Humus based soils break down quickly – within a single growing season. When you use them, you have to hope the container size and plant mass is enough to compensate for the collapse toward the end of summer. Hopefully, your roots have spread throughout the container and the planting has matured. This will show that the plant is able to use the water from compacted soils quickly enough to avoid root rot. Rootings should be healthy enough that they actually become a part of the structure of the soil and function as aids to the soils ability to hold air. For maximum vitality when using these soils, plants should be bare-rooted every year.
It is possible to use peat, but harvesting it has been outlawed due to a near extinction. I don’t recommend using it, since it takes millions of years for the Earth to create this delicate material in the peat bogs and just a few years to run it toward extinction.
Conifer bark-based mediums
Homemade conifer bark-based mediums break down at a rate around 1/4 that of humus soils. Gardeners can guarantee that the roots will become a part of the soil structure without much concern for root rot. This will ensure that your irrigation practices are reasonable. 5:1:1 mix of pine bark:humus:perlite is a good example of this type of medium. People using it with very good results. In terms of fertilizing the medium, there is literally no need to add fertilizer to this mix. Perlite and humus may contain a small amounts of fertilizer, so researching your ingredients to see find fertilizer is a good practice.
You should expect at least 2 years of service from homemade soils, as opposed to 1 from those based on humus. Your trees should have some attention paid to their roots every two(2) years – 3 years maximum. “Servicing” requires you to prune the roots. You will be able to prune your roots twice (once every 2 years) with this type of medium.
Below shows an example of how a tree looked after adding this conifer bark-based grow medium.
Go to your existing fig tree and look for a fresh straight bark branch about 6 inches long. It should be about the thickness of a pencil. If you don’t include this, you will notice that the green end will rot. Be sure to remove the leaves.
Wrap the cut ends with damp paper towels, seal in a plastic bag (I use ziploc bags) and place in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. This will put the cutting into a normal dormant mode, making it behave as if it’s Winter.
Place plug tray into the lower water collection tray and add a small amount of water without flooding it into the lower tray. Cover this with the large hot house dome.
Place the entire hot house container onto an insulated table (preferably wood). To maintain the grow medium temperature at 70F, insert the seeding heat mat under between the terrarium and the table and plug it into an outlet. Check the temperature periodically. If it goes over 70F, unplug it. Move this entire unit into a shaded area, in a greenhouse or near a window in your home. If it’s inside a greenhouse, you might not need the seeding heat mat.
Dryness is not your friend. Let’s add moisture.
Lift up one end of the large dome and using your spray bottle, mist a spray of water inside to get it super steamy inside. You will need to do this everyday. Check on this daily.
The tree above that is featured in this section in the orange pot succeeded as one out of 18 cuttings that I tried this out on.
Please tell me your results in this process in the comments section. Did you have success? Did you need to modify these instructions to reach a better outcome?
Everyone seems to have their own favorite method of rooting, especially when rooting from Winter cuttings. The steps below describe one method that some people like because they can stick the cuttings into the grow medium and then set it aside until the cutting leafs out. Other people like to add another step that they think is more reliable. That other step is to first collect a few 6-8 inch cuttings, bunch them together and wrap a damp paper towel around them. Insert them into a ziploc bag, seal it and then set it outside under the shade. Once the roots form, insert each cutting into it’s own pot with grow medium. This method leaves out the need to use rooting hormone.
When you are pruning your tree during the end of the Winter season, gather a select number of cuttings that are pencil thick, as straight as possible and about 6-12 inches in length. Tip: The best cuttings are the ones that have some green colored tips like in this image.
Get a small 5-6 inch tall nursery pot such as the homemade one below and then pack it with grow medium. Add water and let the medium soak for 1-2 hrs or overnight. These pots have holes cut into the bottom to allow water to drain out when watering.
Grab a pencil and insert it into the soil to preset a hole for your cutting.
Using your finger, spread the rooting compound (hormone) onto the cut end of the cutting. Don’t worry, roots will not grow from your finger.
You may also apply it onto the first knotted point in from the cut end.
Apply the root hormone
Insert the cutting into the soil and then press down onto the soil firmly to hold the cutting into place.
Add water and then move the cutting into a shaded area. In about 6-8 weeks, leaves should begin to form. I like using the lower end of a clear 2-liter plastic bottle with holes cut on the bottom because it allows me to see the roots pressing against the plastic. Once the roots have fully formed throughout the pot, you may transfer it to a larger pot. By the following growing season you may plant it into the ground. See the Winterizing instructions here for potted plants. Tip: This method isn’t 100% successful, so I recommend that you do this with more than one cutting in case if one doesn’t grow.
If for some reason, your cutting remains green at the tip for more than 5-6 weeks without leafing out, carefully check the cutting to see if roots formed. If no roots, make a clean cut above the area where you added the rooting hormone. Look for wood that is still fresh and not rotted, follow this instruction:
Wrap the cut end with a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag (I use ziploc bags) and place in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. This will put the cutting into a normal dormant mode, making it behave as if it’s Winter.
Maybe you’re wondering what Air Layering is. When I first heard the words, I pictured wafer cookies with layers of air in them.
Air Layering your fig tree is not too far from that concept. This method allows you to grow roots directly out of a branch into a complete root ball and the process doesn’t provide any nutrients into the roots to extend the size of the branch. Although not recommended, you can cut it down with all the roots intact and plant it into the ground. You’ll have excellent results if you first plant it into a pot afterward and then plant it into the ground the following Spring season. What Air Layering does is encourage the roots to grow in a space that contains a mixture of air pockets, water and the roots layer upon themselves into a tight ball. Air Layering is 100% successful with cloning fig trees unless you wait too late in the season to do it.
The month of June is the best month to begin Air Layering, because when you transplant it into a pot it will have enough time to establish itself before the Fall season comes around. Any existing figs on the branch will continue to grow, but will not taste good when they ripen. I recommend to not attempt to start this in August. I tried it with two trees and they nearly died.
Before we begin, please see photo No. 2 in Rooting Materials. Be sure you have these materials ready along with a pitcher of water and a small bowl. Now, you don’t have to use this same exact bottle, you can experiment with different plastic bottles and different ways to cut them up to fit your branch. The objective is to create a container that will hold damp moss inside of it. Once you’ve created this container, there will be no need to add water to it.
Take the bowl and add a handful of the moistened Sphagnum Moss into it.
Using scissors or a box cutting knife, cut the 2-liter bottle (or any other plastic container) similar to what you see in the images below.
Cut the bottle in such a way so that you can slip it onto the branch. I cut a slot at the sides of the bottle spout and then slipped the bottle horizontally over the branch.
This image contains a different bottle prepared for a smaller branch with a cap for adding water if necessary.
By following the below instructions, you should have two bottle top ends that should fit together.
Now look for a branch that looks straight
On the branch, you’ll see how the branch appears segmented with bumps that seem to encircle the branch. This is where the roots will grow from.
Once you have located these bumps, fasten one of the bottle sections with electrical tape onto the branch in such a way that the container will encase one of those bumps or knots. Just use your common sense on this step as some branches are pointed in other directions. It might require taping both halves onto the branch and then pushing the moss through a hole on a top with step 9.
Add water to the moss until it’s soaked and then squeeze out all of the water until the moss is just damp. (remove excess water from the bowl).
Pack the damp moss into the bottle half that is on the branch.
Fasten the other bottle segment above the lower one using your tape. Carefully taping the two halves together. If you have extra space for more moss, pack some in before you completely seal off the container. Be careful not to leave holes, otherwise moisture will escape and ants will make a home in the container. Yes, I said ants! Small black ants love it for some reason.
Now mark your calendar and wait 6-8 weeks for the roots to grow. I have found that by week 8 the roots are fully prepared for the transplant into a pot.
Carefully dismantle the plastic container from the root ball.
Snip off the new air layered branch below the root ball with pruning shears between two “knots” in the branch. I use this tool because it gives a nice clean cut.
Transplant the root ball into a nursery pot that has holes on the bottom. Loosen the roots a little although not necessary and then fill the pot with pre-moistened grow medium. Although pre-moistening is not necessary, I just found it helpful. For this example, I moistened the potting soil with water with another pot. Notice the stick end below the roots as seen in the above photo, I let this end stand directly against the bottom of the pot.
Water until the grow medium is wet. The water should pass through quickly. To know when to water it again, insert a clean strip of wood into the soil, wait a few minutes and then pull it out. If the wood comes out dry, then add water. Following this method will prevent from rotting the roots.
I have tried Air Layering using other containers. Plastic wrap stuffed with the moss was an option, but birds pecked at it forcing me to wrap it with aluminum foil. Clear containers are the best, because they are “all window” allowing me to see the roots. If you use plastic wrap, it is necessary to add a little bit of water to it at least once a week.
The example container in the photo with the pruning shears in it was the most complex I’ve made. I cut the bottle in half and used the top and bottom segments. the bottom segment required using a hacksaw to cut a slot and drill a large hole in the bottom. What a pain the neck. The bottom of a 2-liter bottle is very thick plastic. It’s not worth the trouble to see someone else struggle with that.