Fresh Figs are Sublime

There are edible fruits and then there are fruits which transcend the ordinary. It’s not only their taste, it’s the fact that you are growing them and then eating them fresh from your own garden, in a climate where they really shouldn’t survive.
Tasting a fresh fig (Ficus carica) that you’ve plucked from your own plant is a treat like no other and it can be done in spite of our cold winters. I’ve always loved figs and I fell in love with the idea of growing my own when I saw a mature tree growing in the backyard of my wife’s uncle in the small northeast Italian town of Paseano when we visited there.
A co-worker generously gave me a rooted cutting (variety unknown) several years ago and I’ve nurtured it diligently. Along the way I’ve added another plant, Ficus “Lattarulla.” Both are currently sunning themselves on our deck.
The Okanagan is well-suited for growing figs for fruit because we have the requisite heat later in the growing season. You’ll have a much higher chance for success if you grow them in large containers as I do, but I have seen instances where gardeners have figs planted in the ground. The first fresh “Canadian” figs I enjoyed were from a tree grown in Summerland.
The homeowner has the tree planted right up against a south-facing wall, where it receives maximum heat and sun. In years with milder winters enough of the wood survives to produce fruit. In cold years the plant has endured significant dieback, but comes back from the roots and lower branches, although it doesn’t produce any fruit.
Wrapping the tree in burlap, old carpet or a tarp will provide some additional protection and I know of gardeners who have built “mini-greenhouses” for their in-ground plants because they insist the fruit is bigger and sweeter.
Growing the plants in containers and moving them indoors for the winter removes the danger of dieback and also ensures that two-year old wood is present to produce fruit the following year. I leave my plants on the deck until early October, having begun to cut back on watering earlier in September. The foliage drops off and before the nighttime temperatures drop below freezing I move the pots into my unheated garage.
There they sit all winter long, basically dormant. The temperature is cool enough that the plants don’t begin to grow until April, when I bring them out and set them on the deck again, close to the house until temperatures are safe.
Figs need as much sun and heat as you can give them, so the west-facing wall of our deck, where temperatures are routinely in the 40’s during July and August afternoons, is ideal. I fertilize the plants at the beginning of the spring with granular 14-14-14 and that’s it. Keep the soil moist and you’ll see rapid growth throughout the summer. I’ve never seen an insect on my plants.
Seeing the tiny buds develop into fruit is exciting. A warm and sunny September is essential for maturing the fruit. Other essentials include a plate of sliced prosciutto ham and melon, along with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio to go with your fresh figs.

Fresh Figs are Sublime

There are edible fruits and then there are fruits which transcend the ordinary. It’s not only their taste, it’s the fact that you are growing them and then eating them fresh from your own garden, in a climate where they really shouldn’t survive.
Tasting a fresh fig (Ficus carica) that you’ve plucked from your own plant is a treat like no other and it can be done in spite of our cold winters. I’ve always loved figs and I fell in love with the idea of growing my own when I saw a mature tree growing in the backyard of my wife’s uncle in the small northeast Italian town of Paseano when we visited there.
A co-worker generously gave me a rooted cutting (variety unknown) several years ago and I’ve nurtured it diligently. Along the way I’ve added another plant, Ficus “Lattarulla.” Both are currently sunning themselves on our deck.
The Okanagan is well-suited for growing figs for fruit because we have the requisite heat later in the growing season. You’ll have a much higher chance for success if you grow them in large containers as I do, but I have seen instances where gardeners have figs planted in the ground. The first fresh “Canadian” figs I enjoyed were from a tree grown in Summerland.
The homeowner has the tree planted right up against a south-facing wall, where it receives maximum heat and sun. In years with milder winters enough of the wood survives to produce fruit. In cold years the plant has endured significant dieback, but comes back from the roots and lower branches, although it doesn’t produce any fruit.
Wrapping the tree in burlap, old carpet or a tarp will provide some additional protection and I know of gardeners who have built “mini-greenhouses” for their in-ground plants because they insist the fruit is bigger and sweeter.
Growing the plants in containers and moving them indoors for the winter removes the danger of dieback and also ensures that two-year old wood is present to produce fruit the following year. I leave my plants on the deck until early October, having begun to cut back on watering earlier in September. The foliage drops off and before the nighttime temperatures drop below freezing I move the pots into my unheated garage.
There they sit all winter long, basically dormant. The temperature is cool enough that the plants don’t begin to grow until April, when I bring them out and set them on the deck again, close to the house until temperatures are safe.
Figs need as much sun and heat as you can give them, so the west-facing wall of our deck, where temperatures are routinely in the 40’s during July and August afternoons, is ideal. I fertilize the plants at the beginning of the spring with granular 14-14-14 and that’s it. Keep the soil moist and you’ll see rapid growth throughout the summer. I’ve never seen an insect on my plants.
Seeing the tiny buds develop into fruit is exciting. A warm and sunny September is essential for maturing the fruit. Other essentials include a plate of sliced prosciutto ham and melon, along with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio to go with your fresh figs.

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