very sweet taste, amber flesh.
· Very slow growing, dwarf pant.

"Cape Brown" (Osborn's Prolific)
· Excellent for pots. Slow growing.
· Very tasty and sweet brownish figs with pink flesh.
· Heavy bearer.

"Cape White" (Blanche)
· Good in pots.
· Compact growing.
· Sweet flesh with crunchy seeds.
· Good bearer.

"Celeste"
· Small brown figs with sweet amber flesh.
· Compact, dwarf growing tree.
· Good reliable production.
· Very good frost tolerance.

"Chicago Hardy"
· Very good in pots.
· Medium sized black figs with reddish flesh.
· Very good production.
· Very hardy against frost.

"Dalmatie"
· Excellent for pots.
· Compact and slow growing.
· Very large green figs with strawberry flesh.
· Heavy bearer.

"Kadota"
· Good in pots.
· Heavy bearer of small green figs with very sweet, straw coloured flesh.
· Needs hot, sunny summers.

"LSU Purple"
· Very good in pots.
· Production improves with age.
· Small sweet purple-black figs.
· Compact growing.

"Pastiliere"
· Good for pots.
· Compact, slow growing variety.
· Attractive greyish-green leaves.
· Plump black skinned figs with reddish flesh.
· The "Aristocrat" of figs.

"Petite Negra"
· One of the best black skinned varieties for pots.
· Medium sized, purple black figs with sweet taste.
· Compact, dwarf growing plant.
· Very good production.
· Leaves are smaller than usual.

"Ronde de Bordeux"
· Excellent for pots.
· Compact and slow growing.
· Small round purple black figs with sweet red flesh.
· Good bearer.

"White Genoa"
· Fair in pots.
· Bears large green figs with pink flesh.
· Useful for its early breba crop.

(For more information look up these varieties in the Database section)

Choosing the Right Pot

» Concerning the pot size, the bigger the better but figs will survive many years in a small container. I would say a pot with a dimension of roughly 50cm x 50cm x 50cm or bigger is advisable. There is a vast choice of different styles, colours and shapes available - all depending on your choice.

» Pots that are slightly tapering and wide at the top are a preferred choice as this makes transplanting figs or removal of figs for root pruning much easier.

» For ornamental use I would suggest pots that will go nicely with the "Tuscan look". Clay pots will of course be a classical choice for figs but if you are only interested in fruit production, cheap plastic pots or even large plastic bags will do.

» It is very important to ensure that the pots have enough large drainage holes before you fill them up with soil.

» As figs have very strong and surface spreading roots, pots should preferably be wider than they are tall. The pots should also be of a high quality in order to withstand the strong roots of figs.

 

 

Soil

» When it comes to growing figs in pots, I strongly recommend using bark-based potting soil like Culterra's potting soil. Using topsoil / garden soil is not recommended as this type of soil drains badly in pots and tends to become hard as brick. Furthermore, many pots can be damaged by the weight of the pot as it is very heavy to move around.

» Many people complain that Potting soil drains too quickly but this is exactly what we want! As the potting soil starts to settle and break down, it will drain less quickly.

» Always put a layer of coarse sand, gravel, etc. at the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage.

» Mix some Bonemeal (or superphosphate) and Bioganic fertilizer with the potting soil before filling the pot.

 

Watering & Feeding

» Watering and feeding figs in pots are a different story to figs planted in the ground. Figs in pots will need much more watering and feeding. Pots should never be allowed to dry out, especially in the first part of the growing season. Remember during hot and windy weather, daily watering will be required. Another important thing is that, as the plant gets bigger, it will need more watering as the pot will be filled with roots.

» A good soaking until the water comes out of the bottom of the pot is recommended. It is vital to check that water drains out properly as you can drown your fig. Drowning figs will typical start to wilt but this is also the case in drought conditions.

» Pot-grown figs will need regular feeding. Bioganic fertilizer should monthly be sprinkled around the pots and away from the main stem. Furthermore, 2.3.4 should also be given monthly and also away from the stem.

Maintenance

» Figs will grow slower in pots and will thus need less pruning. It is advisable to do root pruning every 3 years. This is done by gently taking out the fig and it's rootball during winter and cutting back the bottom third of the rootball and replanting it. You don't have to do this, however, it will rejuvenate the plant and give better crops.

» It is better to keep figs in pots lower and more compact by regularly pruning back strong growing shoot. Figs can also be trained into standards(lollipops) or round topiary bushes.

» Once a year, just before spring, the top 10cm of soil should be removed and replaced with a mixture of compost, bonemeal and Bioganic Fertilizer as this will rejuvenate the soil.

» The good news about growing figs in pots is that the plants are very forgiving and tough if they are neglected or ill-treated. They recover quickly when they receive the proper care!

Introduction

 » The database contains all the varieties of figs that we have currently growing in our test orchards.

» The database will regularly be updated and enlarged.

» We regret but none of these varieties are currently available except the ones listed under Available Varieties.

» All the information is subjected to the terms and conditions stated in the Indemnity section as per landing page.

» All information and evaluations are based on growing conditions in the far Southern Gauteng Province area where we are situated. (Similar to USA Zone 8).

» Please note that leaves and fruit can vary considerably from one area to the next as local climatic conditions play a very big role in their development. The colour of photographs can also be deceiving or variable in some cases.

» The correct naming and identification of figs are very complicated, confusing and variable throughout the world. Some varieties can have more than 20 synonyms!

Choosing a Variety

 » There are hundreds of fig varieties available and it is estimated that there are more than a staggering 1000 fig varieties worldwide. In South Africa we don't have such a wide variety but the best varieties are, however, already available here.

» The choice can be difficult to make for the home gardener who only wants 1 or 2 trees. To make this easier we have marked the best garden/home varieties for most areas with a red winner's badge.

» When it comes to fig names, things can get very complicated as some can have more than 20 different names in different countries. We chose the names commonly used in South Africa to market our plants with. For instance, "Cape Brown" is only used in our country and is known as "Osborn's Prolific" in other countries.

» When it comes to agricultural and commercial plantings it is a different story and I STRONGLY suggest you purchase Mr. Lotter's book or contact companies or inpiduals that specialize in this field (there is a list under the "CONTACTS" section).

» It is very important for commercial farmers to make the right choice as this is a long-term investment. Please note that some varieties are not commercially viable for areas outside the Western Cape but some of them, however, will still give a good crop for the home gardener with the right care and treatment.

A few things to consider when choosing a variety:


Which colour fruit do you prefer?

· There are various purple-black and green skinned varieties available and also with many shades in between.

· The flesh colour also differs from variety to variety.

What taste do you like?

· Some figs are very sweet and others less so.

· Some figs have that strong "figgy" taste and others are less aromatic.

· Some varieties, especially the black types, last longer on the shelves and are good for transporting or drying.

· Some varieties should be consumed almost immediately as they spoil quickly but make excellent jams.

· Some varieties have good multipurpose qualities.

What size do you prefer?

· Bigger is not necessary better but the fresh produce market prefers bigger fruits. I found that some small fruiting varieties have excellent taste and better garden performance than some bigger varieties.

What kind of climate do you have?

· Of course figs do best in Mediterranean type climates like the Western Cape but some will also do well in other regions of South Africa.

· If you experience severe frost in winter or have very humid and wet summers you can plant only certain types.

Do you want to plant it in your garden or in a pot?

· Most fig trees have strong surface spreading roots and need ample space.

· Other varieties are smaller and are also suited to pots.

 » The database contains all the varieties of figs that we have currently growing in our test orchards.

» The database will regularly be updated and enlarged.

» We regret but none of these varieties are currently available except the ones listed under Available Varieties.

» All the information is subjected to the terms and conditions stated in the Indemnity section as per landing page.

» All information and evaluations are based on growing conditions in the far Southern Gauteng Province area where we are situated. (Similar to USA Zone 8).

» Please note that leaves and fruit can vary considerably from one area to the next as local climatic conditions play a very big role in their development. The colour of photographs can also be deceiving or variable in some cases.

» The correct naming and identification of figs are very complicated, confusing and variable throughout the world. Some varieties can have more than 20 synonyms!

Useful Lists

These lists are to be used as a rough guide only and are subject to terms as per Indemnity.

» Commercial farmers should consult with agricultural experts first and do further research before choosing a variety for mass planting.

Main commercial varieties used for fresh export:
· Parisian (Evita)
· Col de Dame Noir ("King" in SA)
· Dauphine (San Pedro Type)
· Napolitane
· Purple Rain
· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Tangiers (Smyrna Type)

Commercial varieties grown for the local fresh market:
· Adam
· Parisian (Evita)
· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Deanna
· White Genoa (Mainly for its breba crop)
· Tangiers (Smyrna Type)

Commercial varieties planted for jams and preserves:
· Kadota
· Deanna
· White Genoa
· Cape White (Local market prefers lighter varieties)
· Parisian (Evita)

Commercial varieties planted for drying:
· Kadota
· Deanna
· White Genoa
· Cape White (Blanche)
(local market prefers lighter varieties)
· Parisian (Evita)

Future important commercial varieties for local market:
· Black Genoa
· Deanna

Best varieties for very cold areas:
· Dalmatie
· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Violette de Bordeaux
· Chicago Hardy
· Olympian
· Pastiliere

Best varieties for the domestic garden:
· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Black Mission
· Chicago Hardy
· Petite Negra
· Kadota
· Deanna
· Black Genoa
· Dalmatie
· White Genoa
· Pastiliere
· Alma

Best overall commercial variety for multipurpose use:
· Deanna

Best overall white variety for domestic gardens:
· Deanna

Best overall black variety for domestic gardens:
· Ronde de Bordeaux

Best overall black variety for multipurpose/commercial use:
· Black Mission (fresh, drying, preserves, jams)

Best "workhorse" varieties:
(small but lots of fruit)
· Ronde de Bordeaux (Black)
· Kadota (White)

Best breba producing varieties:
· White Genoa
· Noire de Caromb (Southern Black)
· Deanna
· Dalmatie
· Dauphine (San Pedro Type)

Varieties for small gardens:
· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Cape Brown (Osborn's prolific)
· Dalmatie
· Violette de Bordeaux
· Petite Negra
· Pastiliere
· LSU Purple
· Celeste
· Black Genoa

Best varieties for pots:


For fruiting:

· Ronde de Bordeaux
· Cape Brown (Osborn's prolific)
· Dalmatie
· Kadota
· Violette de Bordeaux
· Petite Negra
· Celeste
· Cape Black
· LSU Puple
· Petite Negra
· Pastiliere
· Black Genoa
· Alma

Ornamental use only:
· Ice Crystal
· Tiger fig (Panachee)

Best varieties for Landscaping:
· Ice Crystal
· Tiger fig
· Pastiliere
· Noire de Barbentane

Best tasting varieties:
(personal choice of the author)
1. Col de dame Noir ("King" in SA)
2. Ronde de Bordeaux (Toulouse)
3. Dalmatie
4. Black Mission
5. Pastiliere
(they must be fully ripe to enjoy!)

Most well-known varieties in South Africa:
1. White Genoa (White Naples)
2. Adam
3. Cape Brown (Osborn's prolific)
4. Cape White (Blanche)

Top five must-have figs: (if you have space!)
(personal choice of the author)
1. Deanna
2. Pastiliere
3. Ronde de Bordeaux
4. Dalmatie
5. Black Genoa

South African Heirloom figs:
(all varieties that are unique to S.A)
1. Adam
2. Cape Black
3. Ava
4. White Genoa

Best Varieties for Coastal Areas:
1. White Genoa
2. Cape Brown
3. LSU Purple
4. Alma
5. Black Genoa
6. Cape White

Figs Database

 

Climatic Requirements

» Figs originate from hot, dry areas with low humidity where the summers are sunny and long and the winters short and cool.

» Areas similar to that in South Africa is the Klein-Karoo district of the Western Cape. The majority of South Africa's commercial fig farmers are thus found here but many other areas of South Africa, together with the right cultivar, show promise.

» The good news for the average gardener is that figs will produce good crops in most areas of South Africa provided the correct variety is chosen and the right care is given. Unfortunately some areas of the Lowveld and Kwazulu Natal might be just too humid or wet to ensure good crops. Most of South Africa, however, is blessed with abundant sunshine and long hot summers (but this can also change sporadically from season to season!).

» The other constricting factor of course is frost. Most figs can tolerate moderate frost (around -5°C) but heavy to severe frost (-10°C or below) may cause major damage especially to younger plants (please see an in-depth discussion about this in the Problems section).

Position

» With figs the hotter and sunnier the better! A full sun position is best. They are perfect for those hot, dry spots in the garden where nothing else wants to grow (just remember to water and feed them well in those areas when they are young). It is a good idea to plant them close to a north facing wall that receives sun all day long.

» Good air circulation is very important especially to prevent souring of figs during humid, wet weather conditions.

» Another thing to remember is that fig trees have very strong surface spreading roots. Do not plant them in areas where damage can be done to wall and building foundations, drains and paving.

» When planting fig trees close to boundary walls, make sure that no damage can occur to your neighbour's garden as a fig tree's roots can spread over a wide area.

» Smaller growing varieties are recommended for small gardens as their roots will be less invasive.

» If space or possible root damage is a problem why not plant them into pots? Figs in pots will still bear a good crop and can be kept small.

» Another advantage is that figs can be planted in areas where there is little soil available or where their roots are restricted.

Soil

» Figs will grow in all types of soil (clay, sand , rocky or loam) as long as it is well drained or adequate moisture is provided.

» Well drained soil is crucial for successful fig production.

» The best soil for fig production is a sandy-loam mixture. They will do the worst on poorly drained clay soils.

» They tolerate a soil ph from 6,0 to 7,8 . Figs tolerate alkaline soils better than acidic types. It is advisable to apply agricultural lime annually at a rate of 100grams per square meter if your soil is too acidic, especially on clay and sandy soils.

» Also keep in mind that figs will grow slower in clay and other poorly drained soils.

» Remember that figs have strong, shallow, surface spreading roots.

» When planting figs in pots, use good quality bark based potting soil and provide adequate draining at the bottom of the pot with a layer of stones or pebbles.

Planting of New Figs

» Established fig trees available in bags or pots can be planted out right troughout the year in most regions. In areas where severe frost is expected it is best to plant trees out during the early spring months.

» Open ground or bare rooted trees can only be transplanted during the dormant time(during July). If you want to move or transplant existing established trees this is also the best time to do this.

» If you are going to plant more than one fig tree a rough guide is to space the trees about 4-5m apart.

» Try to give each tree as much sun and air circulation as possible.

» Choose your position carefully as previously discussed.

» Make the planting hole twice the size of the bag or at least 50cm x 50cm x 50cm (deep and wide).

» Fill the hole with water to the top and wait for all the water to drain away.

» Mix 500 grams of bonemeal (or 250grams of superphosphate), 500grams of Bioganic fertilizer and half a bag of compost(15dm) with the soil that was removed out of the hole.

» Throw some of this mixture back into the hole until it is filled enough so that the new fig plant can be planted level to the surrounding soil. Fill the gaps with the rest of the mixed soil and compact firmly.

» Make a basin around the tree with the rest of the soil.

» It is very important to flood the basin with water so that the soil and new tree can settle and also to remove airpockets.

» It takes about 3 months for your tree to settle before it will start to grow strongly.

» Water your tree very well for the first month! At least every second day.

» Do not use any chemical fertilizer or strong manure when planting new plants. You can apply these later when the plant's roots have become established(usually 3 months after planting)

» It is very important to ensure that weeding is done regularly around the stem. A thick mulch will keep weeds in check and the roots moist.

» Fig trees should have a bed around them at all times. Do not allow your lawn to grow right up against the main trunk. The roots of the grass will compete with your fig tree's roots.

» Furthermore, a bed around your tree will ensure that the bark will not be damaged by lawnmowers and edge cutters. This is called ringbarking and many trees die annually because this is not done.

» The use of concrete tree rings are highly recommended and works very well for protecting the stems.

Watering

» Fig trees are very tough and drought resistant once established, however, fig production is sacrificed if they are not properly cared for.

» The most important factor when growing figs is correct watering. It is crucial to water figs well during the early part of the season. Small figs will drop off if exposed to severe drought during their early development (from September to December). A rough guide is to water your fig trees very well twice a week (similar to about 20mm of rain).

» Too much water during ripening of the figs can cause them to split. Instead gradually start reducing watering from late summer (end January) onwards but be careful to avoid severe drought. Water well about once a week to every forthnight. Figs will taste watery if they are watered too much during ripening. Please note that this is a rough guide only as weather conditions (like very hot or very wet) can influence your schedule considerably.

» The most crucial thing is to water consistently. Choose a fig watering day and keep to that day. Avoid sporadic watering as this can cause splitting of the figs. It will also help reduce splitting during rainy weather. Avoid letting the soil become bone dry before watering as this will also cause major splitting. It is best to keep the soil moist at all times but not constantly wet.

» It is also very important to water figs at root level only. Avoid sprinklers that wet the leaves and fruit. Figs will take up water directly through their skin and worsen splitting and souring.

» Ensure that the ground is soaked deeply. Avoid light waterings that only wet the surface! Drip irrigation systems are highly recommended. These systems soak the soil properly and deeply and also saves a lot of water. It is the future of modern agriculture and fruit gardening.

» Young fig trees (3 years or less) should however be watered more frequently to ensure that they establish and grow faster.

» Figs grown in pots will need more watering and feeding than their counterparts grown in soil. Remember pots dry out quickly especially during hot, dry weather and sometimes daily watering will be required. Figs in pots should never be allowed to dry out completely!

Feeding

» Figs do not need as much feeding as most other fruit producing crops and overfeeding can actually cause poor fig production.

» Figs planted into sandy or rocky soil will, of course, need more feeding than ones planted into clay and loamy soils. Further intensive fig farming will also require more but specialized feeding.

» Today there is a vast range of fertilizers available and each brand claim they are the best. There is not really a right or wrong kind of fertilizer or brand and I suppose it is all up to your personal preference and experience. I am going to recommend my own personal choices to you but remember there are many other feeding programmes and products that others swear by that also provide great results.

» For young trees I recommend using Wonder 7.1.3 carbon based fertilizer every month. For a 1m tall tree 2 level tablespoons at least 30cm away from the tree is recommended. You can increase the dosage as the tree becomes bigger but remember when it comes to chemical fertilizers LESS IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN TOO MUCH!

» To keep the soil healthy, 250 grams of Bioganic Fertilizer can also be sprinkled around the tree 2 weeks after the 7.1.3 fertilizer was applied. Feeding should be stopped in February to start hardening the tree off before winter. I found that Wonder 7.1.3 fertilizer is very "soft" on the soil and very economically concentrated. ALWAYS water your plants well after using fertilizer!

» For established trees (3 years or older) feeding is different.

» Once a year before spring(around July) a good mulch of compost mixed with bonemeal is recommended. In September Wonder 7.1.3. fertilizer at a rate of 50grams per square meter should be applied as figs need a lot of nitrogen in spring when new leaves are formed.

» Further, 1kg of Bioganic fertilizer should be applied around the base of the tree at least 30cm away from the stem. You can also use well rotted kraal manure instead.

» For the rest of the season a monthly application of Bioganic fertilizer (100grams per square meter) and Wonder 2.3.4 fertilizer (50grams per square meter) is recommended.

» The last feeding should be done in February to start hardening off your tree before winter arrives.

» It is important to note that overfeeding your fig tree (especially with high nitrogen fertilizers) will result in luxuriant growth at the expense of the fruit. If this happens feeding should be stopped immediately and the tree must be starved to force it to start producing more figs again.

Pruning

Luckily, pruning of fig trees (for the home gardener anyway) is much simpler than most fruit bearing crops. There is, however, a few things that you are going to have to keep in mind.

Some important tips:

» Main pruning should be done during the dormant period when all leaves have fallen off. The best time will be around end of July or just before spring.

» When removing secondary branches from the main trunk always leave a short shoulder. Do not cut back right against the main trunk.

» Always use sharp pruning equipment. Clean cuts heal quickly.

» Avoid tearing and cracking stems when pruning.

» Always seal thicker cuts with pruning sealent (butimen) to keep out fungal diseases and boring insects.

» It is a good idea to spray the whole tree with Lime sulphur after pruning as this will eliminate any pests and diseases that might still be present on the tree.

» Ensure that thicker branches and the main trunk will have enough leave cover left to protect the bark from sunburn.

» Sun exposed bare trunks can be painted with white PVA paint to lessen sun damage.

» Try to cut with a slight angle just above the internodes (eyes) of the stems.

» Slower growing and dwarf varieties should only be lightly pruned.

» Figs in pots should also be only ligthly pruned.

» Severe pruning can cause poor fig production.

» The majority of the figs are produced on the current season's growth. So it is important to prune fig trees so that they are stimulated to produce new fruit producing branches.

» It is important to prune young trees to the correct shape that you want as this is difficult to correct when the trees are older.

» There are many different styles available to suit your specific needs. For small gardens the standard look or pyramid shape will be the best and figs also make great espalier subjects. For larger gardens the old fashioned open V-shaped look to allow lots of sun and air circulation in will be the best.

» Fig trees can easily be espaliered (trained onto a fixed frame) and this is particularly useful in small spaces and gardens.

» Try to keep your trees as low as possible as this makes picking and management much easier. Fig trees can also be kept much smaller with more severe pruning.

» Young trees normally produce strong growing upright branches the first few years that should be cut back carefully to ensure that more side branches form.

» Choose a few branches that can form your main frame. Cut these branches back to about 1m above the ground.

» In the future these main frame branches are seldom pruned again and only the lateral or side branches that form on these are pruned annually.

» Firstly, most fig trees bear two crops of figs. The first crop called a "Breba" is normally small and born on last year's wood.

» The main crop, which is normally bigger, is born on the new growth of the current season. The good news is that no matter how badly you pruned your fig tree it should still produce figs during later summer. The tricky part comes when you want a good breba crop and here I suggest you do some further reading.

» For good breba producing figs I suggest you roughly leave some half of the branches unpruned to produce early figs and the other half of the branches should be cut back to ensure a good main crop of figs. The following year the branches should be switched so that old wood doesn't build up.

» Some people prune breba producing figs only every second to third year.

» Alternatively, you can wait until breba figs are ripe and picked and then immediately prune some of these branches back to ensure new growth and enough old wood for next year's breba crop. This is only recommended in areas with very long, hot summers.

» Keep in mind that the breba figs are born on the tips of terminal branches.

» Good breba producing figs are: White Genoa, Deanna and Noire de Caromb.

» For main crop producing varieties pruning is relatively easy.

» Weak and thin branches are removed first.

» Secondly, all new growth of the past season should be cut back to about 3-5 internodes.

» The main frame of the tree should not be pruned or cut back if it is not absolutely necessary.

» All branches that cross each other should be removed. The whole idea is to allow as many branches as possible to receive enough sun and air circulation.

» All suckers at the base of the tree should be removed.

» Very strong growing upward growing shoots should also be cut back.

» Thin, weak, diseased and damaged branches must be removed and cut back into healthy wood.

» Allow enough space in-between main branches by thinning out overgrowth. Try leaving the stronger growing branches.

» Severity of pruning will differ according to growing conditions, climate and the specific variety. For instance, in frost-prone areas pruning should be light and warmer areas harder. Some varieties grow stronger than others and will need more pruning. Figs grown in poorly drained or clay soils must only be lightly pruned.

» Fig trees should preferably be kept as short and low spreading as possible to make harvesting easier.

» Younger trees will need less pruning than older trees.

» Older trees tend to build up too much old wood at the expense of fig production.

» The aim of pruning fig trees is to ensure a constant development of new fruit producing branches.

» Very old neglected trees can still produce a fair crop of figs but rejuvenated pruning can improve the yield considerably.

» Older trees tend to produce figs only on the furtherest outer branches leaving vast inner areas with no figs at all.

There is two ways in dealing with this:

» The first way is severely cutting back the whole tree at once by removing at least two thirds of all branches and cutting them back to the basic frame work. This will force the tree to produce lots of new productive growth. Unfortunately you will not have a decent crop for about 2 years. It is very important to seal the cuts properly with tree sealant as this type of pruning leaves very big cuts.

» The second gentler way is to cut back only a third to half of the branches leaving the rest untouched. These branches are then only cut back the following year as the severely cut branches had a chance to grow back. With this method you will still have figs to harvest within the same season.

» Another option is to cut back about a third of the whole tree and repeating this process every year until all old wood is removed.

Harvesting

 

» Figs are very fertile and some will produce a few figs from their first year! However, most varieties will produce good crops from 3 years onwards. Remember, figs grown in pots will produce less figs than ones planted into the ground.

» With many varieties of figs the taste also improves as the tree ages.

» Harvesting figs of course is the best chore of all! Figs will not ripen further if removed from the tree so it is important to harvest them as closely to fully ripe as possible.

» For green fig jams, young unripened figs can be harvested. Export varieties and varieties used for preserves are also normally harvested just before they are fully ripe. Figs used for sweet jams and eating are harvested as ripe as possible.

» Knowing when a fig is fully ripe will take some practice and experience. Normally ripe figs will start to swell rapidly and small skin cracks appear on some varieties. Fully ripe figs will feel very soft to touch and some varieties will ooze a drop of nectar at the base or opening of the fig. Most ripe figs typically start to droop.

» Figs that ripened during very hot, sunny periods will have a superior taste to figs harvested during cloudy, rainy periods.

» Figs will ripen faster during hot, sunny weather and also spoil quicker.

» Figs should be cut off with secateurs and not pulled of the tree.

» It is important to remember that figs normally don't ripen all at once but over the course of many weeks. The older figs further away from the growing tips normally ripens first.

» Fig trees contain fig milk in all their parts and it can irritate some people's skin. It is best to wear gloves and long sleeved shirts when harvesting a lot of figs. Fully ripe figs have little or no milk in their stems and skins.

» It is very important to keep on harvesting ripe figs. Leaving overripe figs on trees too long will attract vinegar flies that help to spread fungus that causes the souring of figs, especially during wet periods.

» Keep good hygiene in your orchard by removing spoiled and fallen figs regularly.

» If figs are slow to ripen, a drop of olive oil can be placed on the opening (ostiole) of the fig to speed up things a little bit.

List of Contributors

I would like to sincerely thank the following people and organizations as without their help this site would not have been accomplished:

1. Keith Wilson a.k.a. "The Fig Man" - one of South Africa's leading authorities on fig production as well as other crops like pomegranates, cherries etc. Thank you for your contribution to the fruit industry. This humble guy deserves a lot more recognition for his experience and for the work he has put into the industry. He assisted with the correct identification of certain fig varieties, cuttings, advice, recommendations, etc.

2. Mr. J. de V. Lotter himself and his book "The fig in South Africa" This is the best book about figs I have come across. This book comes highly recommended as the writer was an experienced senior lector of pomology at the Stellenbosch University, Western Cape. Mr. Lotter's book inspires farmers and gardeners to take a fresh look again at figs and to plant and produce them. Thank you for your valuable contribution to the South African fig industry.

3. To my business partners for supporting and "tolerating" this whole venture that took a lot of time, effort and money.

4.The following website www.figs4 fun.com is the best site about figs in the world and should be commended for their work. Furthermore, Ecanto farms in the U.S.A. has the largest collection of figs in the world (more than a staggering 1000 acessions) and is being declared as a National Heritage.

5. Thank you to all the fig fanatics around the world for keeping, expanding and conserving the huge fig gene pool created over a period of 5000 years.

6. Pierre Baud's fig website and his book "Le Figuier".

7.Thank you to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and the Sapo Trust for providing cutting material as well as for distributing J. de V. Lotter's book "The Fig in South Africa".

8.The internet community and everybody that puts information on the World Wide Web and thus sharing information.

9. Thank you to "Bunnypants Graphic & Website Design Studio" for your professionalism and dedication in designing this website.

10. Lastly but most importantly thank you to the Universe, the Creator, the Source for senses to experience the wonderful and mystical taste of fruits like figs and for their existence.

Recommended Books

"The Fig" A monograph by Ira Condit, Hilgardia 1955

Any fig fanatic's "bible". This well known American horticulturist has spent many years documenting and researching the Ficus genus and specially Ficus carica (common fig). He travelled all over the world and documented close to 700 varieties of the common fig and published the book in 1947.

You can download the book from the following website:

http://sites.google.com/site/kiwifruitsalad2

"The Fig in South Africa" by J. de V. Lotter

(Also available in Afrikaans but out of print.) The information can actually be used worldwide in countries with similar climatic conditions as South Africa (international Zones 8-10)

The best book about figs and fig production in South Africa. EVERYTHING you want to know from the history of figs right down to their production and a descriptive list of varieties of figs available in South Africa that is suitable for home gardens and agricultural production. There is even a whole recipe and cooking with figs chapter!

A cleverly put together book as the information is technical enough for commercial and agricultural farmers but easy enough to be read by the general public and gardeners.

Mr. Lotter is respected in the fig industry for his valuable knowledge about fig varieties and their production and was also a well known lector of Pomology at the Stellenbosch University.

For book orders send an e-mail to: TheresaSm@elsenburg.com

(Distributed by the Cape Province Agricultural Department)

"Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't" by Steven Biggs

A short but sweet, easy to read and understandable book specifically written for areas with very cold winters like Canada, continental Europe, etc.

Can be ordered on amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/

"Le Figuier - Pas a Pas by Pierre Baud

Available only in French but very informative. I have spent hours translating the text and also learnt some French in the process! A great book especially useful information on main European cultivars.

Can be ordered on amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/

 

Recommended Websites

South African Fig Producers - www.safigs.co.za

SAFPA is a well-established organisation that offers its members comprehensive resources, expert advice and access to local and international stakeholders of the fig industry.
 

figs for fun - www.figs4fun.com

The best website in the world when it comes to fig varieties!
A lot of other useful information all on one site. Their Fig Forum is highly recommended - a must for any fig fanatic. Please support them by donating to the Figs for Fun Foundation.
 

Pierre Baud's figs - www.fig-baud.com

One of Europe's foremost fig experts and growers. Use the translator as this site is in French.

Adriano's figs - www.adrianosfigtrees.com

Canada's fig expert. This site is useful for information for areas with cold winters and with descriptions of many varieties.

Trees of Joy - www.treesofjoy.com

Another fig fanatic's site with detailed descriptions of many varieties.

Ray's figs - www.raysfigs.com

A very informative site with detailed descriptions of many varieties. The author has more than 20 years' experience.
 

Grow figs - www.Grow-Figs.com

The site of Steven Biggs, the author of the book "Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't". Very informative and easy to read and understand.
 

 
 
 
 
 
Useful Contacts

South African Fig Producers Association - www.safigs.co.za

SAFPA is a well-established orginasation that offers its members comprehensive resources, expert advice and access to local & international stakeholders of the fig industry.
 

Sapo Trust - www.saplant.co.za

This organization promotes the variety development and commercialisation of existing and new fruit varieties. They specialize in the Agricultural sector by assisting and supplying commercial farmers in South Africa with various services.
 

Agricultural research council - www.arc.agric.za

A large government organisation involved with the research and improvement of various agricultural food crops and farming animals in the agricultural sector. They also have a large database of useful information covering various topics on farming with food and animal crops.

 

Kobus Botha - Weather Photos of Southern Africa -www.weatherphotos.co.za

This is an excellent and very comprehensive site about South African weather conditions. Also hosts short, medium and long range forecasts, soil moisture conditions, etc.

 
 
 
 
Technical & Agricultural

For technical & agricultural advice for commercial production you can contact one of the following organizations: (Please note that there might be consultation fees charged)

 Keith Wilson (Colorsfruit) Email: figman@vodamail.co.za

 South African Fig Producers Association: www.safigs.co.za

Western Cape Department of Agriculture: www.elsenburg.com

Citrogold: www.citrogold.co.za

Stargrow: www.stargrow.co.za

» Please see Stockists section to find out where your nearest supplier is located.

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» Each individual plant grown by Giving Trees should have its own distinctive label. Some businesses try to sell other suppliers plants with the help of Giving Trees logo, information tags or photos. This practice is unlawful and a criminal offence under the copyright law.

» We will not be held responsible for any damages, liabilities or any other problems that might occur with these plants that are illegally sold under the “Giving Trees” logo.

» All information are subject to terms and conditions stated in Indemnity Clause as per our landing page. 

(for more detailed information about each variety, please see Figs Database)

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