February 14, 2012
What a pleasure it was to pick the very first ripened fig from our tree last week, and to share that little prize with my wife, after all, it was she who insisted we grow one. I put it off for years, because, to be honest with you, growing a fig in my wet subtropical garden sounded like too much hard work. Figs are plagued with problems in our climate, often victims of fungal disease and fruit fly… or so I was told.
I grew a fig tree from a cutting and finally planted it three years ago, and I’ve been so pleased at how easy it has been to grow. Sure, there are those figleaf beetles and their larvae that chew at the leaves like there is no tomorrow, but you can squash them, and we get the odd sad looking leaf, but you can pick them off. As for fruit fly, well, the tree is in its second year of production, and I’m glad to say, the fruit have never been stung, and if they did, I’d just cover the tree with fruit fly netting.
Now that I’ve got one, I want more! I’ve just been outside planning a row of them right down the western side of my house where I have a Mediterranean style theme, so they will fit in nicely. It’s a narrow bed, with lots of established shrubs already, but this is the beauty of fig trees, you don’t need a deep garden bed, because you can train the stems to go any which way you like using bamboo poles to guide them, or even small weights to drag the upright branches down so that they grow more horizontally.
The variety I have is a ‘Black Genoa’. I’ve recently cut a few nicks into a low growing branch and piled some soil around it to encourage it to grow roots and when it does, I’ll prune it off and plant it in the row. A mate of mine has a ‘Brown Turkey’ variety, another good grower for the sub-tropics so I’ll ask him for a few cuttings this winter and I'll strike them ready for spring planting.
I can’t believe I was so reluctant to plant one in the first place. I can confidently say I have joined the crazy crew of fig lovers who get all dreamy and starry-eyed at the mention of figs. If you’re one of them, then do yourself a flavour and try JULIE RAY’s Vanilla-spiced figs with sweet mascarpone and amaretti cream recipe on p88 of the March/April issue of Organic Gardener. It’s to die for! And as a special treat, PENNY WOODWARD shares her growing secrets on p31