POP Fig Varieties and Introducing Megan Brookens: A Fellow Fig Lover!

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, Home, Plant Profiles, Plants, School Orchards & Curriculum, VolunteersTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

My name is Megan Brookens and I am the new Repair the World Fellow partnered with POP for the year! I’m working with our Education Director, Alyssa Schimmel, to develop lesson plans and activities to use at our school orchard sites. This season, I am excited to learn with and from the students at our orchards about topics they want to explore.

One of the first things I learned at POP is how much we love our fig trees. These lovely plants, of the Ficus carica species, are highly recommended for Philadelphia due to their bountiful harvest and low maintenance requirements, aside from some seasonal winterizing. There are many fig varieties featured throughout our different orchard partner sites and we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the most common ones, see descriptions below and linked here as a downloadable PDF. 

Stay tuned for more info on fig propagation and check out some previous POP blog posts linked below for more background and information on caring for your fig trees:

Fresh Figs for Cold Climates; 

Unwrapping Figs & Pomegranates – and Winter Dieback; 

A Volunteer Spotlight on Jeanette DiMeo, Fig propagator and donor

POP FIG VARIETIES

We love our fig trees here at POP! There are several species of edible figs that are part of the Ficus genus and are native to temperate regions of Asia and Turkey, where they have been cultivated since at least 5000 B.C. Today, they are an important fruit in many parts of the world including the Mediterranean and the United States. The Common Fig (Ficus carica) is the most cold hardy species of edible fig and the one we plant in Philadelphia; unlike other fig species, it is alsoo self-fertile and doesn’t require pollination to produce fruit.  Figs can be eaten fresh, dried, or even turned into a nice preserve. They are a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, copper, carbohydrates, potassium, and Vitamins A, E, and K.  There are many varieties of fig trees featured throughout our different orchard partner sites, but here is a quick guide to our most popular varieties. 

Celeste – a productive fruiter that produces medium-sized fruit with smooth, light brown to violet-colored skin and pastel pink flesh. This is a fairly cold-hardy variety and takes freezes better than other figs.

Historical Facts:  This is one of the most popular figs in our POP orchards, commonly grown in the Southeastern United States but widely adaptable. It is quick to fruit and after a harsh winter, it is able to regrow from the roots and produce fruit in the same year! 

Ripening and Harvest: Harvest from July-Late October when the fruit is soft and purplish-brown, perhaps with a little green, and bends at the neck. 

Flavor: Sweet and juicy with a rich honey-like flavor. It’s known as the “Sugar Fig” for a reason! 

Chicago Hardy – bears small to medium sized figs with a deep mahogany color and exhibits drought-tolerance once established. A very productive and cold hardy variety!

Historical Facts: Another one of our most popular figs featured in POP orchards, this variety originates from Sicily but was cultivated in Chicago.  It is easy to grow and even does well in containers – perfect for the backyard fruit grower. 

Specific Care Requirements: This is a cold-hardy variety and takes freezes better than other figs. It is also quick to fruit, allowing it to die back to the ground in a really harsh winter and then regrow from the roots and successfully bear fruit in the same year. A single established Chicago hardy fig can provide up to 100 lbs of fruit yearly! 

Ripening and Harvest: Harvest from August-Late October when the fruit is soft and medium-dark purple. The fruit is small to medium in size and has a reddish interior flesh.

Flavor: Sweet and rich 

Larchwood – A variety of unconfirmed origin that produces abundant medium to large tear-drop shaped figs that remain green when ripe, with a juicy red interior.

Historical Facts: POP Director Phil Forsyth propagated this variety from a yard on Larchwood Ave in West Philly – a local varietal!  In harsher winters, it does require some protection to ensure a good harvest.  

Ripening and Harvest: Harvest from August-early October when the fruit is soft and a lighter green in color.  

Flavor: One of the best tasting fig varieties we’ve come across, juicy and sweet.

 

Bartram’s Fig – A historic variety with attractive, deeply lobed leaves and producing large round figs that are yellow with a bit of purple when ripe.  

Historical Facts: This variety is featured at Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia. While the origins of this variety are unknown,  it has been cultivated on site for many decades! 

Ripening and Harvest: Harvest from August-Late October when the fruit is soft and light purplish-pink at base with green toward the stem. The fruit is medium to large in size.

Flavor: Sweet and tasty

Brooklyn White – also known as Naples White, this variety produces large, light lime-green skinned figs with light pink flesh and the flavor of honeyed strawberries. An unusual trait: the fruit can still ripen on the tree after dying back to the ground after a harsh winter!

Historical Facts:  Brooklyn has a high concentration of fig trees because of its long history of Italian immigrants bringing cuttings from the beginning of the 20th century until World War II. 

Ripening Period: Harvest from August- Early October when the fruit is soft and yellow-golden. The fruit is medium to large with a light pinkish-purple interior flesh. Crop from this tree ripens three weeks after the main crops begin on earliest cultivars. 

Flavor: Light with notes of honey and strawberry 

Source: Seattle Garden & Fruit Adventures

Takoma Violet – This new–to-be featured fig variety is known for its cold-hardiness and deep rich flavor and draws its origins from sanctuary city Takoma Park, MD. The fruit has a nice tight eye that is resistant to splitting and the plant itself is one of the most cold hardy varieites.

Historical Facts:  This variety was newly planted at POP partner sites Tilden Middle School and St Bernard Community Garden in Spring 2017.

Ripening Period: Harvest from August-October when the fruit is soft and dark blackish-purple. The fruit is small with a reddish interior flesh.

Flavor: Rich and berry-like

Sources 

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/all-you-need-know-about-figs-ficus-carica

https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fig-fruit.html

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Chicago_hardy_fig/

Brooklyn White

http://seattlegardenfruit.blogspot.com/2015/09/fig-of-week-10-takoma-violet.html

This POP Plant Feature was written by POP 2017/18 Repair The World Fellow Megan Brookens. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards. org/donate.

Edible Perennial Propagation: Cuttings and Layering

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , ,

By 2015-2016 POP Education and Outreach Intern, Alyssa Schimmel.

In this edition of our Edible Plant Propagation series, we’ll cover cuttings and layering as easy and inexpensive methods for generating new fruiting vines and berry bushes for your garden or orchard.

Black-Eyed Susan is an easy-to-propagate herbaceous perennial planted in many POP community orchards as an insectary plant.
Black-Eyed Susan is an easy-to-propagate herbaceous perennial planted in many POP community orchards as an insectary plant.

Cuttings and layering are two forms of asexual or vegetative propagation in which we use leaves, stems, or roots from a parent plant to regenerate genetically identical clones. One of the main advantages of this is that it allows us to regrow the strongest plants we may have started from seed and have grown out into full maturity with less time than it would take for us to wait for seedlings from the parent to mature with their varying characteristics.

Often, we’re choosing plants for the strength of certain desirable traits – like beautiful foliage, biggest or sweetest fruit, resistance to disease, early ripening, or attractive flowers. The Bartlett pear and McIntosh apple we’ve come to enjoy are examples of plants that continue to be asexually propagated through cutting and grafting since their selection in 1770 and 1811, respectively. Grafting is the method of joining plant parts so they will grow as one plant – often combining wood from a cultivar with the hardy rootstock of another, as is the practice with many apple, pear, cherry, peach, and plum varietals (and a subject for another post to come). Link here for our article on grafting fruit trees.  

While leaf and stem cuttings are frequently used to propagate herbaceous perennial herbs, flowers like pyrethrum and Black-Eyed Susan and some woody species that occupy space in the understory layer of many of POP’s orchards, root, hardwood, and softwood cuttings are the main methods we use to propagate fruiting species.

Plants from the Ribes genus are great candidates for cuttings and layering experimentation.
Gooseberry botanical drawing. Plants from the Ribes genus are great candidates for cuttings and layering experimentation.

Seasonally, now is the time to focus on root and hardwood cuttings as we ease from the winter cold into the first awakenings of spring. Later in the season as we approach mid-summer, we’ll focus more on softwood cutting where we’ll use the soft, succulent tips or stems of new growth to propagate plants like lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, oregano, rosemary, scented geranium, sages, thymes, certain ground covers and vines, as well as many shrubs and trees.

CUTTINGS

Root Cuttings

Root cutting provides a fast method for growing blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, currants, and gooseberries. To do so, dig up the whole 2-3 year old plant during the dormant season when the roots have a large carbohydrate supply, or if you’re concerned with disturbing the plant too much, cut down close to the main stems of the plant with a sharp shovel and dig up a segment of the root mass.

If the plant has small roots, take 1-2 inch segments with a knife and pruning shears and lay cuttings horizontally below 1/2 inch of soil medium.

Black raspberry canes are very easy candidates for first-time cuttings.
Black raspberry canes are very easy candidates for first-time cuttings.

To begin with, you might start with a soilless mix that consists of one part coconut coir or peat moss blended with one part perlite, vermiculite or sterile builders sand.  This combination allows proper drainage and aeration for rapid root development. Combine ingredients with a small amount of water until evenly moist.  Add a small amount of organic starter fertilizer or seaweed extract to the mix. Replace with a richer potting mix once signs of growth are present.

Peat Moss is a major component of "soilless mixes" for rooting cuttings and air layering.
Peat Moss is a major component of “soilless mixes” for rooting cuttings and air layering.

If the plant has large roots, make a straight top cut, and then a slanted cut 2-6 inches below the first. Store for three weeks in moist sawdust, peat moss, or sand at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside, insert the cuttings vertically 4 inches apart with its top level at the surface of the rooting medium in a well prepared bed. Sprouts should appear after a few weeks. Transplant to a permanent location after the sprouts have grown for a least a year in the bed.

Hardwood Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings are the choice method for propagating fruit trees such as figs, pomegranates, mulberries, quince, some varieties of plums, and for fruiting shrubs and vines like currants, gooseberries, grapes, and kiwi fruit. Because cuttings from dormant hardwood lack leaves, it isn’t necessary to provide a high humidity environment to stop the cuttings from drying out before they take root, as with other herbaceous perennials.

When the plant is dormant in the winter or early spring before the buds break, take 6-15 inch hardwood cuttings from the tips of branches with a pencil-width diameter. Cut off any unripened green growth at the tips as you’re wanting to select mature hardwood. It’s recommended to take cuttings from where the current season’s wood, one-year-old wood joins the second year growth at the base of this junction as it has the greatest potential for root development.  

At the tip, make a “sloping cut” (diagonal) away from the bud. At the base, make a horizontal cut and, using a knife, exposing some of the cambium – the light green layer you see under the bark when you scrape it away.

At this point, you can dust the exposed base with rooting hormone to increase chances of stimulating root growth, and tap the branch to remove any excess powder. Another method of supplying your cuttings with excess rooting hormone is to water with willow tea or stick willow cuttings in your potting mix to permeate the root zone. 

Inserting cuttings from the growing tips of any willow branches or watering with willow tea will supply the plants' natural infection-fighting chemicals and rooting hormones to your cuttings!
Inserting cuttings from the growing tips of any willow branches or watering with willow tea will supply the plants’ natural infection-fighting chemicals and rooting hormones to your cuttings!

Place cuttings in a container filled with propagating medium (as discussed above), placing as much of the hardwood branch below the surface of the soil – while exposing the top three buds to sit above the soil. Place in a greenhouse or cold frame to speed the process of root development. Cuttings will be ready to plant in the fall.  If you choose to plant the cuttings outdoors, mulch them in securely to keep them moist and allow the cuttings to stay in a well prepared bed for a full year – providing them with occasional treatments of liquid fertilizer or manure for several weeks – before transplanting them to their permanent location.

LAYERING

If you’ve been lucky enough to find a plant whose fruit, foliage, or flowers beckon you to beget another, you might choose layering as a method for propagating a new plant from your selected parent. Like cuttings, it’s a type of asexual or vegetative propagation, but where it differs is that you are encouraging development of new or “adventitious” roots on a stem while it is still attached to the parent plant instead of first being removed from it. Once the plant develops new roots, it can then be separated from the parent to grow independently. There are six types of layering: air, simple, tip, trench, serpentine, and mound, which can be read about here, with the most common methods being air-layering and simple, which we’ll explore here.

Air Layering

Developed by the Chinese centuries ago as a way of propagating difficult-to-root plants, air-layering became a method whereby a stem or branch was wounded, dusted with rooting hormone, and packed with sphagnum moss or a similar rooting medium until a new root system developed. Success with air-layering has been documented for many fruiting species including citrus, apples, pears, pecans, hardy kiwis, figs, cashews, and many others. Generally, it’s said that plants that can be propagated through stem cuttings will also most likely root through air-layering. One important thing to keep in mind is that success is largely determinant upon your ability to keep the rooting medium moist so the wounded or girdled section of branch that is to the develop roots does not dry out. Plastic wrap works well to keep the developing roots inside the moss bundle happy.

Fruit trees can be air-layered at any time during the year; but if you choose to start them in spring or summer when the tree is naturally experiencing its most vigorous growth, you could have a new tree ready to plant as early as fall.  

Air Layering Pictogram

To begin, select a pencil-sized shoot and and measure 12-15 inches from the branch tip. Remove the leaves and any twigs on the stem 3-4 inches above and below the layering point so the branch is completely clear of any foliage. Make parallel score cuts on the branch to create a 1-inch ring and remove the bark to expose the bright inner green of the cambium layer. Dust the exposed area with rooting hormone and wrap the exposed site on the branch with damp sphagnum peat moss that has been soaking in water for several hours. Using metal twist ties, secure plastic wrap around the moss bundle on either side like a tootsie roll on either side of the girdled branch.

In as little as a month for some plants, you’ll see roots forming inside the plastic pouch. When they’ve fully formed inside the pouch, remove the plastic keeping the moss surrounding the roots, and using sterilized pruning shears, cut just below the root ball. Your new tree is now ready to be transplanted into a container where it can continue to establish itself or be moved into its permanent location.

Simple Layering

Simple layering is just as easy and works best with shrubs that have flexible branches that can be bent to the ground to root at the site where they make contact. Examples of plants that can be propagated using this method include blueberries, currants, chokeberry, hazelnut, filbert, quince, gooseberry, and saltspray rose. As with any plant to propagate, select healthy plants, free of disease and insect infestation.

Choose a low growing branch about a pencil-width in diameter that has a leaf bunch at its tip. The tip of the branch should extend beyond the level of the soil as this section of the uppermost portion will be needed to photosynthesize energy for the new growth underground. Remove any leaves where the branch makes contact with the ground and wound its underside by using a sterilized knife to create small thin slits.

In layering, plant parts to be propagated/cloned are left attached to the mother plant to root.
In layering, plant parts to be propagated/cloned are left attached to the mother plant to root.

Dig a shallow trench where the branch meets the soil and dust the wounded, exposed branch with rooting hormone. Peat-moss mixed into the trench will help retain soil moisture.  Using a stake secure the wounded branch below grow, created a mound above ground. If you’d like, for extra security, you can place a large stone above the portion of the branch below ground. Stake the branch’s tip above ground with a small wood stake to ensure that it grows straight.

Keep the site well-watered. In the early fall, check for root growth; if properly developed, you’ll then be able to transplant the new plant to a well-prepared bed.

With these methods in hand, you’ll be propagating plants in no time!

References

http://www.pbcgov.com/newsroom/0212/02-08-12_air_layering.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_5519391_air-layer-fruit-trees.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/start-young-blueberry-plants-layering-62349.html

http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/propagating-hardwood-cuttings/

http://www.planetnatural.com/plant-propagation/

The Maryland Master Gardener Handbook

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf

http://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/The_Big_Picture/Propagation/

http://www.geeksongardens.com/how_7525698_propagate-rudbeckia-cuttings.html

http://pss.uvm.edu/homefruit/hfgprop.htm

http://www.growables.org/information/HowToPropagateYourFavoritePlants.htm

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.