I’m excited to introduce the very first guest post on Life on the Balcony, written by Claire Brown. Claire–Plantpassion on Twitter–is a gardener and garden enhancer working in Surrey England. She loves plants of all types and especially those you can eat. Find out more about Claire at www.plant-passion.co.uk.
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Imagine sitting on your balcony or patio in August, the early morning sun is just starting to warm and you’re breakfasting on a bowl of home grown, fresh figs with yogurt and honey. I was lucky enough to have this dream become a reality this summer when my fan trained Brown Turkey fig fruited for the first time.
Ficus Carica are among the oldest fruits in cultivation. They thrive on a long hot growing season, and because they don’t need a long winter chilling period (only 100-300 hours) they were great for hot Mediterranean climate. If a short winter and long hot summer doesn’t match with what you get where you are, don’t panic – you can still have figs, and growing them in a container against a wall on a patio or balcony is great way to shelter them and warm them up.
If left to grow in the ground, figs produce large leaves, which provide excellent shade. But these trees are deciduous so will add to your autumn clear up. With this in mind, growing a fig in a container which restricts it’s leaf growth and encourages fruiting is a really great idea.
My plant was bought (as a birthday present) fan trained. Last winter was the coldest in southern England for a long time as we had three weeks of freezing temperatures in January, and snowfall at the beginning of February. My fig was still in its nursery pot throughout that period. When spring came I relented and potted it up to a large black plastic container about 55 litres (about 15 gallons) in size in a mixture of John Innes soil-based compost and multipurpose compost. It was near to my waterbutt, so along with my Blueberries, it got a reasonable amount of water throughout the summer until July, when we had a long dry spell here, and I started rationing the water when it came off the mains. The first fruits ripened in early August, and over a period of 2 weeks, I had 12 figs, – no where near my initial investment of £49 (about $90) but as 4 figs were selling at £2.50 (about $4) in August, and they’d been flown in from Turkey, I felt pretty good about my contribution.
There was a 2nd set of fruits which started to grow, but the summer didn’t last for long enough, so I’ve rubbed off all the fruit larger than a pea, as it will likely go mouldy over the winter.
My tree doesn’t need a prune this year, but in the future, I’ll take out any old wood that is frost damaged or badly placed in spring when the risk of frost has passed and tie in new shoots as this is where the figs will be produced from.
The good news is that I’m the only one in my family that likes figs, – so here’s hoping for next year’s crop and several weeks of sunny breakfast ambrosia.
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