Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fun at the Fig Farm

A fig tree? Me? You gotta be kidding! When I first started thinking about which small fruit tree to put in a container on my deck, figs were not even in the running. Anything that I have to move to overwinter is usually not at the top of my list. But I kept reading about gardeners who are growing them in the northeast – and it was time to rise to the overwintering challenge.

Encanto Nursery in California is known as one of the best places in the country to buy a fig tree, but when I contacted them, hoping to get one by mail order, I was referred to Bill Muzychko.

His fig tree nursery in Flemington, New Jersey, is not exactly around the corner, but is considered the best around. Bill started growing figs about 5 years ago and began selling them just a year ago. All the trees that have resulted were propogated from his original stock.

Here’s some photos of the greenhouse where he starts the cuttings in a mixture of perlite, sand and vermiculite.

He has varieties from 1-4 years old for sale and about 135 different varieties total.

This is a perfect example of why getting a plant from a local grower is so much nicer than buying mail order, where you’re at the mercy of whatever small bits of info about growing methods that you can glean from the catalog or even the small tag attached to it.

Since I have no fig-growing experience whatsoever, I was grateful that Bill was able to take some time on Saturday to explain the care of a fig tree to me, including his watering system – these self watering barrels. A five year old fig can drink several gallons a day.

This 1-year-old Brown Turkey variety has a few fruit on it already – that can be rare for a one-year-old tree.

This is the one I chose to come home with me.

Here are some fig growing tips from Bill. For northern climates like ours, Bill recommends keeping the trees in a potted container that can be moved inside for the winter.

1) Place the tree in a sunny location, outside after danger of frost has passed. If frost is predicted, cover the tree.

2) Use a self-watering container, like EasyCare to house your tree.

3) The tree can survive frost, but not freezing. Before Thanksgiving, bring it into the garage and water once a month, bringing it out again in the spring.

4) Trim branches back by 1/3 before bringing inside.

5) A fertilizer like Osmocote is good to use once a year. When potting, 10 cups of limestone will adjust the Ph factor. Figs like 7 - 7.5 ph.

6) Fruits are usually ready in August or September and can be picked with they start to feel soft.

There’s lots more info at this link: http://figs4fun.com/bills_figs.html. He also has fig growing classes and a "Fig Fest" in September.

Bill's Figs
329 Old York Road
Flemington, NJ 08822
Phone: 908-806-4887


mayberry said...

I love the one you picked -- what great leaves! I didn't know fig trees could look so different.

Lzyjo said...

Cool! There's nothing like personal service, eh. The figs are beautiful! Huge!!! Very exciting! I didn't know figs were so diverse. I love fig Newman's. MMM! Good luck with your figs!

Joanne said...

Our deck is very sunny, so I like the idea of a potted tree. To soften the light a little. I guess my only concern is that pots dry out so quickly, especially in the sunshine, so I'm not sure about watering. How does that self-watering work? By the way, what a great operation Bill's got going there. His trees look amazing!

Talon said...

I had no idea there were so many varieties of figs! Like you, I shy away from the over-wintering, but I can totally see why you decided to give it a shot.

Lorilee said...

MMMMM, I love fig preserves. I haven't planted a fig tree in my yard since they are low and sprawling, and my yard is so small. In our climate, we don't have to worry about them in the winter.

Curmudgeon said...

I grew up in northern NJ and went to college in southern NJ, and I had no idea there were figs growing anywhere in NJ! LOL! Figs do well here in the PNW. We bought a baby one last fall and it now has 2 luscious figs on it. We left ours outside up against the house over the winter and it survived our Dec. Snowpocalypse with temps in the teens and 20s.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog about the serviceberries - I'm definitely going to plant a tree in my yard too. Matterhorn Nursery is suppose to have them!
But I am even more glad to have discovered your blog. Figs are my most favorite fruit ever! Now I'm going to have to plant a fig tree too and I'll be heading to Bill Muzychko... I just hope fig trees can overwinter in the garden. A friend of mine in Piermont has one and it does just fine. So this fall , I'll be busy planting trees!
Your blog is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I purchased two fig trees from Bill, a 1-year old and a 2-years old. If ever you want to grow a fig tree, go to him. He spends a lot of time explaining and giving details about growing a fig tree. Also, he gives out a printed sheet to explain what you need. He also provides free seminars/event days to explain different steps for caring of the trees. Prior to him, I purchased another 2 fig trees from someone who attempt to grow and sell, they didn't show any signs of life or growth and I returned it. But with Bill's fig trees, they are supreme trees with abundant leaves and superb life signs. If you plan to spend catalog prices, just go to him, you can't go wrong, lots of choices. It is worth the trip. It took me approximately 50 minutes driving one way (almost 2 hours round trip), but well worth it. There's a shopping outlet within 5 mile radius from his home, too.

The plants that I purchased are doing great. The 2-years old is producing crop. The leaves are big, beautiful, and smell wonderful.

Parsippany, NJ

JGH said...

Thanks for writing about your experience with Bills, Anon! It was over an hours drive for us too. On the way back, we took an alternate route through Chester and visited Alstede Farm where they have pick-you-own berries. Glad I didn't know about the shopping outlet or the trip would have been much more expensive ;-) Hope more local people are inspired to grow figs!