ADDING A FIG TO THE GROWING DOME
In the homestead's greenhouse, a growing dome from Growing Spaces, we have enjoyed being able to develop several large perennials. So far, we have a Red Suffolk grape (which grows with such energy that it's hard to contain), a Hachiya Japanese Persimmon, and an Improved Meyer Lemon. This spring we were reading an article about another growing dome owner's experience with their fig tree, and we were convinced that adding a fig to our dome was a must!
Our Violette de Bordeaux fig arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago. We had been debating about the best placement, given the vigorous growth of the other plants. According to the nursery, the fig could tolerate full sun to part shade. This allows us to use the southwestern wall inside the dome, where the morning sun is somewhat limited, but afternoon and evening sun are plentiful.
Figs like well-drained, rich soil. The greenhouse beds get slowly depleted as the plants "eat" the soil they are growing in, so before putting Violette into the western bed, Kindra built up the soil level. She added homestead-grown compost, purchased pearlite, and organic potting mix. The organic material in the compost will help retain water for the shallow root system of the tree, while the pearlite and potting mix keep the soil from being too heavy. These three combined to create a rich, soft soil sure to make the other plants jealous! It is essential that figs--given their shallow root system--have plenty of nutrients and moisture without getting soggy. They don't like to be overwatered and prefer to dry out between watering days.
Since trees of this size that are still potted often have tightly-bound roots, it is important to dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the root ball, plus a few inches of soil to cover the top. This will prevent any roots that are close to the surface from drying out.
We found that Violette's roots were wound tightly together and needed to be teased apart prior to planting. (This seems like a brutal way to treat a little tree, but it is for the best; if the roots aren't encouraged to spread, they might stay in the shape of the pot. They would never absorb enough nutrients to thrive.)
After loosening the roots, we piled soil around the base of the tree and compressed it slightly, forming a well to collect water. We smoothed the surrounding soil, and Violette was ready to grow.
We're planning to espalier the tree so that it follows the contour of the dome wall and so that the first scaffold of branches is high enough to let light through to understory plants. While it will be a year or two before we are able to harvest many figs from this tree, it's an investment in the future of our dome. We're excited to welcome Violette to the homestead!
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