Our fan-tastic fig tree
Four years ago my brother gave us a very small (and rather desperate looking) fig tree in a ridiculously small pot. To be honest, the word tree is stretching it a bit. It was more of a dead-looking stick with a green shoot emerging out of the soil right next to it. In fact he and his wife were about to dispose of it when they saw the new growth – so, happily for us, they decided to continue to dispose of it but in our direction! We were very keen to give it a home as we had recently moved to the Villas and had a south-east facing white wall begging for fruit trees to be trained up against it…
First we dug a planting-pit directly in front of the wall, which involved removing and sieving several barrow-loads of soil. The finished hole measured just over a metre from left to right, just under a metre from front to back (we were restricted in this direction by some long since demolished outhouse foundations) and about a metre deep. Then, using broken paving slabs and brick rubble (of which we had plenty!) we lined the three open sides and back-filled the hole with the sieved soil mixed with some well rotted garden compost, planting the fig at the same depth as previously grown.
We decided to grow it as a fan rather than an espalier. This involves training the branches into a flat fan shape against the wall, with the two main branches growing outwards at around 40 degrees. The following Spring, rapid growth occurred with shoots coming off the two main lateral branches, so we selected outward growing ones only (to form a spreading fan-like pattern) and removed all the others. At this stage we started using the horizontal wires that Michael had rigged up. At first the training was fairly loose but as the growth continued we progressively tightened the ties to the wire grid, thus encouraging the branches to grow parallel to the wall rather than in a pointing away from it towards the garden.
Now well established, we prune the tree each June, shortening all the side shoots back to five leaves from the main framework and in September we remove any fruit larger than a pea. These tiny embryonic pea-sized figs over-winter, hopefully to ripen the following year… Finally, every week through the summer when the fruits are swelling, we water-on a high potash liquid feed such as tomato fertiliser. Regular watering is also important because the roots are confined to a relatively small area that would otherwise dry out quite rapidly.
Thinking of getting your own fig tree? Then we recommend ashridgetrees.co.uk. They have many varieties available and give excellent advice on how to plant, grow and care for fruit trees.
The most delicious fig recipe I’ve found so far is this one:
What you’ll need: Fresh figs, trimmed and halved; 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Grill the figs for 6 to 8 minutes, turning once midway through
- Divide between two plates. Drizzle honey over each plate of figs, then top with the chopped rosemary
- Serve (suggest with vanilla ice cream) and eat………Sigh.