“Ah, figs, ah, figs. Mother Nature’s brown diamonds.” Myrtle Snow, American Horror Story: Coven
We have been busy planning, planting and trying to make our garden and homestead as productive as possible. While growing a lot of annual vegetables is a cornerstone of that process, installing crops that don’t take a lot of continual effort helps us meet our goals just as much.
For us, this usually comes in the form of perennial vegetables and fruit. We have planted and are harvesting the first of the spring sorrel, the spring and summer fruiting raspberries are beginning to green up, the apples and bush cherries are beginning to blossom and the elderberry is beginning to leaf out. This year we are adding three additional perennial crops; asparagus, which I have already written about as well as ever bearing strawberries and a fig tree.
Beginning in spring, with intermittent crops throughout summer and early fall, ever bearers are a delicious source of fresh fruit in the home garden. We selected the Ozark Beauty variety after sampling the fruit from a couple ever bearing varieties. We sited them in one of the segments of our new garden bed. This 2’X4’ space was enough for 8 strawberry plants which should produce for the next couple of years, then I will allow the shoots to root and swap plants, effectively then a perennial. Ever bearing strawberry plants produce fruit throughout an entire growing season.
These were tucked into the soil and covered over with straw to protect them from late spring frosts. I will add a bit more straw once the plants are growing. This also acts as a mulch to retain moisture in the heat of summer.
For our fig tree, we needed to select one that was cold hardy…or at least cold hardy “ish”. The brown turkey fig is a classic, all-purpose fig. Fruit is delicious fresh and in preserves. Dried figs make tasty snacks all year long. The tree is rated to be hardy to zone 5, but it will need mild protection when temperatures drop below 10ºF. This is a relatively maintenance free tree, but may need minimal pruning. We should only expect one harvest a year, but if we have a long, hot summer it may yield 2 distinct crops. This is also a terrific variety for the home garden because it is self-pollinating. We chose to place this tree in the right side of our front garden to compliment the maturing maple tree on the other side.
The fig tree requires a bit of work to plant, the ground must be prepared properly so the tree can thrive. First, I removed the sod from the area, then I dug a hole as deep as the pot, but double the diameter. Once I placed the tree in the hole, I back filled with loose, improved soil, then topped the planting whole with some of the native soil to fill in gaps. After planting, I watered the tree in well. The tree should be watered well during the first growing season to establish, then shouldn’t require much in the way of supplemental watering in years ahead. We will probably keep this tree a low grower, no larger than 10 feet tall with a canopy of no more than 4-5 feet. With our winters, this shouldn’t be an issue.
These crops should compliment our fruit production well. I can’t wait to eat fresh, home grown strawberries and to make fresh figs into jam or dried or baked fresh wrapped in heritage bacon.