ISO Figs

Start your figs inside to make sure they yield fruit.

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ISO FigsQ. I have two figs, a 'Desert King' and a 'Brown Turkey', each planted in a 10-gallon container. In fall, I move them into the garage for the winter and water them occasionally. In spring, I move them back outside and water them thoroughly, but they don't leaf out until August and neither plant bears fruit. How can I get them to leaf out earlier and produce figs?

Yvette Smith

Ellensburg, Washington

A. North of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 (or minimum winter temperature of 10°F), growing figs in containers is easier than growing them in the ground. While some cultivars, including 'Brown Turkey', produce two crops in warm-climate conditions, potted figs typically yield a single crop in late summer or fall.

Move container-grown figs outside in spring after the last frost date for your area has passed. Be prepared to protect them from late spring frosts that could damage tender leaf buds and delay growth for the entire season. Place figs in the sunniest location available--a sheltered, southern exposure is ideal--and water containers when the top inch of soil gets dry. Figs will grow in some shade, but they need lots of sunshine to produce fruit. A monthly foliar spray (or watering) with liquid seaweed or compost tea during the growing season also boosts plant health and productivity.

Harvest figs when they are fully ripe (depending on the cultivar, ripe figs may be brown, gold, or green) and soft to the touch. Ripe fruits will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

When cold weather returns, move figs into an unheated garage, shed, or other sheltered site where temperatures will not fall below 20°F. Continue to water dormant plants regularly when the soil dries out. Prune or thin figs only as much as needed to control their size. 'Desert King' bears fruit on the previous season's growth, so avoid removing more than half of that growth any time you give it a trim.

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