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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton


Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


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Alan J Hartley



Success With Fig Trees

The Winter before last we had lots of die back on the big Fig at home and the following season we had no figs at all, but there seems to be plenty of young figs developing this year. According to the record that Mom keeps in an old diary, we normally pick our first ripe figs in the middle of August, but one or two are starting to turn already and we are still only in July. They do say that Figs need lots of water while the fruit are growing, so we are hopeful that it will do well this year after all the rain! It is certainly replacing many of the frost damaged branches from the other year, so recently I thought about pruning out the dead and perhaps shaping it up a little. The worst of the dead had been pruned out last year, but I had been afraid to cut the branches back too far until they had had a chance to re-sprout.

Experts say that you should normally prune Apples and Pears in the Winter months while the trees are dormant, but some fruit such as Plums, Peaches and Cherries should be done now, in mid Summer, to prevent Silver Leaf. So, after cutting back some of the excessive growth on my Plum tree I decided to attack the big Fig tree as well, expecting the cut branches to bleed, but found that although the thin, young growth bled profusely, the thicker branches didn’t. Hopefully, the cuts will heal over before the Winter as it is still growing vigorously. Interestingly, the “Die-back,” seemed to go back to a “Joint” as the branches are almost segmented like a Bamboo.

Figs have a sloppy growing habit with branches appearing anywhere and everywhere on the trunk, so some time ago I had piled rough compost around the base to encourage the lowest branches to root and I had pegged others down into the ground. When I scraped the compost away, I could see that some of the stems had started to root, but being a bit over enthusiastic, whilst trimming the rest of the tree, I cut the lot off and potted some of the better ones. Then I spread the soil over the ground to act as a mulch even though you are not supposed to feed figs because it causes the tree to produce lots of leaf growth and little, or no fruit. However, I needed too raise the surrounding soil level to fill the gap under the fence where the ground had sunk over the years because it is a relatively new house with made up garden around it.

After pruning I trimmed 15 cuttings to a couple of feet in length and pushed them deeply into a patch in my allotment that is in partial shade where the soil is well drained and almost sandy. As is advisable with many types of cuttings, I cut much of the soft growth off and all the leaves, to reduce the stress on the cuttings. Years ago, when I first tried rooting Fig cuttings, I got over a 50% success rate simply by pushing them in a dry spot in the garden and leaving them over winter.

It is always a good idea to give young Figs a bit of Winter protection for the first couple of years until their stems thicken out and normally at home, I either wrap my young exotic fruit trees up in fleece, or take their pots into the greenhouse. This year, however, I have decided to use my giant cloche to cover the cuttings on the Allotment as it will not be used for anything else during the Winter. And after the apparent success of plunging the pots of many of my very young fruit trees, into the ground on my allotment, I have decided I am going to “plunge,” one or two more Figs from home, along with a couple of small Olive trees, in the extra space in my cloche, over the coming Winter.

It won’t give them as much warmth as a cold greenhouse, but should give them a more stable temperature and not encourage them into growth too early in the spring. Plunging the trees into the soil will mean that the 3 foot height of the cloche will not include the 12 inches or more of the large pots that they are in, so I should be able to put plants in that would otherwise seem to big.

A few years ago we would only ever see the “Brown Turkey,” Fig variety and then one day we chanced upon “Ice Crystal.” Now we have 8 different varieties at home that are all supposed to be hardy, although being small they will benefit from the Winter protection of the cloche. Unlike fruit such as Apples, many Figs have different shaped and sized leaves and are supposed to have different coloured and sized fruits as well, but I have yet to find out as most were only bought in the last 12 months and they are still too small to fruit.

My Fig collection is growing and I already have a number of small rooted cuttings growing on. The trouble is I keep giving them away when people ask if have any young plants to spare, but I still dream of building up the numbers and starting the first U.K. Fig Orchard!