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  • Ripe Figs in the North in Early June?

    Seeing the early photos of ripe figs being picked and eaten in the southern and western states this year, or from greenhouses anywhere, makes me think about how to push the limits of the early growing season in the north - but without a greenhouse and without many if any grow lights (since with a greenhouse and/or substantial grow lights theoretically figs could ripen year round, or close to it, problem solved but not very simply or inexpensively).

    I don't know when the first brebas will ripen here from trees in garage storage. If in early July as some seem on track to ripen, problem solved for producing figs through July and onward. Similarly, a Ronde de Bordeaux that came out of dormancy in a leggy early way by a window inside may be on track to ripen a few figs at the start of July, despite all the rain we've had lately and are predicted to have. Maybe increasingly mature such trees will be able to ripen figs in late June. But how to gain that extra month, ripen figs at the start of June?

    Bring an older fig out of dormancy ever earlier by a window plus a simple grow light or two? And make that fig an Improved Celeste or Ronde de Bordeaux, the earliest of the early cultivars?

    Put an especially large tree into an especially small pot in fall, to hopefully encourage precocious fruiting in spring (without too badly stunting growth)?

    Bring a spindle pruned tree out of dormancy early? Some combination of all the above?

    Bring an IC or RDB out of dormancy in mid-January, pinch new growth on March first, pick ripe figs on June first?

    I don't have the answers, and even if the goal can't be reached, maybe trying to get there will lead in the future to more bountiful July crops than might otherwise come in.

    Maybe of note is that Zingarella is showing great fruiting life currently. One year old tree, about 6 feet tall, did nothing special with it, brought out of garage with the rest, has figs from top to bottom, inches from soil line to inches from top tips. Apart from RDB, which was brought out of dormancy early, Zingarella is I think the only variety that has put figlets on the new-new growth after pinching, a kind of second wave of main crop mid-June on new-new growth about 3 weeks after the first wave of figlets appeared on the merely new growth. Based on the leaf shape, and depending on how the fruit ripens, I wouldn't be surprised if Zingarella turns out to be a Mt Etna strain, quite robust. Will see, can't conclude currently.

    Improved Celeste is fruiting so well that there has seemed no reason to pinch it to hasten or boost fig production.
    Tony WV 6b

  • #2
    Just looking at the numbers, the fig trees need to be coming out of dormancy sometime in early February to deliver ripe figs by early June, ~ 30 days to wake up and bud out, ~ 30 days to grow figs or enlarge breba and ~ 60 days to ripen those figs...

    In colder zones the only way that this can be achieved is by placing the trees in a heated sunny space. If not a greenhouse then a heated Sun Room.

    BTW, there is enough natural sunlight for fig trees to grow and fruit at my location during late winter.
    Good Luck.
    Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


    • #3
      Tony, I have to concur with Pete, I open my greenhouse on March 1st and I am still a couple of weeks away from main crop or breba ripening. I don't have many breba anyway, but I will say growth can be slow at first, even with the greenhouse. Even if trees are leafed out by April 1st, it seems to be a slow process. The solution is to start out even earlier, maybe mid February. I notice some of our colleagues in Pennsylvania who use greenhouses, Nick and Art, have had ripe breba for a couple of weeks now, and some of their main crop are impressively large for this early date. For me, Adriatic JH has been the star as far as early pushing of main crop, i would add that Battaglia also developed main crop early, but because it ripens later I do not expect main crop until late July for me with greenhouse starts.
      Zone 10b, Miami, FL


      • #4
        Pete, Did your trees fruit and ripen during late winter, or only fruit? This winter I had a couple small trees by windows fruit breba though they eventually dropped, some inside, some outside in spring. I felt that if I had put even minimal grow light on them they might have done fine but wanted to experiment with merely window light.

        Rafael, I definitely am looking for the greenhouse benefit without a greenhouse. Since RDB and IC and somewhat the Mt Etnas seem to have a greenhouse built into their DNA, or an accelerant, better put, I try to bump up the season with those cultivars. I have peppers ripening now in a pot, so I guess it would be like trying to ripen peppers in May. Brebas appeared and began to swell here this year as early as April 1st simply using the garage but far too late to ripen early June and it seems not in June at all.
        Tony WV 6b


        • #5

          The figs that ripened in late May and early June were main crop of a mid-season cultivar similar to Mission. They were simply placed in front of a southeast facing window. To get an early start the potted trees need to be fertilized early with a dilute water soluble fertilizer since roots start to grow well before buds break. They were fertilized with dilute MG all purpose @ 1 tsp / gallon, 30 days before they were expected to bud out, they were also placed in a heated room (above 45 deg F.). I was able to keep all the breba figs that were produced on all the cultivars. I only use natural sunlight and light has never been an issue.

          The attached photo is from April, 2015. Far left is a VDB with breba (that were removed, due to the air layers), the main crop figs that were harvested are visible in the middle of the photo, many figlets were pinched (removed) to allow for increased vegetative growth, only a few were allowed to ripen.
          Click image for larger version

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          I used Herman2's personal rule for fig ripening and have simply rounded it off to create a general rule. Its the 30-60-90 rule;
          ~ 30 days to swell from rice sized to stagnant stage.
          ~ 60 days to ripen for early cultivars.
          ~ 90 days to ripen for late cultivars.
          ~ 90 - 120 days total for Early to Late ripening from embryo stage.

          The early stages of tree growth (waking, bud break and initial growth) are added to the "front-end" of the rule to get the the total elapsed time.

          BTW, My earliest ripening main crop figs has been from LSU Improved Celeste at ~ 72 total days as documented at F4F.
          Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


          • Rafaelissimmo
            Rafaelissimmo commented
            Editing a comment
            72 days including the 30 on the front end?

          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            Approximately 117 days total elapsed time...
            72 days from rice sized embryos

        • #6
          I wonder if pushing figs to ripen early is the best strategy? Does the quality of the fig suffer and does the fig tree itself get disrupted from its normal cycle?

          Here is my experience this year from last year's fig cutting labelled as Vincenzo but it looks more like Nardi Black.
          It spent the winter in a cool place 5-10C (40-50F) and as soon as it leafed out it grew 3 nice looking brebas. I should have removed them but I left them to see how they would turn out.

          You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 4 photos.
          Pino, Niagara, Zone 6, WL; variegated figs, breba producers & suggestions welcome
          Breba photos / Main crop fig photos
          Canada Fig Growers


          • AscPete
            AscPete commented
            Editing a comment
            Don't think a cutting or even a young tree can be held to the same standards as a mature tree.
            Root mass, nutrient uptake, stored energy reserves, etc all play a part in growth and fig production, just saying...

          • Pino
            Pino commented
            Editing a comment
            Makes sense to me thanks Pete!

        • #7

          That's great information. So, very early season, even preseason, ripening in the North without greenhouse has been done. I suppose continuous ripening in abundance issues remain. Those small low tunnels of yours might be useful in that, though that gets close to greenhousing. My garage sits on the southeast corner and a forested ridge on the southwest corner so unfortunately no windows here get much direct light at all. A few hours, tops. A bit of a challenge.
          Tony WV 6b


          • #8
            When I have figs growing indoors for several weeks/months by the light of a window and then slowly/carefully transition to the outdoors in the Spring I find that the growth often comes to a halt for a few weeks. Now that I think about it, this happens most often for cuttings rooted in the Fall and then grown as "houseplants" over the the winter. Have you all had problems with transitioning to outdoor sun? Maybe with more mature trees it is less of a problem?
            D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
            WL: Castillon, Fort Mill Dark, White Baca


            • AscPete
              AscPete commented
              Editing a comment
              They are first transitioned onto an open south facing porch for 2 weeks before being exposed to full direct sunlight. They don't usually slow down, but they sometimes get sun bleached leaf spot.

            • mountainfigs
              mountainfigs commented
              Editing a comment
              I've often had the pause and sometimes longer stall too. (Also sometimes get the bleached leaves that Pete mentions.) However this year starting the one year olds Champagne and Ronde de Bordeaux early indoors has been very worth it since they put on main crop fruit on April 24 and 27 respectively, slightly over a month before any other tree put on main crop. (A Mt Etna, a Kadota, and a Celeste did not put on early main crop, possibly because at least in the case of the former two they put on a few breba which then dropped.)