Posted by Brent Wilson on 9/5/2016 to Fertilizing & Watering Tips
How and if you fertilize and water a fig tree will depend on several factors including: soil type, soil fertility, weather conditions and location. Fig trees grow satisfactorily in moderately fertile soils without fertilizer. However, fertilizer is needed in soils of low fertility or where competition from other plants is heavy.
Evaluate Soil Conditions
Figs will grow reasonably well in most soil types except for very compacted clay or very infertile soils. Fig trees grow and produce the best fruit in well-drained, moist soil that is rich in organic matter. In soil with low fertility it'll be worth your time to mix in some organic compost to the native soil. Figs like the soil to hold a good supply of water, especially when the fruits are developing in summer, but not so much water that the soil stays constantly soggy or wet, which can lead to problems with the roots.
Fig trees do best in a slightly acidic soil, somewhere between 6.0 and 6.5 on the pH scale.
Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.
If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing fig trees, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with a inexpensive soil test kit or pH tester probe.
To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.
Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It?
How To Fertilize a Fig Tree
Though nitrogen is usually the only needed plant nutrient, other nutrients may be lacking in some areas. If poor growth indicates the need for fertilizer feed your tree.
Type of Fertilizer
Fig trees can be fed with organic plant foods or inorganic fertilizers, such as 10-10-10. When feeding edible plants I always go with an organic plant food. Organic plant foods and composts are usually non-burning, will not cause excessive growth, and will not have chemicals or other inorganic substances in them. The type of fertilizer you choose to use is up to you.
When to Fertilize
Newly Planted: When planting a fig tree during the dormant season, when trees have no leaves, do not apply fertilizer. Wait to fertilize until new growth begins to emerge in spring. Fig trees can be fertilized at planting time when planted during the spring and summer, however cease fertilization two months prior to the typical first frost date in your area. Late fertilization can stimulate new tender growth that can be damaged from an early freeze.
Established Trees: Thereafter, on established trees, apply fertilizer or an organic plant food such as bloodmeal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal or fish emulsion, when new growth begins to emerge in spring. An additional application of organic plant food can be applied in late spring or early summer. Spread the fertilizer evenly under and around the perimeter of the branches. Follow application instructions on the product label.
How To Water a Fig Tree
The frequency and the amount of water a fig tree will need depends to a large extent on the soil and the age of the tree.
Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the rootball, to a depth of at least 6 inches or equal to the height of the root ball. An application of Root Stimulator will provide an extra boost to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
During the First Active Growth Season
In average garden soil you should not have to water your new fig tree every day. More often than not, this causes soggy or wet soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil moist. Apply an organic mulch to help retain moisture and reduce hand-watering. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Plants planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be careful not to overwater during winter!
When established, fig trees are quite drought tolerant and will require less water. However, they will prefer a consistently moist soil when there are figs on the tree. Lack of sufficient water just prior to and during the harvest season can effect fruit quality and size. Keep plants mulched well to help retain moisture.
Other Helpful Tips
- Always keep a sufficient layer of much around your fig trees to control competition from weeds and to help retain moisture.
- If the fruit are not reaching maturity and ripening properly, excess fertilizer or drought may be the problem, and fertilization should be reduced. Yellowing and dropping of leaves may indicate drought and the need for supplemental irrigation.
- In lawns, the grass beneath fig plants may wilt in the heat while the rest of the lawn does not. This indicates the figs need water. Figs grown with lawn grasses may require one or more waterings a week during hot, dry periods. I recommend mulch under fig trees versus grass.