Spring Cleanup: A good time to tidy things up a bit
This late Spring, you may have noticed a bit of silence from my posts lately. That’s because I’ve been working away in the invisible background cleaning up affiliate site links and improving some of the old pages with more interesting content. I was making improvements to the site title image at the top of the page. After I created it, I noticed that the 4 dots look like little figs.
I created a Facebook page and made graphics for that too. Here’s one of those images.
At some point, I intend to edit all of the images on the site with interesting title watermarks like this Ants photo seen here.
Education and our curiosity to learn
Meanwhile, I am focusing on what my next major topic will become. One that will be educational to my curious readers. I was once a college instructor, so I do like to educate. With that in mind, I’d like to create an introductory tutorial on using a free open-source application called InkScape. It’s available for Linux, Windows and Apple OS’s. This will take time to create, so bare with me on this plan. This will be a side project while I write other interesting topics.
Money that makes the world go ’round
I’d also like to share some tidbits about income that I plan to receive from internet-related side jobs. It’s an interesting topic and one that my readers can utilize if they too want to gain some extra cash. So, this week I’ll create a budget and share my gains. Besides, every blog is rooted in money at some point.
Things that might get in the way of some progress this week is: a friend who’s struggling with cancer who I intend to visit sometime soon. I’ve also decided to get back in shape at the gym. The gym helps to keep my eyes healthy by being a healthy distraction from the computer screens.
I will make short term goals and while using a sense of transparency, I’ll post them in here. Why would I do such a thing? Well, isn’t everyone a bit of a “peeping Tom” by instinct? If not, then I guess you’ll become one while following my blog posts. 🙂
Spring has sprung and along came the heavy rain showers. You’ve recovered from cancer and go for a walk through your yard to see all the beautiful plants flourishing, then you spot your least favorite plants…
No, not marijuana unless you were intending to grow it.
Weeds are everywhere thanks to the wonderful rain. Some people like to leave them alone, but others are ready to do anything they can to get rid of them. You can dig them up or use RoundUp, but why risk your health?
Cancer-free weed killer is the right choice.
Here’s how you can make your own and it’s quite simple.
Mix all of these safe ingredients together inside the pump sprayer and be sure that the salt completely dissolves. On a calm day without wind, pump the solution and spray it on the leaves of the weeds. This should only be done on a warm sunny day without rain in the forecast for at least 2-3 days. Within 24 hrs you should see immediate results. A second application might be needed if you have very big weeds. I used this on dandelion weeds and poison ivy revealing incredible effectiveness. If you perform this on a windy day, the spray might land on your favorite plants
How does this work?
The 5% white vinegar is just enough acidity to kill the plant although I highly recommend this 30% Pure Vinegar – Home&Garden (1 Gallon) which is much better. The dish detergent keeps the vinegar from draining off of the leaves too quickly, which helps to permeate the cell structure. The salt gets onto the soil and kills the weed for good. Be careful though. The salt in the soil might prevent other plants from growing, although rain will help dilute the soil.
Your figs have been growing for a couple of months now, it’s August or September with the sweet fig smell in the air and they’re beginning to change color, some being eaten by birds, ants or surrounded by fruit flies. You ask yourself, “Are they ripe?”. Sometimes they’re ready once they’ve reached their ideal color for your fig variety. The best time for harvesting your figs regardless of the color is when you begin to see tiny white cracks in the skin.
This is the optimal time when the fig has reached the best flavor of sweetness. You can eat it right off the tree. Although some people like to rinse them first, or cut off areas that some bug affected. Mom likes to peel the skin off because it irritates her mouth. Other people bring them in to add to their favorite recipe. Whatever you do, keep in mind that they won’t last for more than maybe 2 days after the harvest. Since they have a lot of natural sugars and moisture, fungi is eager to grow on them. Your figs might not all be ripe at the same time, so it’s best to check on them regularly to find the ripe ones before nature sends in the critters.
How to pick
I had a young nephew ask me one day how to pick them off of the tree. I never thought someone would ask this question, but perhaps one of my readers has the same question even when in my mind it seems like common sense to know. In case if you haven’t figured it out, just grab the branch with one hand and carefully wiggle-pull the fig stem from the tree with the other hand and it will easily break off somewhere at or near the base of the stem. Try not to leave pieces of the fig on the tree to help avoid attacks from fungus or insects.
When you’re picking your figs be sure the mouth of the fig is nearly closed. I found one fig where it had a gaping wide mouth. Usually this indicates attack from an insect or perhaps a fig wasp. The best fig is one that has no large holes in it, you never know what’s inside when they look like this. Some people have named the mouth of the fig, an eye.
Training your fig tree, not training your dragons. Here are some basic examples on fig tree shapes. There are two common forms that a fig tree can be trained into: Single trunk [D], open vase type and the multi-trunk system [C]. Northeastern fig trees can be trained to grow from a single trunk when planted in a 200-hour chilling zone. You can control the trees through pruning. A winter frost that kills most of the branches, shows when a single trunk system should be used. To maintain the single trunk, be sure to cut away new growth that may appear at the base of the tree. Use a wooden stake, if necessary, to keep the trunk growing straight.
I am currently experimenting with the multi-trunk system. After my single-trunk trees died off due to weather and animal assaults, I let the trees grow back naturally and they grew as multi-trunks, I could not control this with one tree since multi-trunks grew from the sides of a single base trunk. My tree in Connecticut has a single trunk, but the branches are hugging the ground allowing additional roots to feed into the ground. The tree naturally formed this shape and it seemed like a defense mechanism from the very cold winter climates.
There are fungi that can attack your fig tree leaves. If you find large brown areas, or with a mold growing – immediately cut off the affected leaves and discard them so that the fungus will not spread throughout. Take note that there is a very dangerous common leaf mold pathogen called Rust. It mainly affects potted plants and can spread to your house plants. It will begin with small brown spots and gradually spread through the leaf. When you discover this type of infection, cut the leaf off and burn it.
This fungus generally appears following long rainy days without a chance for the leaves to dry under the sunshine. If you touch an infected leaf, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling other plants. Sometimes if you see sporadic brown spots, on a few leaves don’t be alarmed. Rust will not kill your tree and you don’t have to remove all of the leaves. It’s best to monitor the brown spots carefully to assess the situation before of jumping to conclusions. Sometimes small brown spots can indicate that the plant suffered from lack of water following a yellowing of the leaves.
There are anti-fungal products available, though the most effective means of stopping the spread of this infection is by burning the leaf. I use a small propane torch with the leaf on a non-flammable surface while the leaf is still green.
When you grow your fig tree outside, all you have to do is plant it and let it grow. Here are some suggestions to consider.
Watering trees outside as often as possible depends on your weather conditions. At least once every 3 days. If you have a lot of rain, your tree may grow at a rate of about 2-3 ft per season (without fertilizer). Mine grew 4 ft during the first year I planted it.
Train your tree to grow outside with one base trunk (not like what you see in the photo above) by clipping off additional branches that grow from the base. See these Training tips. For pruning tips, scroll down to item number 6 on this page.
I suggest that you not add pesticides outside if you can help it. Once figs begin to grow in the middle of June, they stay on the tree throughout the entire growing season until they become plump and juicy. Pesticides are poisonous because they’ll absorb into the figs and then bitten revealing a terrible cocktail. Peeling the skin off does not provide protection against consuming the chemicals.
Studies suggest following this step when trees grow up to 3 years or less than 5ft tall.
Wrapping with water heater insulation: use duct tape to wrap the plastic tight. Do not let any of this plastic touch the branches. I like water heater insulation because it does an excellent job with warming the tree and the exterior plastic keeps the fiberglass from spoiling. Insulation in good condition following the winter, reuse it next time. This insulation prevents the branches from freezing. You may also dig up the tree, lay it on its side on the ground, cover with burlap and dirt. But I don’t recommend it. I know all too well what happens when no insulation covering around the tree. Most of the time, the tree dies back and essentially has to start all over again with its growth if it doesn’t die entirely.
I’ve found that if the branches are a minimum 1/2 inch thick on a 3 yr old thick trunk, those branches will survive the Winter frost when you do not winterize the tree.
Pruning timetables are set from February thru March. Spring arrives by April, but if the temperatures return to freezing wrap it back up. Between March and May, green growth should appear and all insulation separating even if outside temperatures reach upper 30s to mid 40s. Why bother pruning it when it looks fine the way it is? Your other question might be, why prune in February or March? After all those harsh cold months, the sap has fallen deep into the tree. Pruning it at this point will give you a clean-cut without sweet sap oozing out. Pruning causes it to grow more branches and therefore more figs. Once the form of the tree has been reached after the initial years of pruning, then there is no need for heavy Winter pruning.
How do you prune it? Look at the branches and you’ll notice bumps where new branches emerge from. Now look at the entire tree. Picture the shape of the tree in your head and remove only 1/3 of the tree from the top. Cut just above those bumps on the branches. If you’re cutting back an entire branch, cut it back only to about 2 inches away from the main branch or trunk.
During growing season let the tree grow and don’t prune the branches. Pruning during the growing season causes the sweet white sap or latex to ooze out of the branch. Sap attracts insects and all sorts of fungus that may rot the tree.
Clear away branches in the center to allow sunlight to reach the entire tree when it grows. OK, now it looks like you are killing your tree. Don’t worry, it’s still alive.
Whitewashing is important for the cut the ends of the tree to prevent a hole from developing too soon at the center (branches have a soft center where the milky sap flows) of the branch, which can provide a haven for fungus and insects once dried. To white wash, mix 50/50 of water and Rust-Oleum 1990730 Painters Touch Latex, 1/2-Pint, Flat White paint and dab it on with these Plaid Foam Brushes, 44269 (3 Pack). I sometimes use white wash on wood that has the potential for winter weather damage or any other damage to the wood.
Nitrogen fertilizers encourage foliage growth, but the fruit often ripens terribly, if at all. Fertilizer should only be used if the tree grew less than 1 foot the previous year. Application should be broken into 3-4 applications starting between March and May, then ending in July. To read more on this topic, see this Fig Fruit Facts website.
Depending on where people live in the Northeastern climates, their outside trees may begin to show leaves anywhere between April 1st to May 1st and then the cycle begins all over again. Gardeners are suggested to not add mulch to the tree at this point. Mulch can actually rot the base of your established fig tree after the first year of growth. Fig trees love water, but they also like well-drained soil otherwise they can rot. Readers have chosen The Dirty Gardener Dolomite Limestone – 2 Pounds chips when fertilizing. Some people claim that outside fig trees LOVE limestone for it’s slow release properties.
Researchers have no solid evidence that fig trees need excessive amounts of Ca or Mg. With that said, as mentioned above under the Fertilization topic, fig trees prefer a pH of 6.0-6.5 when planted in a mineral soil in your yard and 5.0-5.5 when in a pot. If your soil is very acidic, then you can buy the bag of dolomite lime mentioned above and sprinkle it around the base of the tree. Most of the time, there is no need to add limestone to the soil if it was from a potting mix or if you’ve added it when making a pine bark/peat based medium. Store purchased potting mixes are generally pre-limed with dolomite to a pH of 6.2. If you determined that your soil needs fertilizer, be sure to water the tree afterward to allow the nutrients to reach the roots.