So we've had our three fig trees in large containers for a year and change now. I wanted to wait this long to post an update on them so that I could have some results to share. The figs are in 17-gallon containers with a sizeable water reservoir at the bottom that takes away some of the growing space. These containers were constructed along the same lines as the self-watering potato buckets I experimented with last year.
The figs are doing well. It's likely I jumped the gun just slightly in pulling them out of the garage this spring. I was overeager, and the garage was really crowded. I knew fig trees could withstand light frosts. The garage where they spent the winter is large enough that the temperature inside had never dipped below 30 F (-1 C), even though it's unheated. I pulled the trees outside in late April, though our last frost comes typically in early May. I covered them with a drop cloth when frosts were predicted, and even put bottles of warm water under the cloths with them when temperatures in the 20's were forecast. These precautions proved insufficient to fully counter my overeagerness. The trees took some damage on the higher branch tips which held up the drop cloth. I was afraid that I'd done serious harm to the trees. But true to form, the figs proved they could withstand light frosts. I waited a few months to see how much of each branch had died, and ended up needing to trim only a few inches here and there.
The soil in the containers had settled quite a bit after planting last year. In late spring I laid each container on its side, hauled the tree out, trimmed the roots that had grown down into the water reservoir, and added more soil to the bottom of the growing space. The figs already had their leaves on, but they took this disturbance in stride. It's clear that the third year root trimming is going to be necessary next spring. This is considered standard maintenance for fig trees in containers. All the plants were working on becoming root bound. The extra soil should do for this year though.
All three varieties now have unripe figs on them. I've got them positioned on the edge of the driveway, and they seem to relish the extra baking that the blacktop provides. Making sure they're well watered through the heat wave has been a priority. They are thirsty plants indeed. I think keeping them in sufficient water would be very difficult without the water reservoir. It needs filling at least every other day. I'm especially anxious to keep up with their water needs because I suspect the first few figs that one tree put on were lost last year due to lack of water.
I'm looking forward to our first fig harvest, perhaps in a month or so. I don't expect it to be huge by any means, but I think we'll see a good handful or two from each of our three different varieties. An older friend of mine who grew up in Italy told me once about a breakfast he ate every day for a few weeks in late summer. Ripe figs smeared over crusty bread, drizzled with good olive oil and a pinch of salt. His mouth watered when he described it to me, almost 50 years later. Sign me up for that. Or figs skewered on rosemary twigs and roasted over a real charcoal fire. Or fig clafouti. Or figs with soft goat cheese on a green salad. Or, or, or...
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.