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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Figs NOT Low Water Use Plants

Q. I have a couple of fig trees that are 4 to 5 years old which have some problems. They produce a lot of fruit during the year but the fruit gets about grape size, turns yellow and falls off. Both trees are watered twice a day during the summer. The soil appears to be moist every time I check.

Readers fig tree
A. Your fig trees are very nice-looking looking at the picture you sent. However, the irrigated area under the tree, about 18 to 24 inches across, does not look big enough to support four-year-old fig trees. I don’t think you can put enough water under the tree to keep this tree producing figs until they are mature.
Fig tree in the winter. Fig tree was 15 years old and kept at 7 to 8 feet tall. Very productive but need lots of water.
            I’m sure it’s quite confusing. You have a very nice-looking tree, you are watering every day, but the tree doesn’t produce any edible figs. So it can’t be a watering problem. Right?
            Wrong. Even though you water every day, if not enough water is applied then the fruit may fail to develop even though the canopy looks great! Leaf and stem growth is greatest early in the year when temperatures are cooler. Fruit develops when temperatures get hot.
            Watering daily may have nothing to do with the amount of water applied. Fig trees, or any plant for that matter, doesn’t care if it gets water every hour, every day or every week. The total amount of water applied must be enough to satisfy its needs.
If you want figs like this then you really need to pour the water on during fruit enlargement. This is FULL of water to get this big.
            Fig trees use a lot of water. The amount of water required in a week increases 500% from January to July. If you want fruit from these fig trees then they must get enough water while the fruit is developing. If they don’t, the fig fruits will be small and/or drop from the tree.
            Increase the size of the area where water is applied to at least 4 feet in diameter. 6 foot in diameter is better. Add additional drip emitters so the tree gets more water each time you irrigate. Avoid increasing the number of minutes on your irrigation timer.
This irrigation basin..well...around the tree might be big enough when it is small but NOT when the tree gets bigger.
            Trees do not like to be watered every day. Water fig trees three times a week in midsummer but each time apply about 30 gallons. That is 90 gallons a week in midsummer. The tree should have enough drip emitters around it to wet the area in a 4 to 6-foot diameter under the tree.
            The total amount of water delivered in a single application should be about 30 gallons. Put a 4-inch-deep layer of wood chips under the tree about 6 feet in diameter to help keep the soil moist between irrigations.

            Please realize you can water every day and still not give plants enough water. Watering frequency does not necessarily mean watering sufficiently for the plants needs..

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