Grow your own fig tree

Winter is the perfect time to plant a fig tree in your garden. Expert Will Sibley shares his top tips...

Grow your own fig tree

Where and how to plant
Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow, thriving on poorer stony soils – but they do need a warm, sunny aspect to ensure good production. They're best grown if the roots are restricted, so dig a 'fig pit' 75cm x 50cm x 35cm deep, lined with paving slabs on the bottom and sides and backfilled with soil, stone and brick rubble, which you plant directly into. Water during the first 3 months and then only during very dry spells. Feed once a year with a good quality, organic-based fertiliser.

Growing in tubs or planters
Go for at least a 15-litre capacity, but no more than 50 litres, and create a layer of broken bricks or tiles in the bottom for drainage. Add small stones and fill with a mixture of John Innis No 3 or 4. Water at weekly intervals during spring, summer and autumn, and in hot weather increase this to twice a week. Feed with an organic-based fertiliser at monthly intervals.

Tending your trees
Figs have almost no destructive pests or diseases in the UK and therefore require no plant protection products. Prune in March but only remove crossing branches, and reduce the length of very long shoots (grown during the previous summer) by two-thirds.

Picking the crop
In the UK, figs will have two crops per year: small figs that overwinter and ripen in June and a summer crop that ripens in September and October. On young trees, thin the figlets by half to encourage the remaining fruits to size up. Figs should be picked when entirely ripe: when they are very large and the opposite end to the stalk starts to split open. They will be soft to the touch and taste sweet and delicious!

Will Sibley is considered one of the UK's foremost fruit experts and for over 40 years has acted as a consultant to Michelin-starred chefs and the royal family. Past roles have included being a Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, trustee of the National Fruit Collections Trust and director of New Covent Garden Market.

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