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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) (Paid Link). 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

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

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.

Remove the root ball from the pot.

loosening the roots
Loosening grow medium from around the roots

Place it into the hole you just dug and loosen the soil around the roots. Add potting soil (Paid Link) 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 organic potting soil rather than the dirt that I dug up. The reason is that it’s sterile, full of nutrients and has natural fertilizer.

→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

Now that the tree is planted, add mulch. It doesn’t matter what kind of mulch. I like to use Cedar Wood Chips (Paid Link). Be sure to mold it into a donut 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

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!

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