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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Go Fig-ure

Got the fruit bug? Strangely enough, one of our teenage nieces became fascinated with our fig plants and requested a ‘Black Jack’ fig for her birthday. Now she needs directions. Go fig-ure! So for Cait and anyone else that ventures into ‘bare root ‘ territory, here are a few hints when the box labeled – ‘Fragile – live plants’ arrives on your doorstep.

Typical for anything bare root and dormant, store in a cool, dark place and maintain adequate moisture until ready to plant. You do not want the roots to dry out. No overwatering, either.

For a 2 ½ foot tall plant, use an 8 to 10 gallon pot with proper drainage at its base i.e., holes on the bottom. Line the bottom of the container with ½” to one inch of clean crushed stone. Use a potting soil that has soil in it, not a soilless mix, which is predominantly peat moss. You become a slave to the watering can. Try a potting soil brand like Coast of Maine. Fill the container half to two-thirds with your potting mix, depending on the length of the roots. Place your plant straight in the pot while spreading its roots evenly. You don’t want the roots left in a gnarly, twisted mass. This can hinder the plant’s growth. Evenly distribute soil around the roots while holding the plant at its appropriate height in the pot. The final level or grade of soil should be no less than 1” below the rim of the pot, making it easier to water during the heat of the summer. One tip before you initially water your plant. Lift the pot off the ground and tap it a few times. This helps the soil to settle and works out some of the air pockets. If the plant needs to be adjusted or straightened, now is the time to do it.

After potting your new fig, store in a cool, dark location. Keep it watered to maintain proper soil moisture. After a few days of dark storage, you can transition your new plant to a greenhouse, solarium or a sunny window. If you don’t have a decent indoor sunny location, keep the new plant in a cool, dark place. Maintain the plant’s dormancy. Here’s the reason why. If the plant is not hardy to your climate, you need to properly transition it to the outdoors. In the Northeast, figs are not hardy. The transition period, typically the end of April, beginning of May is when you can start bringing your figs outside. For a newly planted fig, its leaves are thin and delicate. When transitioning your new plant outdoors, do not initially expose it to direct sunlight. Overexposure will cause the leaves to scald and burn. You must also keep an eye on extreme heat or extreme cold fluctuations. Springtime temperatures can often change rapidly; from below freezing conditions to 90 degrees within a day. So treat your fig like any delicate houseplant that needs to be hardened off to the outdoors. Once you get past this transition point, typically after the threat of frost, you can expose the figs to hot, blazing sun for best growing results.

To wrap up on figs, it’s great to see the next generation of plant geeks. As Hodding Carter stated, “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”

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Image of a ‘Black Jack’ fig from the Internet.

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)