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  • Do You Withhold Water from Potted Trees as Figs are Ripening?

    I see that figs on my potted trees are starting to get to the point where I will be staring at them daily wondering when I the right time to pick. Realistically they are probably another month away...

    Do you start to slow down or withhold watering on your potted figs as they approach ripening and if so how far in advance do you do so??

    The motivation behind withholding water around ripening time is to avoid diluting flavor.
    Last edited by KDAD; 07-19-2021, 10:18 AM.
    NNJ 6B
    Wishlist: Cessac!

  • #2
    It's too hot and dry to where I am to withhold too much water. I lost a bunch of main crop figs a few weeks ago when a heat wave blasted through and I was out of town and unable to add supplemental water to my potted figs. I will not provide supplemental water when a tree has a bunch of figs that are just about ripe. So it can be a somewhat delicate balancing act.
    Jason. San Diego, CA - Zone 10A WL: Boysenberry Blush


    • #3
      I tried to with the limited figs I had last year. But like others I was worrried about the heat and hot pots/roots. This year I may move them to a semi-shaded spot when ripening during sunny weather. I know fig roots can take dry, but dry + blazing hot plastic pots is too much risk for me to handle.
      CJ in Memphis 7b/8a….tight eyes, nonsplitters...Pons figs, French figs, Mario figs & tasty Cali seedlings!


      • #4
        "Withhold" is too strong. Maybe even "limit" is too strong. The ideal, I think, is to manage water so that the mix is always damp but never soggy. A dried out mix may cause dropped fruit; a soggy mix may cause bloated, watery fruit. I'd say water steadily but moderately. So for example, you might water moderately once every day or lightly twice a day.
        Joe, Z6B, RI.


        • PacNorWreck
          PacNorWreck commented
          Editing a comment
          Very interesting. I’m curious what you would recommend for me, since my soil mixes are somewhat different from what is common around these parts. In general, I use very coarse components (3/16” or 1/4” diameter) and try to create a mix that is 34% or so water and 40% or so air even when completely saturated. To achieve this my soils are 25% bark and 75% volcanic or volcanic-like materials.

          So given my mixes likely have a MUCH lower water content - it’s never “soggy” per se - even when saturated, would you recommend that I also cut back on water as fruit ripens, or just water as usual but maybe try and keep SIP reservoirs near or at empty during ripening?

        • jrdewhirst
          jrdewhirst commented
          Editing a comment
          I guess I'd water as usual, since the mix will shed excess water.

          I assume that if you keep SIP reservoirs dry then you would top-water. That seems OK.

          Tell me something -- how do you get good wicking with your mix? Or do you routinely combine top-watering and SIP?

        • PacNorWreck
          PacNorWreck commented
          Editing a comment
          jrdewhirst - pumice and, to a lesser extent lava and other volcanic type materials, are extremely effective wicks. The mix stays moist to about 1” from the top as long as there is water in the reservoir. In general, when I water I give a little bit to re-wet the top (5-10 seconds), but otherwise I wait for the reservoir to be empty - the time I water after I noticed the empty reservoir, I saturate the mix and refill the reservoir by top-watering. That’s basically the instructions that came with my best SIPs, and it works well for me.

      • #5
        Good topic and something I have been thinking about as we get closer to harvest. Also a balance of water for splitting, I know last year after a big rain I would find a lot of splitting. I may cover some of the pots with a plastic bag over the soil if I see a big rain coming but seems like a PITA for a lot of pots

        A recent post talked about "green mulch", rather than pine bark have active growing ground cover as a mulch.....wondering if this would help keeping more of an optimal water balance and drinking up some of the water on those big rains.
        Brielle, NJ..Zone 7a


        • jrdewhirst
          jrdewhirst commented
          Editing a comment
          FWIW, I have a speculative hypothesis that that spitting is not due to water per se but to a shift from hot / dry to cold / humid (e.g., rainy) conditions.

          I say this because when it's hot, I can dump a couple gallons of water in each big pot. It's probably the equivalent of 2-3" of rain. But figs don't split. On the other hand, if we get 1/2" of drizzle on a cool humid day, figs may split.

          If this is right, then covering the pots won't help.

          It MAY help to withhold water the day before a shift to cool, humid weather.

      • #6
        I keep the same watering schedule pretty much right on through -- daily except for hotter periods where I add a second daily watering. My concern is that if I were to underwater for the sake of ripening fruit, it would lead to dropping of the more immature figs. As far as I can tell, I've had no issues with flavor washout or splitting with this approach, and all the figs that have not yet started ripening will hold.

        My only splitting and flavor washout issues are when figs have already started to color and swell and we have rain. If I pick them when they've split, flavor is bland. If the weather warms up and I can leave them on the tree without bugs going after them, some will improve as they start to dry out and the sugars become more concentrated. RdB was one that I could leave for several days without it spoiling.

        jrdewhirst As the figs start to ripen, I'll try to keep an eye on the weather and skip watering the day before cool/humid weather is predicted. I bought a WiFi controller for my hose connection irrigation system and if it works as promised (installing it today), it'll be easier to set skips.
        “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Source Unknown MA 5b/6a
        Part Owner at Catskill Mountain Lavender


        • #7
          My figs are in SIPs and I keep the reservoirs topped up, sometimes 2x or 3x a day (it's hot and dry here). My figs therefore always have as much water as they can use, subject to the limitations of their roots and the wicking rate of course. It also gives them a very consistent environment.

          (Aside, the only time I top water is when I am fertigating with water soluble nutrients, partly to help flush out salts).

          I started keeping the reservoir topped up (filled via tube into reservoir) because one time I let the reservoirs dry out completely for an extended period of time and the roots that hung down past the aeration screen into the reservoir dried out and died, and then when I resumed watering they rotted. After that I figured keeping conditions consistent and stable is best.

          I always assumed that figs split from INCONSISTENT watering, like allowing the plants to dry out, and then deluging them with water. I have had split figs before and I think it was because I did this. I think I read somewhere that plants have trouble controlling water uptake in these situations and it can create too much water pressure in the figs that can cause them to split.

          As for fruit flavour, even with constant access to water in SIPs, I've never noticed my figs being too watery or tasting washed out.

          ​​​​​​I wonder if the bigger issue is sugar concentration, which is probably due to many factors and not just how much water the fig has access to during ripening. I would be interested to learn more on this though if someone has more information or experience.
          Last edited by FigsNorth; 07-19-2021, 02:37 PM.
          Zone 3


          • #8
            I think it depends on your local conditions. I've noticed that when I under-water, my figs will droop, but not out of ripeness, and while watering may result in the figs perking back up, causing my figs to droop from under-watering seems to result in poor quality fruit.

            I agree with Joe's assessment - you should strive to provide even soil moisture, perhaps with a soil hydrometer. My own personal intuition is that you want to provide enough hydration to maintain consistent turgor pressure - any drooping or limping in the plant is probably just as bad as providing too much moisture. My other intuition, which seems to align with Joe's theory, is that a plant acclimates itself to a consistent moisture level (through increased or decreased transpiration and/or osmosis), and too large a swing in either direction (perhaps from increased or decreased humidity) will negatively affect fruit quality (splitting or dilution).
            San Francisco, Zone 10b


            • FigsNorth
              FigsNorth commented
              Editing a comment
              I lean towards this school of thought. Stability and consistency of environment (within the plant's preferred parameters) is a probably best for optimal growth and fruit development.