Planting a Fig Tree

A fruiting Common Fig tree (F. carica)
Image via Wikipedia

As I was searching fig tree varieties I realized there must be hundreds of different types. Wow! Talk about a difficult decision. I finally settled on a Celeste fig and then learned that there are actually several varieties classified as Celeste. I don’t know which variety I bought because the label only reads, “Celeste Fig.” I did learn that a Celeste fig is a Common Fig, and that Common Figs are the type most often planted in the United States.

To plant my fig I will choose a location that is at least 15′ in diameter and receives a minimum of 8 hours of sun light each day. I’ve read that it’s best to put a fig in a location where it will be protected from cold winter winds. Our field is wide open so there is no such place. I will consider the size of the tree when it’s fully grown to make sure that it won’t interfere with other plantings around it. In our area figs grow as large bushes instead of actual trees and I’ve seen some as tall as 25′. Come to think of it, I’ve never actually seen a fig ‘tree’.

Once I figure out where I’m putting my fig I’ll mark off a 5’x5′ planting bed and then use my garden fork to loosen the soil to a depth of 6-12 inches. I’ll clean away all weeds, grass, rock, etc to make a nice clean bed for the young tree. I’ve read that figs don’t normally need any fertilizers or soil amendments when being set outdoors, but since our soil is abnormally hard red clay I’ll spread the 5’x5′ planting bed with 1 cubic foot of course sand and 1 cubic foot of organic humus and then turn the sand and humus into the soil with my garden fork. After all this, I’ll double dig the planting bed to loosen the clay and aerate the soil. Now the ground is ready for the new fig tree.

I’ll use my shovel to dig a hole that is 3-4 inches deeper than the root mass of the fig tree then I’ll gently remove the tree from its container. I’ve read that the root mass should be inspected for root gall and that dead or broken roots should be discarded. If nematodes are suspected do not plant the tree, instead get a different one. Once I feel comfortable that my tree has healthy roots I’ll plop it into the hole and cover the roots with soil, gently tamping it down as I go. I’ll water the fig when the hole is half full then again when the tree is completely planted. I’ll finish by mulching the planting bed with partially composted leaves. Whew! That’s all I’ll do and that’s enough. No pruning until winter dormancy. 

I’ve learned that young fig trees (up to three years old) may need additional protection from winter winds and temperatures. Some videos I’ve seen show people going to great lengths to keep their trees alive – stuffing straw all up around the limbs and then wrapping the entire tree with burlap bags and tarps, covering them with carpet and blankets. I’ve never seen anything like that done around here so I’m not certain what measure I’ll take to get my young tree through the winter. Often our temperatures drop into the teens at night and this past winter we even had some single digit nights. Hmm? I’ll research this area more over the summer.