My Grandmama and Granddaddy Roberts lived in the small town of Cold Springs in East Texas. Just outside the back door of their home was a fig tree. During fig season, Grandmama would give me a warm biscuit, sliced open with a bit of butter in the middle. Out the back door and down the stairs I would go to that fig tree, looking for the perfect soft fig that would become my biscuit filling. It was important to find a soft fig that you could "smoosh" between the biscuit halves to mix the soft butter with the sweet fig. Best. "Fig Newton". Ever.
Unless you have your own fig tree, or know someone who does, chances are you have not had the pleasure of eating a fresh fig. You must use figs as they ripen because fresh figs are not tasty until soft and ripe. Figs are highly perishable and ferment shortly after being picked. Ripe figs can be stored for a very short time if refrigerated, but they are at their best when eaten warm from the tree.
Luckily, figs grow well in a wide range of soils, if the soil is well-drained and reasonably fertile. Plant your fig tree where it is protected from cold winter winds by planting fig bushes against a south-facing wall or fence.
Fig plants can be grown as either a tree or as a bush.
Trees: Plant a fig tree 1 to 2 inches deeper than it was planted in the nursery container. Figs trained as trees should be spaced 15 to 20 feet apart.
Bushes: Set fig bushes 4 inches deeper than in the nursery container to encourage branching from beneath the soil surface. Figs grown as bushes should be spaced 10-foot apart.
We recommend using Compost Complete with Mary's Mineral Mix as a soil amendment when planting and again each spring when the fig plant is leafing out.
Figs have a shallow root system and should not be cultivated but rather mulched with leaves, pine straw, or other material to conserve moisture and keep weeds under control.
For optimum growth, give fig plants full sunlight and adequate room to grow (see spacing requirements above). Avoid competition from weeds by mulching, and from neighboring trees and shrubs.
Pruning: Pruning controls the fig tree's height by opening the bush structure and removes dead wood and suckers from the trunk and main branches. Pruning is also used to cut off drooping branches. Pruning will allow for easier harvesting, produces larger fruit, and improves tree's vigor. Prune in late winter, just before growth begins.
Harvesting: Unripe figs are green and hide among the large leaves of a fig bush. When mature, the fruit will change from green to light green, yellow, brown, or purple depending on the variety. The ripe fruit will hang downward rather than pointing up or straight out from the stem.
Figs ripen from June through August in our area, depending on the variety.