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Friday, December 30, 2016

Most Frequently Asked Question in 2016 About Fig Trees

            The most frequently asked question asked in 2016 concerned fig trees. Readers wanted to know why their fig trees did not produce good fruit. Either the fruit dropped from the tree when they were small or the fruit clung to the tree and never became large, but remained small, hard and dry.
If not given enough water the fruit will stay small, hard and dry

            There are hundreds of local fig trees that produced fruit consistently for 20 plus years in our Las Vegas Valley. In most cases, these problems are a human management problem, not the fault of the tree or the climate.
If not enough water reaches the fruit they are like any other fruit, the fruit remains small. In this case hard and dry as well and inedible.

            Fruits of fig trees are “multiple fruits”, similar in basic structure to fruit of pineapple and mulberry. Multiple fruits have dozens of flowers produced in a cluster at the end of a fleshy stem. Each flower produces fruit which expand, growing into each other, as they get larger. These type of growth produces a single, large fruit composed of dozens of smaller fruits.
Fig fruit are "multiple fruits" like pineapple or mulberry that have been turned "inside out" with the soft single fruits on the inside and the "core" on the outside

            Fig fruits are strange. When picturing fig fruits, think of a pineapple turned “inside out”, miniaturized, with “fleshy moist fruits” on the inside and a more durable “core” on the outside. Pretty cool adaptation for dry, harsh climates.
            Figs originally came from drier parts of Asia, transported to the Middle East, perhaps over 10,000 years ago. Growing figs by humans predates wheat. Once transported and grown in deserts, they could no longer survive and produce fruit without additional water. The tree would survive and grow but could not support a crop of fruit without additional water. They needed irrigation to be productive.
            Fast-forward to the Mojave Desert and the planting of fig trees. Fig trees do not need much water to survive year after year. But like any other fruit tree, the tree needs additional water to support a crop of figs. As the tree gets larger, it needs more and more water to support this larger tree plus a crop of figs.
Cacti and figs are not a good mix in a desert landscape. The figs need lots of water for fruit production while the cacti don't.

            If your fig fruits are not a good quality it is most likely not enough water. If the tree is allowed to get big, and they will, add more drip emitters or enlarge the water basin around the tree. Put a four-inch layer of wood chips around the base. Or make them smaller.

Fig trees like this 15 year old fig can take some hard pruning to keep its size small.
            Fig trees can be pruned without mercy. They will recover from a stump if they must. Keeping the tree smaller requires less water for irrigation. Prune them smaller in December and January but keep some of the growth from 2016 if you want an early crop of fruit.

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