Friday, March 25, 2011

A tutorial, Trebek: Propagating fig trees DIY

I think it's no secret that I love love LOVE figs. When I used to see them at Whole Foods on South Street in Philly I'd hover over them until I found the perfect pack of 8 for a whopping $5+. Well, since moving to France I've learned how to propagate my own fig trees, and granted, we may not get figs for a few years, but it's worth it. And it's a hell of a lot of fun to do regardless. It's been 60 degrees F/about 15 degrees C and sunny for the past week, so on Sunday I took my first batch of branches from one of the village's fig trees to propagate, and I figured I'd share for those of you who want to try this fun project in your neck of the woods. It doesn't hurt the tree, merely allows it to create another tree.

Step 1: Find a fig tree with lots of branches in your area that produces yummy figs. If it's not a community tree like the one I used, it's a good idea to ask permission from the owner so you're not hacking away at someone's personal tree. Also if it's in your area then you know it's a tree that can survive your local climate, increasing your chances of success.

Step 2: With good, sharp pruning sheers, find a branch that is somewhat straight, about 12 inches/30-31 cm long, and about pencil-width thick. Cut at a 45 degree angle at one of the little diagnol lines under a bud bump. If there are leaves and figs on the tree (for those taking cuttings later in the season), remove lower leaves by cutting with pruning shears (you can leave upper leaves...they'll fall off on their own typically). Also remove any figs that may be on the branch as they will just take nutrients from the soil without aiding growth of a root system at all (they won't mature at this point either).

Note: It is a good idea to take a branch with figs on it, whether it be dried dead ones from the fall that you may see in early spring, or one as listed above, because you know that branch can produce figs.

Step 3: Bring home your branch. You may want to recut the bottom of the branch to give a cleaner cut at this point, but it's not necessary. Use something sharp like a box cutter to carefully scrape off the outer level of the branch from the bottom. Scrape until you see green, if you see white you've gone too far - stick to the green part for scraping purposes. The area to be scraped should be about an inch in length and go fully around the branch.

[Recut branch...]

[Scraping the bottom of the branch...]

[The finished product afer scraping...]

Step 4: Get a pot. It can be plastic, terra cotta, whatever floats your boat. Fill it with good quality, preferably organic/Bio soil. Take the branch and stick it in said pot, in the middle, about an inch depth. Essentially make sure the area that has been scraped off is covered in the soil, but no further. You may want to stake it if it's a big branch or if it's windy where you are. I never have until this last batch this weekend, so we'll see how that turns out. Give the plant a little water to secure it in the soil.

Step 5: I've had success with branches that were both outside and inside, so at the moment I'm not sure what's better. I've heard they don't need sun to grow a root system at this stage, however all of mine have been in the sun, and the three that I tried last year worked. Wherever it is that you decide to put it that works with your home and lifestyle, leave it be for 3-4 weeks. Give it some water here and there when the soil is dry, but essentially just leave it be. In that time the branch should root itself in the soil, and you will begin to see new growth. With two of mine new leaves opened up first, and with one of them a fig sprouted before leaves did. The one that sprouted a fig first also took about 8-10 weeks to sprout (I had almost given up on it), so be patient if yours isn't ready in 3-4 weeks. A lot depends on the time of year and the type of fig you attempt to propagate, and unfortunately I don't know enough yet to give you a proper time table other than 3-4 weeks.

If you try this please let me know how it goes!
Bonne chance!

A la prochain friends...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tutorial. You have made it very clear how to do this. I assume figs would work here in Northern CA since there are quite a few fig trees in the area and they are quite prolific just none in my yard.