For luscious, soft fresh figs, add a couple of plants to your home landscape

Green Scene by Geri Laufer

Yummy figs can be eaten fresh, stuffed with chocolate or walnuts and blue cheese, dried, preserved, or used for baking and making ice cream. DYK? Because red raspberries don’t grow well in Atlanta, Betty Homemaker of the 1960’s used a packet of raspberry jello and added mashed figs for that “special seedy quality” to replicate homemade red raspberry jam. (Ulp!)

Figs do well in metro-Atlanta landscapes and don’t need pollinating wasps like California figs do. UGA suggests the following varieties: Alma, Brown Turkey, Celeste, Green Ischia, Hunt Dull, Kadota, LSU Purple, Magnolia Bronze, and Hardy Chicago. In a perfect world, you could sample these before buying a couple to plant. To hedge my bets I planted the hardiest (Hardy Chicago) and the most southerly (LSU Purple), although in the past I have grown Brown Turkey and Celeste.

When choosing a location, choose a place in full sun that is free of root-knot nematodes in the soil (microscopic worms that invade the roots). Practically, this means don’t plant figs after tomatoes or other solanaceous plants in the nightshade family.

A fig leaf is useful apparel for Adam. Photo: Geri Laufer

The other consideration when siting figs is to be sure to allow enough room because planting a large-growing shrub in a small landscape space, requiring heavy yearly pruning, will result in poor fruiting. I allowed a fair amount of room when I planted mine two years ago, but I also have been channeling my next-door neighbor’s Greek Grandmother’s technique of pruning back all her figs to about four feet during the summer as well as in early winter to keep them at a manageable height for picking. When pruning, cut off the leaders of each branch and encourage horizontal shoots because they bear most of the fruits.

Care and Maintenance

  • Figs respond to regular applications of fertilizer lightly spread under the canopy in March, May, and June (too late for August, but put on the calendar for next spring).
  • It’s good practice to keep your figs well-watered while the fruit is swelling, just like keeping blueberries watered when the berries are ripening.

Grilled Balsamic Figs with Goat Cheese
Split a dozen fresh figs lengthwise and set cut side down on a slow grill.
Remove and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Digging Deeper
You may want to investigate the UGA publication for further reading: Home Garden Figs

Have you harvested figs from your home landscape? Let me know by posting on The Current Hub facebook page.

Geri Laufer lives in Atlanta, where she, graphic designer husband David, and English Coonhound Lily are working on designing and installing a never-finished landscape. You can reach her at Geri Laufer