Behind the Fence

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fig Time in the Potager

We are now harvesting the first of a very promising fig crop. (That is if the birds, raccoons, squirrels and ants don’t find them!) Figs are quite easy to grow in our Zone 7 climate. I have grown them in self watering pots for a few years; a couple of years ago I decided to try planting one in the ground. It is loaded! Let me show you my fig trees and explain my methods of growing as well as some mistakes from which I have learned.

This is a Lemon Fig. It was planted in the ground in the spring of 2010.During the winter it is covered with a plastic cage, the plastic is removed in April.  It gets a deep watering with the hose when a week passes without rain.

Here is another Lemon Fig in a self watering pot. It wintered-over in the pot, under the same plastic cover. This tree is about 4 years old. It got it’s funny shape due to not being properly stored during the winter a couple of years ago. Some of the branches froze and died.

The fruit is smaller than usual this year due to another “gardener error”; Knowing the potted trees need to be watered every day, we put a hose on a timer one weekend while we were out of town. We neglected to check to be sure it was tightly connected to the garden spigot. Apparently when the water came on the first time it forced the hose connector to come off the spigot so the tree did not get water for four days. It dropped all of its leaves but not the fruit. The fruit did mature but is a bit on the small side. The tree prduced new leaves. You can see the hose in the pot; it is still on a timer and waters for one minute every day.

This is an Alma Fig, developed by the Agricultural Experiment Service of Texas A&M University (of course.) It too wintered-over under the same plastic cage. When we pulled the plastic off there were no leaves on this tree. When it didn’t leaf out afterr a couple of weeks, I assumed it was dead. Before I had a chance to discard the tree and repurpose the pot, it began to put out new shoots. Since fruit is produced on the previous year’s wood, there are no figs on the tree this year. It does look healthy and promising for next season.

This tree was given to me last year. I don’t know the variety but I think it might be a Black Mission Fig. It wintered over in the greenhouse, not a good choice. It did have a few figs early in the spring but didn’t produce another crop. Figs need to go dormant which doesn’t happen in a greenhouse. One of the more common ways of wintering-over fig trees is to put them in an unheated garage or shed.
Figs are ready to eat when the fruit becomes very soft and is easily pulled from the wood. They will not ripen off the tree. They do not keep well so plan on eating as soon as they are ripe.

You can find more detailed information on growing figs on the internet. I purchased my trees from Petals from the Past in Jeminson, Alabama.

One question I often get is “What do you do with figs?” We had fresh figs for the first time a few years ago at a restaurant in Sonoma, CA. They were served on a pizza with goat cheese and arugula. We loved them and that is why I started growing figs. In addion to adding them to grilled pizza (usually with chicken and goat cheese) we like them in salads. Here is my Fig, Goat Cheese and Grilled Chicken Salad recipe.

Top Spring Lettuce Mix with:
 Grilled chicken strips   
Toasted pecans
Sliced figs
Goat cheese

Drizzle with a simple dressing of 3 parts lime infused olive oil mixed with one part white balsalmic vinegar.

Mostly we eat them fresh from the tree in the garden!


  1. Now I want to try figs again!!! I got one fig from the plant I had.....then tried to winter it over in the greenhouse----and it froze to death. :(

    1. I think you should try again in the spring. Jason at Petals from the past usually ships 1 year old trees that fruit the first summer. As I have learned, fig trees need to go dormant so the greenhouse isn't the best option for wintering over, an unheated garage or shed works better.