How to Grow Figs in Kentucky
If you want to add a new fruit variety to the home garden, consider growing figs! Figs do not have a lot of disease and insect issues in comparison to other fruits in the state. The fruit are good for eating fresh, drying, and preserving in jams and jellies as a value-added product. Since figs prefer warmer temperatures in their natural environment, it is important to provide winter protection and site plants correctly in order to have successful fig production.
Plant figs close to the south side of a building. This location is best because it provides protection against winter winds and offers higher temperatures through the winter. Make sure that fig plant are at least 3 to 4 feet away from the wall of buildings. Locate figs in an area that receives 8 hours of sunlight during the growing season. Figs grow in most soil types, but avoid soils infested with nematodes.
Early spring while figs are dormant is the best time for planting. If planting bare-rooted plants, cut back the tops about one-half of their original length. Container grown plants with good root systems will not require the tops cut back. Inspect the root system of container-grown plants to see if the roots have grown “pot bound” where roots have grown in a circular pattern in the pot. If yes, carefully straighten the roots when planting or cut them back to the point where they turned. Plant the plants 3 inches deeper than they were growing in the nursery. Backfill the planting hole with original soil from the area and water thoroughly. Do not add fertilizer or other soil amendments to the planting hole.
Selecting Fig Varieties
When searching catalogs for fig varieties, purchase plants from reputable southeastern nurseries. Most of the time, they guarantee plants for a year and will replace if there are any problems. Check with the nursery company about their exact policy before buying.
Two recommended cultivars for growing in Kentucky are Celeste and Chicago Hardy. These varieties are cold hardy and can withstand freezing temperatures better than the other garden fig varieties. Both varieties are also self-pollinating, so they do not require another variety when planting.
Here are a few basic descriptions about each cultivar:
Celeste figs produce a light brown to violet color fruit that is small in size. Even though it has smaller sized fruit, the flavor makes up for because of its high sugary contents. It is very good for eating fresh and is excellent when used for preserving. Since this cultivar is winter hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to grow in a container so it can be taken in during the winter months.
Chicago Hardy figs exhibit medium sized purple fruit. Fruit produced on older wood will appear in early summer while fruit on new growth appears in early fall. This variety is good for planting outdoors since it possesses good heat and drought tolerance as well as good cold hardiness.
If interested in learning more about growing figs in Kentucky, the Warren County Extension Service is hosting a class on Growing Figs on Tuesday, February 28th at 6:00 PM. Our speakers for the evening are Martin and Joleen Stone from Lovee & Rose Farm in Richardsville, KY. Class is free and open to the public. If you would like to attend the class, please contact the Warren County at (270) 842-1681 to register.