Date: 21 February 2004
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
Three years ago, we had edible figs from our fig tree in late August, but no luck since then. I read somewhere that you should prune the spring fruit so that the previous autumn’s fruit can be carried over and harvested in summer. Is this true?
Figs can bear two crops in the UK, but only one usually ripens. A successful harvest comes from the fruit carried over the winter in embryo form (about the size of peas). If you look at your fig tree in spring, you’ll see fruits which already look like proper figs (and were formed in autumn). These need to be removed, while anything smaller is left to develop for late-summer cropping. Figs are Mediterranean, so will thrive in the hottest place in the garden. They’re also vigorous trees, so it’s important to confine the roots when planting, otherwise your tree will grow bigger at the expense of fruit. This spring, apply a balanced feed such as Growmore to the surface of the soil, a soluble feed thereafter, and a higher potash feed in late summer to stimulate figs to ripen. If this brings no joy, then I would be tempted to start again. Plant a young fig in a trough lined with concrete slabs, lay 25cm of rubble at the base, then fill with a soil-based compost and some organic matter.
Any suggestions for the patio pots between my conservatory and fence of a south-facing garden? I’d like evergreen, with a tropical feel.
Choose large containers and give plants the best start with John Innes No3. Add horticultural grit so the soil becomes free-draining. Plants for a tropical feel could include Trachelospermum jasminoides (an evergreen, scented climber). Taller plants include Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Aureocaulis’, a beautiful, leafy bamboo, and Nandina domestica, which looks a bit like bamboo and has pretty summer flowers followed by red berries. Melianthus major is a fabulous foliage plant that really will need a big container. All these plants need more watering than those in the ground, so invest in an irrigation system.