Home Plate for Figgi Riggi

Home Sweet Home

Figgi Riggi moves to a unique home

Because there are so many visitors noticing the Figgi Riggi blog, I have decided to move Figgi Riggi. It was changed from figgiriggi.wordpress.com to it’s own unique domain home at figgiriggi.com. Unfortunately, the transfer may have disrupted some pages that people had been linking to throughout the web. I was not able to preserve the original site structure of those pages and I promise that I will not change the new structure. If you were someone who had posted links to my posts on other blogs, then feel free to update the links in those locations. There is certainly more flexibility than I had before and I recommend that if you have a blog that you do the same thing, but if you are unsure I’ll show you how.

I made several changes to the look of this site to make it more interesting and better organized. It is also easier to share my blog postings on social media. Soon, I will begin posting interesting topics on a regular basis. Upcoming tutorials on setting up a blog, choosing a hosting service, using the best themes, finding beautiful fonts and how to monetize your blog. Topics in the works include: my latest tools, strange figs, greenhouses, cancer-free weed killer spray, and natural indoor pest removal. I may later include tutorials for new fig tree gardeners in USDA zone 7A or perhaps an online classroom experience.

Recent technical changes for this new home

A real emailing service called MailChimp that is recognized world-wide and does not spew out spam like a bursting volcano. I know, I hate that spam just as much as you do. This service has a strict anti-spam policy that I like. I have chosen not to include images in the emails that you receive, because sometimes it simply opens quickly and doesn’t eat up your email storage. Continuing with the direction that my fig hobby began, this is going to be a natural journey and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

Spread the love of this beautiful home

If you like my postings, then feel free to use the new sharing buttons found below and also please leave a comment, because I like the interaction and helping you with troubleshooting your gardening tree problems.

Figgi Riggi new home
Young Brown Turkey figs growing early in the season.

Rooting From Winter Cuttings

Rooting from winter cuttings made easy

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.

  1. 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.

    Rooting success from winter cutting
    Rooting success from winter cutting
    fig tree cuttings taking root
    fig tree cuttings taking root
  2. 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.
  3. Grab a pencil and insert it into the soil to preset a hole for your cutting.
    Poking the hole with a pencil
    Setting the hole with a pencil
  4. 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.

    Optional

    You may also apply it onto the first knotted point in from the cut end.

  5. Apply the root hormone
    preparing the cutting
    preparing the cutting
    Adding rooting compound onto the cutting
    Adding rooting compound onto the cutting
  6. Insert the cutting into the soil and then press down onto the soil firmly to hold the cutting into place.
  7. 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.

    Add the water to soak
    Add the water to soak

Rooting Troubleshooting:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Go back to step 2 near the middle of this page

Air Layering a Fig Tree Root

Air layering a tree to form roots

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.

    1. Bowl of moistened (not soaking wet) spagnum moss.
      Bowl of moistened (not soaking wet) spagnum moss.

      Take the bowl and add a handful of the moistened Sphagnum Moss into it.

    2. 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.
    3. 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.

      Small bottle prepared for a smaller branch
      Small bottle prepared for a smaller branch

    4. By following the below instructions, you should have two bottle top ends that should fit together.
    5. Now look for a branch that looks straight
    6. 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.
      Black arrow points to where roots will grow from branch
      Black arrow points to where roots will grow from branch
    7. 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.
    8. 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).
    9. Pack the damp moss into the bottle half that is on the branch.
    10. 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.
      Horizontal container (difficult construction)
      Horizontal container (difficult construction)
    11. 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.
      Upside down water bottle cut in half with fig branch protruding it
      Upside down water bottle cut in half with fig branch protruding it
      Air layering close shot showing roots inside upside down water bottle
      Air layering close shot showing roots inside upside down water bottle
    12. Carefully dismantle the plastic container from the root ball.
      Dismantling the container
      Dismantling the container
      Roots freed from containment, ready for pruning shears
      Roots freed from containment, ready for pruning shears
    13. 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.
      Showing an example of where to cut the branch with the pruning shears
      Showing an example of where to cut the branch with the pruning shears
    14. 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.
      And finally, transplanting into a pot, filling it with grow medium
      And finally, transplanting into a pot, filling it with grow medium
    15. 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.

Note

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.

Transplanting

The Thing with Two Heads

movie poster
movie poster

No, this isn’t the art of making a two-headed freak as in the movie classic, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant / The Thing with Two Heads (Midnite Movies Double Feature). This is about transplanting the fig tree from a pot into the ground.

When your fig tree is coming out of Winter storage around the end of March (around the latitude of NJ), observe the tips of the branches. You’ll notice that they stayed green all Winter season. There is an indicator that tells you when it’s time to plant your fig tree outside. This is when leaves begin to break out from those green tips or just before. This is the ideal time to plant the tree and minimizes shock to the leaves.

Here are some basic instructions on transplanting:

  1. When a fig tree grows, it has roots that love to travel along the surface of the soil just under your grass and in fact, can raid flower beds. So, don’t grow it where it will damage other plants, unless you understand this risk and like things grown together.
  2. If your climate is not 100% suitable for growing out in the yard, you may choose to grow it next to your house. The house gives off enough heat radiation to warm the tree.
  3. Once you’ve chosen the ideal spot 12-20 feet away from other fig trees, soak the area well with water if it hasn’t rained lately. This holds up the soil while you’re digging and attracts the roots when they’re growing out.
    Setting the distance
    Setting the distance

    Dig the hole

  4. Dig a hole using this general guideline: 12 inches wide for every 1 inch width of tree trunk. The depth should be the same depth of your root ball plus an additional 4 inches. In the photo examples, the trunk was only about 1/2″ in diameter. I made the hole 12″ in diameter, although I could certainly have made it 6″ (use your best judgement). My brother Joe asked me what is root ball and if it was a disease you can catch. NO! You won’t catch “root ball” nor will you get “root balls”.
    cutting the sod with edging shovel
    Cutting a circle to the depth of grass roots with a shovel
    Removing the sod
    Removing the sod

    Start Digging

    Digging hole with spade shovel
    Digging hole with spade shovel
    Setting the depth
    Setting the depth

     

  5. To remove the tree from the pot, carefully hold the fig tree by the base of the trunk. Tilt it over and hit the sides and bottom of the nursery pot with your hand to loosen the soil inside.
    pounding the pot
    Hitting the sides and bottom of the pot with my hand.
  6. Remove the root ball from the pot.

    loosening the roots
    Loosening grow medium from around the roots
  7. Place it into the hole you just dug and loosen the soil around the roots.
  8. Add potting soil around the root ball and then fill in the rest to top it off at the top. The soil will compress when it’s watered. I use potting soil rather than the dirt that I dug up. The reason is that it’s sterile, full of nutrients and has added fertilizer. In this example, I purchased FoxFarm FX14023 Light Warrior Seed Starter Soilless Mix, 1-Cubic Feet (not av… because it has natural fertilizers that I like and I think you will like it too.

    →If the tree is falling over, drive a stake into the ground next to it and then tie it to the tree. I reach for an old cotton rag or towel and then cut 1 inch strips of fabric off of it to use for tying the the stake to the tree. Over time, the fabric degrades and falls off. I like the fabric because it’s soft and doesn’t scratch the tree.

    FoxFarm organic potting soil
    The organic potting soil I used
    transplanting tree into soil
    Soil Filled Into Hole
  9. Now that the tree is planted, add mulch. It doesn’t matter what kind of mulch. I like to use Mighty 109 Natural Cedar Mulch. Be sure to mold it into a bowl shape or like building a bird’s nest around the tree with your hands. It will funnel the water toward the roots.

    →I only use mulch for the first year I plant the tree. The following year I just apply a fresh layer of soil and leave it alone.

    Shaping the mulch
    Shaping the mulch
  10. Now water the tree. I gave the tree a thorough soaking by placing a hose there and letting a trickle of water run for an hour. Don’t soak it like this every time you water it thereafter, otherwise the roots could rot.

You’re Done!

Potted Fig Trees

Potted Fig Tree
Potted Fig Tree

General Care For Potted Fig Trees

Potted fig trees need certain requirements in order to grow successfully. Consider the following tips.

Pot Type

Choose a pot with a manageable size with holes on the bottom. The one I provide is a nursery pot, which means it’s the black flimsy kind that has large holes on the bottom (the kind that comes with a new bush from the plant store) and it doesn’t allow much root growth. Include a tray to fit under your pot to collect excess water.

Soil Type

Use soil that doesn’t retain water for long periods, so regular potting soil is not good. Reason? if it remains moist for a long time, it can promote root rot.

Another name of the soil I use is called grow medium. I used to get my soil from a hydroponics store in NJ that later went out of business, so I had to make my own grow medium. It is loose and allows the water to pass directly to the roots and then out the bottom. This grow medium is organic and contains pine bark, humus (organic compost) as the main fertilizer, and perlite. You don’t have to use this type of soil. An alternative recommendation is vermiculite mixed into it to loosen the soil. You can also buy The Dirty Gardener Dolomite Limestone – 2 Pounds and add it on top of the soil, especially if squirrels are digging around.

Fig trees LOVE limestone for it’s slow release properties. Readers recommend that you use a soil pH tester like the one mentioned in item number 6 of Outside Living.

Growing Season

Let the potted tree grow and water often. Don’t prune it because the sap is sweet. It attracts flies, other insects and fungus. However, if branches grow up from the bottom of the trunk, clip them off. The objective is to train it to grow with one trunk. There is a substance that you can get for sealing off the wood when you prune during the growing season, but I’ve never used it before.

Winterizing

In the Fall, the leaves will naturally fall off. Once they have fallen, move the potted tree into a cool dark place to store over the winter. Following this step ensures a good fig harvest the next season. If you store the tree in a warm dark place, it might not grow figs next year. I used an attached garage because it remained cold, but not freezing.

Pruning

At the start of the month of March, prune the branches back to a manageable size. By this time, the sap has fallen to the base of the tree. Rule of thumb, only prune a maximum of 1/3 of the tree. Pruning will also allow the tree to grow even more figs the next season.

Winter Watering

During the winter, give the potted tree about a cup of water once a month to keep it alive.

Springtime

As soon as you see leaves begin to emerge from the branches, move it outside and then give it water (just enough until you see water run out the bottom). A great way to test it to see if it has enough moisture is to take a dry stick (I use a short wooden skewer) and slip it as deep as you can into the soil for a few minutes. Pull it out and if the stick is dry, add water. It’s sort of like checking the oil in your car engine with the dip stick. Your tree is like a fig producing engine.

Maintenance

Once every 2-3 years, prune the roots. If you use a humus-based medium, you will also need to change the soil otherwise the roots will use up all the space and nutrients in the pot. If you used the conifer bark-based grow medium mix that I’ve mentioned in this blog, then you can wait until the next time you prune the roots to change the soil. Apartment residents can do this in the bathtub (or shower). Just line the inside of the tub with a plastic drop cloth. If the plastic keeps falling down at the sides, just tape it against the tiles.

City dwellers can give the soil back to the Earth by discarding it in your nearby park or communal garden. Of course, you can send it to the trash as well. Then the soil goes to a landfill and doesn’t hurt the trash there. Click here for photographic instructions on pruning your roots.