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LSU AgCenter Horticulturist Details How To Take Care Of Fig Tree

August 2005

Homeowners are reminded of certain care the trees need for good production. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. John Pyzner examines fig cultural practices and fertilization.

The horticulturist recommends

shallow cultivation to control weeds and grasses. A thick layer of hay or straw mulch will help to eliminate unwanted vegetation and conserve soil moisture. Nematode damage appears to be less important where trees are mulched. In addition, mulches help maintain desirable soil temperature and aeration. The fig is well suited to this practice, since roots are shallow in most soils. Never cultivate deeply around figs.

Pyzner also recommends a general fertilizer of 1 pound of 8-8-8 per year of age of the tree up to 10 years of age. This maximum of 10 pounds should be continued for trees 10 or more years old. Apply fertilizer in late winter or early spring.

A good indication of the need for fertilizer is the amount of shoot growth obtained. A satisfactory amount of shoot growth is 1 to 1 1/2 feet per year. One common cause of fruit not maturing on fig trees is over fertilization using nitrogen fertilizer.

Pyzner says 4 to 6 inches of mulch and regular watering will often produce adequate growth of trees without sacrificing yield and quality. Do not fertilize trees in late summer, since succulent growth is more susceptible to cold injury. Vigorous late-season growth is not desirable.

Because figs are shallow-rooted, they often come under stress during dry periods. The Celeste variety, in particular, drops early fruit after spring droughts. Late summer droughts may cause early defoliation and induce dormancy.

Regular irrigation is very important in producing quality fruit. Pyzner warns, however, that extremely late irrigation promotes succulent growth going into the winter and can cause the tree to be more susceptible to cold weather injury. It should be avoided.

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