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  • Winter musings - top figs for northeast and companion plants

    • Mt Etna (by many names), RDB, LSU Tiger - my current top 3 for commercial/social potential in the northeast.
    • Improved Celeste, Nordland (by many names), Brooklyn White - my next 3 for personal use
    • The very next one I would put in my orchard is Long Yellow.
    • After that, things get blurry with a lot of contenders for next value in various ways: VBD, Violet Sepor, Florea, O'Rourke, Lattarula, Marseilles White (St Anthony?), LSU Purple, Kadota, most any golden honey fig, and Mary Lane, Figo Preto, and a bunch of reliably tasty others if I can get the productivity level up, i.e., Scott's Black, Mega Celeste, Wuhan, Desert King, Grantham's Royal...
    • The focus with most of these above is for main crop, with VDB, Lattarula, and Kadota contributing more and better brebas than most, along with potentially Desert King and Grantham's Royal
    • I wouldn't be surprised if in the years ahead two thirds of my figs produced came from the first 12-15 figs listed here, and maybe half of those came from the first 3 listed.
    • Haven't produced Negretta yet, but from what I see of others, if it is a distinct variety, I wouldn't be surprised if it cracked the top ten here or higher.
    • Plus others out there as yet untried here will hopefully get their chance to move in and up.
    • My top 7 above feels strong for now. As far as I can see at this point, some other fig or figs could crack the top 7 but I doubt would push any of those down much.
    • This year, Tiger and Nordland joined the top tier of figs, as did Long Yellow. Improved Celeste got pushed down a spot, and VDB slipped a little.
    • Looking forward too to ripening some of the more premier/rare/late ripening cultivars this year if possible: any Bordissot, Col de Dame, Pons fig, etc.
    • Top companion plants looking forward to as well: comfrey (for bees and living mulch), cosmos (for color and foliage), a lot of wild plants like thistle, creeping charley, lemonbalm mint, and a bunch of other plants I don't know by name, sun root, (and ginger & turmeric if they come back after winter), blackberries, and any evergreen, which is even more appreciated in winter.
    • New Year's fig resolution: begin spring with adequate bark mulch, get potted trees organized and in place as early as possible, not too early
    Tony WV 6b

  • #2
    Excellent musings... thank you for sharing! I am still very much at the cuttings stage for most of the one's you mentioned that I have acquired and still a number in there that are not yet acquired so they will wait and provide rooting challenges in the future.... I am looking forward to trying these varieties and seeing how they stack up against each other in a number of taste and growability categories....
    Tony - Zone 6A
    WL- Good Health, a 60 lb Striped Bass, a Boone and Crockett Typical Buck, bushels of ripe Black Madeira figs, bushels of ripe Hachiya and other tasty Diospyros Kaki Persimmons


    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      I'll very much look forward to what you observe in your zone, Tony.

  • #3
    It's the season for reflection, plotting, planning our next season.
    Glad to hear you are a fan of the comfrey, for me it is an indispensable partner in the garden and orchard for its many uses. I started with one non-seeding plant and by dividing roots now have hundreds... and plan to install some 200' of production beds this spring for animal and compost fodder.
    Other companion crops worth considering would be those plants whose flowers that draw hummingbirds into proximity to the ripening figs, with luck they will pick off and consume SWD as they forage for nectar(or just install some feeders). Bee balm would be a leading candidate, hummers love it and the bloom coincides with fig season. I like white clover as a groundcover and try to sow seed in the cultivated area when I plant a tree for n-fixing and nectary source.
    If you have the space, biannuals that develop deep taproot are great soil builders who promote bioactivity in the soil(and generate heat) over the winter. Parsnips, burdock are two that spring to mind, and are edible, too.
    Jesse in western Maine, zone 4/5
    Wishlist- earliest maincrop varieties


    • zone5figger
      zone5figger commented
      Editing a comment
      Improved celeste was my most productive plant in terms of # of ripe figs.
      Tastiest was....Hardy Chicago!

    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      My Improved Celeste and Mt Etnas are so reliable that I don't give them great positions, especially IC, or a ton of sun and they are still productive. One of these years I'll treat IC better and see what it can really do. For trees that produce well so far, I agree, the Mt Etnas are the tastiest.

  • #4
    Your comfrey is going great here, Jesse. Dozens and dozens of plants now, and make more every year. I've done years of white clover in the past but in needing to reseed each year I've moved away from it recently. Have tried parsnips but did not take as well as comfrey. Have some burdock. Have great mullen. Should spread more mint around now that I see it may repel rodents. Tried borage but it did not reseed itself well. Have another deep tap root, late summer fall, tall plant with small white flowers but its name has escaped me, very sticky to clothes seeds in small fuzzy-picky balls. Does great late. That and cosmos (shallow clumping roots) are easy to collect masses of seeds each year to reseed readily. Meanwhile comfrey stays green the longest and comes out green the earliest each year on its own. Have never seen SWD here, maybe because I have birds all over the fig bushes year round eating a lot of native things I guess, and don't touch the figs, which are near the house with people and cats and activity. A few humming birds around too. And several pilated woodpeckers in the forest edge. All the ash trees here are being killed by the emerald ash borer but sapling ashes seem to be coming up well.
    Last edited by mountainfigs; 12-31-2016, 12:15 PM.
    Tony WV 6b


    • #5
      Ok. You have talked me into trying a LSU Tiger and moving my Improved Celeste into a better spot this coming year.
      Don - OH Zone 6a Wish list: Verdolino, Sucrette UCD, Rubado


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Will be interesting to hear how they do in the midwest.

      • eboone
        eboone commented
        Editing a comment
        Don, I was also impressed with LSU Tiger as a 2nd year plant in a 4g SIP - early and a decent fig.

    • #6
      I guess there is some agreement on the best varieties in the northeast.
      The Mt Etna's are the most consistent and tops in taste. I have 5 varieties of Mt Etna's and Hardy Chicago is still up their on the list. RDB is a top selection and a couple of weeks before the
      first on the Mt Etna's.
      Next on list would be Florea followed by IC. Two good early figs.
      Looking towards this year I have hopes for Longue D'Aout and Malta Black
      Although nowhere the top of the list, White Triana (picture attached) finally ripened after 3 seasons and it was the best tasting variety of the season. WT nearly went to the compost pile since it was such a weak grower and hadn't ripened in previous two seasons. So it has another season in the garden.
      You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
      Last edited by Ripple; 01-02-2017, 10:35 PM.
      John Z5 Wish list:


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        No question that Florea belongs high on the list for short season growers, because so very early ripening with good flavor. I think I've simply had bad luck with it in not being very productive yet. And it is redundant of the other early, tasty, and productive ripeners, which is also to say that it could essentially become interchangeable with those other top early figs. That said, for whatever reason, could be my own fault, I've had more difficulty with it than with Improved Celeste, Tiger, Ronde de Bordeaux, and the Mt Etnas, and others, and its flavor profile is more or less covered, though not exactly, by that bunch, and so far it has been a step or more down in appearance. Still, I think it will be an important early fig once I can get it up to speed with the others.

    • #7
      Glad to see others looking at companion plantings.

      I just started this fall a couple sets of comfrey among the side yard Pawpaw plantings and hoping they take off and spread. We have lemon balm well established here as well as catmint and Russian sage. Plan to sow dill, Queen Anne's lace, chicory, parsnips, and peppermint along the swales and around the tree plantings.

      Will be putting first figs in-ground for trials this spring (UNK Bryant Dark, Green Ischia, UNK Chitalia, and hopefully UNK Silver Spring Bronze) so they can establish themselves for overwintering next year. I intend to plant peppermint, chives, garlic, and comfrey around each in order to deter voles and other unwanted guests next winter. Two of those will go in near the house's south side and two will go into the northwest field near the pine grove windbreak--there seems to be a nice micro-climate pocket down there where they should do well.

      Pawpaw and persimmon seedlings will be started this month and I hope to have them set out near the planned fig orchard with sunflowers and sorghum serving as overstory protection for a couple years.

      Bryant...Franklin County, VA...Zone 7a. Wish List: a 32 hour day....more sleep


      • #8
        A few questions.

        I know the benefits of what you're planting but are you worried about stealing nutrients from the figs? Are you worried about the invasiveness?
        Bob C.
        Kansas City, MO Z6


        • mountainfigs
          mountainfigs commented
          Editing a comment
          The idea is that deep rooted plants like comfrey do not compete with shallow rooted fig trees, also that, in a sense, the comfrey actually feeds the fig tree, in capturing and drawing up nutrients, even water, to the surface where the fig tree can access it. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if there is some competition in ways between the two, as not all of the comfrey roots are necessarily very deep and not all of the fig tree roots are necessarily very shallow, etc. Mutually supporting plants might be a more transparent descriptor than companion. A diverse array of plants also keeps all sorts of pests and diseases in check all the while building soil and structure. Spacing and crowding issues can arise but can be adjusted for.

        • DBJohnson
          DBJohnson commented
          Editing a comment
          It's really about balance. The right companions can bring in the nutrients the the plant needs but that the companions don't. For instance, planting beans or other nitrogen fixing plants in conjunction with those that need nitrogen. The beans gather it and leave it in the soil.