Fancy up your fruit-growing this summer and plant fig trees in containers
From Turkey to India and Mediterranean countries, figs grow, flourish and are part of delicious recipes.
If you thought these sweet, bulb-shaped fruits were off the menu to grow in your own Vermont backyard, we've got some great news.
Certain fig varieties grow quite well in Vermont's climate as long as they stay in containers. By late summer and fall, your potted fig tree will yield dozens of figs year after year.
Start by heading to your favorite garden center to purchase a fig plant. Look for varieties that will do well in Vermont spring and summer conditions, like Brown Turkey, Celeste and Petite Negri, which is a dwarf variety and Hardy Chicago.
These particular fig types are very container-oriented, meaning they grow well in containers and can be pruned to stay at a reasonable size.
Once you've chosen a variety, choose the right sized pot or container to grow it in. And over the years, as the fig plant grows, repot it in a larger container.
You'll follow the seasons with your fig plant and bring it outdoors in spring and summer, then indoors again in late fall to overwinter.
Come April, the fig plant that's been wintering indoors can also use some root-pruning. Move it from its cool, winter storage and pull the whole plant out of its container.
Then, use a hand saw to cut off some of the roots all the way around the plant.
Doing this achieves two goals: it stimulates new growth which will become new feeder roots. Those new roots will take up a lot of water and nutrients. And, pruning the roots will also help keep the plant small enough to stay in its container.
Take this opportunity to add new potting soil to your fig plant's container, too. A mix of organic potting soil, compost and organic fertilizer works best.
Transport the newly root-trimmed and re-potted fig plant outdoors to sit on the south side of your house or lawn or wherever it gets the most heat and sun.
Keep the fig really well watered and by late summer, you begin to see small figs!
You'll know the figs are ready to harvest when they start drooping a little bit and turning a browning color.
Depending on the variety of plant, it should yield 50 to 70 figs per tree per year, every year.
Then, in the fall, you can start to plan the fig plant's return to an indoor setting.
As the temperatures cool down, let the leaves yellow. Your fig plant can even take a bit of frost.
Move it back indoors when the temps dip below 30, though, and find a spot - either in a garage, basement or shed - where the temperatures stay ideally around freezing or up to 40.
Then, in spring, start the process all over again! Enjoy your fig plant and its delicious fruits for years to come.
Eat figs in Italy with Charlie Nardozzi! Learn more about a trip to Puglia, Italy, this fall. Charlie and a small group will tour botanical gardens, take part in cooking classes, wine tastings and sight-seeing.
Q: I am trying to build up a strong population of native mason bees. I'm wondering how I should prune for maximum flowers. I don't care much about setting fruit but I want to provide food for my mason bees. - Douglas, in Underhill
A: It's great idea to really try to encourage mason bees because they're much more efficient pollinators than the honeybee.
In fact, a couple of mason bees can pollinate a whole apple tree!
So if you can have the nesting boxes set up for them and have a lot of flowers, you're off to a good start.
As far as pruning those wild apple trees or any trees that you have, it's really the same as if you were pruning them for fruit production.
Remove the suckers and water spouts because those won't be flowering. Take out any crossing branches or crowding branches because the more shade you have on a branch, the less it's going to flower for you.
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