Yes Figs Grow Around Fort Smith!


Work closely with the River Valley Master Gardeners on a five-to-ten year Fig growing trial to determine what varieties are suitable for our climate gardening zone. We are seeking information on local Fig trees which have survived multiple years either with or without winter protection.

Document and show as many growing Fig trees in our area as possible so people will know what varieties to choose from when they search about Figs and possibly want to grow them, in and around Fort Smith.

Most people think about California or perhaps farther South and into Florida when growing Figs comes to mind but in truth, we can grow just about any variety of Fig as can be grown anywhere, depending on how much effort we want to put into it, to ensure survival of the tree(s).

There are many varieties of Fig, some considered more "cold hardy" than others and so, more suitable to growing here if we simply want to plant them out in the yard as we might any other fruit tree suitable for our climate, while others will require protection of some sort during our cold winters that will kill most fig varieties.

Ok Charlie, what Fig varieties can I grow in and around Fort Smith? If it is listed in the right column blog archive below, then it is a good variety choice. More will be continually added as they are found locally or resulting from the Learning Fields at Chaffee Crossing Fig Trial.

We can grow even the pickiest of Fig if we want to have them in containers we can move into a garage or other suitable enclosure during the winter to protect them from killing temperatures and others may suffice in a greenhouse but these are not really the ones we want to focus on in this blog. Most people simply want to plant a tree and not go to a whole lot of effort.

It is advised that any Fig variety grown here be given some protection during Winter while young and until they are well established with woody bark. Even then there are no guarantees they will survive. Our purpose here is to help you decide which are the best choices according to known survivors in our area.

Variety topics are always in the Blog Archive.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Fig Trees/Cuttings, Spring 2016 continued

A lot has happened since our last post on March 10, namely, several killing freeze nights, one in particular down to between 24 and 26 F.  

Every fig we had taken out of the winter grow room project and out of hibernation in the garage were left out, on purpose with a purpose, to see what would survive.  We simply don't want any wimpy fig varieties.

Out of all our varieties, one stands alone as the cold hardy champ, Stella.  She never lost a leaf and kept two of her three breba figs on through it all, never once slowing down or stunting, even with thick, hard frosty ice covering our car, right next to the driveway figs on several nights.

That photo was taken 4/12/16.  Stella was put in-ground a few weeks ago where she continues to grow and enlarge her breba's.

Honorable mention goes to Green Ischia, Armenian (small eye var), Black Jack and Texas BA-1 which all kept some leaves.  

Every other variety suffered partial to total die back of leaves and stem to the ground but all have either pushed out new buds from lower growth that didn't die or have pushed out new shoots from under the soil surface. We did not lose a single plant to cold and only one was a loss in the garage over winter, a small VdB in a terra cotta pot that most certainly dried out from being in a porous container and under-watered.

So, what the heck are we going to do with all these figs that just won't die?  

LOL!  I don't know who created that but I love it!  We will grow all the figs!

Since pushing the boundaries of what figs will survive, we sacrificed a lot of figs we likely would have gotten had we protected all the trees, but we learned in the process. Figs are tougher than some would lead to believe.

Now an update on the fig cuttings we overwintered in compost, in the gallon sized, economy Root Pouch Grow Bags on the back patio and front porch.  They too suffered from quite a long spell of cold to cool nights this Spring and are just now really starting to push out buds and leaves.  

So far the count off the back patio is fourteen each of Hardy Chicago and Sister Madeline's Green Greek, with one Jim Dandy that has already been given to my friend who discovered the mother tree.  Hope we get a few more of those!

From the front porch grow bags surviving. Black Madeira and Galicia Negra which have already been up-potted and set elsewhere, Vista, Valley Black, Unk Sheepshead, Unk Carini, Nero 600 M, Kenny Blackbird Local Green, IGO Yellow, Unk J. Spruill, Texas White Everbear. LSU Tiger, Sal's, Sicilian Red. Safrawi and Unk Durbrow Seedless, still under the porch, look to bust buds any day now.  Many of these we have multiples of since some bags were loaded with more than one cutting. Newly rooted cuttings are sensitive though, time will show the true survivors. 

I'm pretty confident we can consider the rooting of fig cuttings, outdoors over winter, a success.  For the expense and effort involved, not much, we have already gained many new fig starts with surely more to come.  We simply stuck a bunch of cuttings into a bunch of growbags, in compost and let nature have at it, except for keeping the front porch bags moist with a garden hose sprayer about once per week if dry at finger depth..  

All the fig trees which were in white, 5gal pails that overwintered in the garage were set in-ground, along the South border of the yard and in the back yard in neat rows.  The bucket bottoms were removed and the buckets were buried to about 2/3 deep.  This leaves a 1/3 above ground level so we have a small "drier" zone in case of heavy rain and ground saturation, which we have had and all seem to be doing fine, having recovered from freeze and putting out new growth.

We still have many fig trees that overwintered in the garage in plastic, gallon size trade pots and other various shape containers.  The ones in gallon pots, we recycled the winter grow room bucket bottoms to become irrigation reservoirs.  A drain hole is drilled into each, 1" from the bottom so excess drains out in case of heavy rain.  

That's about it for now.  When some more 5gal pails are acquired, we'll set some more of the driveway figs and other rooted cuttings in-ground, somewhere in the yard.  Many will go to friends and other various places where trade deals have been made and promises to keep. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fig Trees/Cuttings, Spring 2016

Has been awhile. Winter was pretty mild, compared to the last two and it looks like it ought to be a great year for Figs!

We shuffled ninety-four potted Fig trees and last Fall's rooted cuttings from the garage onto the driveway.  Every one looks to be alive with green buds.  They were only watered one time, about midway through Winter, from the time we put them in till now.

Unknown Lake Spur is the first to throw out a leaf.

We have sixty-eight (added ten since photo was taken), gallon size Root Pouch grow bags with various cuttings that were acquired over Winter in trades and some gifted to us.  More about these particular grow bags later. 

Below we have one-hundred eighty-six grow bags overwintered on the back patio, covered with several inches of leaves as their only protection.  They were uncovered last weekend and all appear to be fresh as the day they were set into the bags and some with green buds.  

One-hundred Hardy Chicago and fifty Jim Dandy (50% of live plants going back to the owners of mother trees that donated cuttings),  along with thirty-six Madelines Green Greek. We'll update on this in a few weeks as they should leaf out soon.

Below we have results of Unk Lake Spur that was left out to overwinter.  Only protection was the compost that covered a portion of the two trunks inside the cut barrel.   All exposed trunk above the compost was Winter killed as it was mostly green wood, not yet lignified or hardened off.  The compost was simply shoveled in and leveled, unpacked and left uncovered.

Removing the barrel and raking back the compost to form a permanent raised mound in our now swamp of a back yard,  we found green wood and pruned off the dead upper material.  There's already a green lateral bud as indicated by the red circle.  These plants should bear figs this year.

I feel it worthy to mention, there was no mold present on the trunks, even though they were covered with moist compost and top left open to rains.  I give credit for this to beneficial microbes in well aerated compost, more below.    

Promised more about the Root Pouch grow bags used this Spring and over the last few months during Winter.  These are the 12-15 month, gallon size from Greenhouse Megastore and cost $0.38 each if purchased in a fifty pack. 

What attracted me to try them?  In my thinking, $0.38 isn't a bad deal if it helps create a healthy rooted Fig cutting that should translate into a Fig tree and as stated on the page...

 "Potted plants and trees will enjoy healthy growth while above-ground, and can be planted directly in the ground, where the pot will biodegrade."

As mentioned in earlier posts in this blog, Fig roots are very easily rotted during the phase of rooting the cuttings, I believe from a combination of plastic or otherwise non-porous containers, too much moisture, too little aeration and not enough beneficial microbes in the mix to combat the nasties like molds and anaerobic bacteria.  

We see the Unk Lake Spur in the above photo.  They sprouted from cuttings that were buried horizontally in compost in the Fall of 2014, overwintered outdoors and came to life in a soggy, saturated pile just a few inches above soggy, saturated mud for ground!  Try that in a plastic bag or pot or cup or anything indoors and see what happens.  

It had to be that the compost was aerated and was full of beneficial microbes that allowed the cuttings to root and eventually flourish.  They out-grew every other rooted cutting last year far as growth.

So, these grow bags just make sense to me, along with the same compost.  They should allow the compost to remain aerated which translates to healthy roots and have the added benefit of being able to go right into the ground or container where roots simply penetrate the bag and keep on growing.  Not ever having to remove the cutting from the bag, often resulting in root shock and delayed growth by transplanting from pots is a big plus in Fig propagation.

That's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it.  We'll see if I'm correct when all these cuttings leaf out in a few weeks, or not!