Phil DudmanEdible figs

Home grown figs are so mind-blowingly sweet and delicious. It’s a fruit tree that loves hot dry Mediterranean style summers… so in the subtropics, it tends to prefer dry inland areas to wet humid coastal zones… but despite the challenges, there are still plenty of dedicated backyard fig growers enjoying good crops on the coast, which makes their efforts even more worthwhile.

I enjoyed my first home-grown harvest last summer and I have sampled beautiful fruit from other gardeners in my area. One of the big things to consider is drainage – figs hate wet feet so be sure to prepare soil well before planting with plenty of compost and even a few barrow loads of coarse sand if necessary.

They like a limey soil, so if your pH is below 6.5, dig in a bucket load of lime… or if you have an existing fig tree, spread a few generous handfuls per square metre around the root zone. There are a few pests you need to keep on top of, and fruit fly is a big one. A modern organic product like eco-naturalure will help, but you need to be persistent and keep reapplying it throughout the fruits’ development period.

Fig leaf caterpillar

Fig leaf caterpillar

Birds are a problem anywhere you grow figs, so you’ll need to net the tree as the fruit approach maturity. Lately, I have noticed quite a bit of activity from the fig leaf caterpillar, which chews and skeletonises the leaves. These guys have a voracious appetite and if you’re not onto them, they can clean up every leaf on the tree in a few days, which will seriously set the tree back. Regular checks once or twice a week will keep numbers down. If you see them, squash them immediately, or spray them with a natural pyrethrum spray before they do too much damage.



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