Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
- Ficus Carica.
Several varieties of Fig are grown commercially, but in the UK the Brown
Turkey fig is the hardiest and the one usually seen on sale in Garden
Centres. They are not grafted, unlike many more traditional fruit trees
such as apples and cherries, and they rarely develop any health problems
as they are very resistant to all pests and diseases.
Figs can be grown in a large tub so they can bake on a sunny yard and be
given shelter from the hardest parts of the Winter, although they will
survive all but the worst of British Weather. My Mother had one planted
against a South facing wall for about 12 years with no die back at all.
Figs are unusual in as much as un-restricted roots may lead to excessive
leaves and growth generally, with little or no fruit. Planting in a
suitably sized pot will restrict the roots to give a better crop, or if
the fig is going to be planted in the ground, it should be planted in a
slab-lined pit filled with compost mixed with brick rubble. A word of
caution though, do not plant them near to a building as their roots can
easily damage foundations and walls.
Some books say that figs are not for the faint hearted gardener as they
need lots of attention, but from experience, after planting there is
little to do each year. Pruning is best carried out in the Summer to
shape up the tree, although frost damage may require attention in the
Spring. Freshly cut branches may ooze a sticky milky sap not unlike the
latex from a Rubber tree to which they are related. Surprisingly, figs
need a lot of water, especially while their fruit is developing, but
they should not be over fed as this will just result in lots of large
Apart from Brown Turkey, you do occasionally see other varieties of Figs
offered for sale and one is called Panachee. This is both ornamental and
edible as the Tree has green and white variegation. It does fade on the
Leaves and stems as the plant gets older, but remains vivid on the
Fruits making them look very attractive.
Another variety of Fig that is rarely available which is usually grown
just for its large ornamental leaves rather than the small, edible figs
it produces is called Ice Crystal. (Ficus Carica 'Ice Crystal') It has
long, divided, almost finger like leaves that grow in the shape of ice
crystals making it a very decorative, architectural plant. Like the
Brown Turkey it is very hardy, but can suffer in extremely cold winters.
Fig trees are self fertile and naturally crop twice a year in warmer
climates, but they will only produce one harvestable crop outside in the
UK. If figs are grown in a greenhouse that is warm enough over winter
they may yield a second crop. In the Autumn the figs will change colour,
darken and when fully ripe they will soften a little so that they give a
little when squeezed gently. The small trees on my Allotment crop
regularly and the last good crop gave over 40 ripe fruits, although it
does vary from one year to the next.
This may not sound like a lot of fruit, but when you think that the
regular shop prices are often 50 pence per fig it gives a different
perspective to the value of the crop. Fresh figs are so completely
different to eat to dried figs that someone given a blind taste test
would almost certainly say that they were not the same fruit.
After the leaves have dropped in the late autumn it is advisable to
remove all the small undeveloped fruits by simply twisting and snapping
them off as they will not develop outside and if left on the plant will
prevent a good crop for the following Summer. If removed cleanly no harm
will come to the plant, although a little milky sap may ooze out of the
Most trees are difficult to root compared to other garden plants and as
most fruit trees are grafted anyway it is not normally even worth trying
to root cuttings. However, fig trees are not grafted and do root
relatively easily, although they do take several months and need the
correct conditions or else they will rot. An 18 inch cutting taken in
the autumn, trimmed of all leaves and ragged bits, should be pushed
firmly into poor, well drained, dry-ish soil and left over winter. With
luck, by the following Summer the dormant buds should be showing green
and roots starting to form. Cuttings should then be potted in better
soil and watered to get some growth on before the following Winter. The
cuttings will take the maturity of the parent plant and so will develop
very quickly compared to any seedling plant that may have been bought.
(This is how nurserymen can sell very small, table sized
olive/orange/fig trees in full fruit even though they have not been
grafted and are not dwarf varieties)
Another useful way of rooting Fig tree cuttings is to ground layer the
stems. This method of propagation is not used much commercially these
days except in Coffee Plantations, as it requires much space and effort.
However, as fig trees tend to droop it is an easy matter to bend small
branches, that are growing low down, even further and peg them down into
the ground with small wire hoops. The branches should be lightly
scratched at a leaf bud before being buried in the soil. They will
continue growing as normal, but after some months if you carefully
scrape back the soil you should see roots forming on the buried shoots.
The rooted branches can then be cut off and potted, but you must keep
them shaded for a while, because their new roots will not be able to
provide all the moisture they had from their parent tree, until they