I have been trying to grow a fig tree for three years. I started it with a branch from a friend's tree in Brooklyn. His tree produces large amounts of beautiful figs. I have been covering the tree each year with burlap, paper, and roofing paper. They always live but the fruit either doesn't come up at all or doesn't go to maturity. I have it in the sunniest part of my yard. Maybe 6-7 hours of sun a day. How do I fertilize it? I use compost and worm droppings now. -- Tony Neglia

Hi, Tony. You seem to be doing everything right, including the compost, which in my opinion is the best soil amendment available. Ordinarily, I would ask whether you're sure you have a variety that is suited to our climate, but because you say your friend is successful growing the same tree in Brooklyn, we can rule that out.

Juvenile fig trees can take as long as five years to get going and produce fruit, so that could be the problem right there. Check that all the following requirements are met, and if so, wait it out another couple of years.

Figs generally don't require much in the way of amendments. Nitrogen fertilizers would force the tree to spend all its energy growing big and lush, with little left for producing edible fruit, so if you do use fertilizers, don't overdo it. A moderate application of a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 product is the most you would need. Apply a half pound around each plant when you start to see new spring growth. Do this just once a year.

Is it getting enough water? Figs do need a consistent moisture supply. Be sure to mulch the tree to retain an even soil temperature and to retain water. Mulch also cuts down on weeds.

Aside from the tree's youth, the most likely culprit is inadequate sunlight. Figs require at least eight hours of sunlight a day, and it sounds like yours isn't getting that. Warm, southern exposures in spots protected from wind (like up against a house or fence) are best. Since you made a point of noting it's in the sunniest spot in the yard, it doesn't sound like you have much of a choice. My advice is to continue caring for the tree for another two or three years. If you still don't get ripened fruit, then, unfortunately, you can be sure the problem is insufficient sunlight.


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