Question from Margaret:
I am being offered a fig tree. I live close to the coast in in Southern California, probably Zone 24, and am not sure of the variety. That being said, can you tell me what is the best month to move it from
my friend’s home in the same town where I live to mine?
Loved your remarks when I heard you speak at a garden club meeting last week.
Answer from Pat:
Fall is a fine time for planting and transplanting all shrubs and trees except for tropicals. Edible fig trees (Ficus carica) are Mediterranean plants so October or November is a good time for transplanting them, but I don’t recommend transplanting fig trees. One reason is that fig trees hate having their surface roots disturbed. It is not good to cultivate under them. To transplant a fig tree from a friend’s garden to your own might also necessitate a lot of back-breaking work and hiring a couple of men to help you do the job. In order to transplant any tree successfully you need to get as many roots as possible and wrap the rootball in burlap. The root ball might weigh several hundred pounds. You would also need to cut back the top of the tree drastically, at transplanting time in order to reduce the foliage and wood on the tree, thus balancing the top with the greatly reduced roots. I would also recommend sending away ahead of time for humic acid for soaking the root ball when transplanting the tree in order to stimulate root production. Once the tree is transplanted it will then spend several years getting established. By that time a tiny stick of a tree, purchased bare root for far less than you paid the men to help you would be twice as big as the transplanted tree.
Good nurseries offer fig trees for sale in 5-gallon cans that you can plant now or bare-root at reasonable prices every January and these trees are for the most part exactly the right ones for one’s local climate. The best fig variety for Zone 24 is ‘Brown Turkey’. Home garden fig trees need no pollination and bear crops twice a year. A final caution: If there is anything a gopher loves it’s the roots of a fig tree, and many coastal towns in Southern California are infested with these industrious little burrowers. When you plant your fig tree I recommend you plant it inside a big wire basket. This is another reason not to begin with a transplanted tree. However you can use wire instead of burlap to wrap around the roots but it’s a tricky job to simultaneously make it into a secure basket with no holes large enough for a gopher to penetrate.
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