Figs can be grown as a free standing tree in a pot, using a soil based potting compost. Or trained as a fan against a south or south west facing wall. The fig tree have very vigorous roots and to encourage fruit production and restrict shoot growth it is necessary to restrict the roots.
This can be done by planting in a 37.5cm (15”) pot and if planting against a wall it should be buried to the rim and touch the wall. Alternatively construct a fig pit. Dig out a hole 60x60x60cm (24x24x24”) deep and line the sides with bricks or paving slabs. In the bottom place a 23cm (9″) of tightly packed broken bricks or rubble. Refill with soil adding well rotted manure or garden compost and a little bonemeal. In a pit plant 23cm (9″) away from the base of the wall. In both pots and a pit they should be planted firmly.
In most respects standards can be grown as for a bush fig. Because of their trained shape they are best suited for growing in a large pot or tub which also has the benefit of restricting root growth and limiting vigour. When grown in a pot particular care should be taken to feed and water very regularly especially in the spring and summer months when the weather is drier and growth is rapid.
The head of the fig tree should be built up steadily to achieve and maintain the classic standard form. To this end side branching can be encouraged by reducing the soft growing branches by up to one third. Mid summer is the ideal time.
Training and pruning your Fig Tree
To train as a fan against a wall, treat as for Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines. In February cut about one third off both shoots, pruning back to a bud. Allow four shoots to develop on each and train to an even fan shape, spacing at least 30cm (12″) apart.
To produce a free standing pot grown bush prune in winter cutting back to just above a bud approximately 65–75cm (26–30″) above the soil surface. The following winter select four or five shoots to form the framework and cut back by a third. All other laterals are removed. The following year these are cut back by half. Also remove any branches crossing the centre of the bush. Any shoots not required for the frame work are cut back to four buds. Repot every second year to a pot size of 30–37cm (12–15″) while dormant in early spring. Loosen soil around the root and cut away any strong thong like roots to encourage a fibrous root system.
Established fig trees are pruned in June by pinching back all young shoots to 4 or 5 leaves to promote fruiting shoots to form. In spring tidy up both fan and bush trained plants by removing shoots killed by frost. Thinning may be necessary by removing some of the old wood. On fan trained plants remove buds which are pointing directly inwards or away from the wall.
Seasonal Fig tree care
Regular watering will be necessary as the plants have a restricted root system. Dry soil conditions will result in the fruit dropping. Protection from birds may be required as the fruit start to ripen. In spring apply a light dressing of a general fertiliser such as Growmore and mulch with well rotted garden compost, apply a high potash liquid fertiliser at 2–3 week intervals. Feed free standing, pot grown plants with a high potash liquid feed of the type used for tomatoes when the fruit starts to swell — at 10 day intervals — until just before the fruit ripens.
Fig trees are capable of producing two or three crops a year but in our climate only one will ripen. It is therefore, necessary in September to remove the cherry sized fruit which will not ripen. Do not remove the pea sized fruit found near the ends of the shoots as these will develop into next seasons crop. The fruits form during the previous season and frost protection will be necessary. Protect fan trained plants with fleece from autumn to spring. Pot grown plants can be moved into a cold greenhouse, shed or garage or covered with fleece on cold frosty nights.
The fruits ripen in August and September. The fruit is ready for picking when it has turned a brownish-red, hangs down, the skin may be cracked or there may be a drop of nectar at the base.
For more about the fig tree, Buy at Suttons Seeds