Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00077080/00034
 Material Information
Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture
Series Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture.
Uniform Title: Report of the Chemical Division
Alternate Title: Fig growing in Florida
Physical Description: 9 v. : ill. (some folded) ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: Department of Agriculture. State of Florida.
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Manufacturer: Artcraft Printers
Publication Date: October 1925
Frequency: quarterly
Subject: Agriculture -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agricultural industries -- Statistics -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Statistics   ( lcsh )
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 31, no. 4 (Oct., 1921)-v. 39, no. 3 (July 1929).
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Each no. has also a distinctive title.
General Note: Many issue number 1's are the Report of the Chemical Division
General Note: Issues occasional supplements.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00077080
Volume ID: VID00034
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 28473180

Full Text
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Fig Growing in



Commissioner of Agriculture
Tallahassee, Florida

Entered Jan. 31, 1903, at Tallahassee, Fla., as second-class
S matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900. "Acceptance for
S mailing at special rate of postage provided for in Section 1103,
S Act of Oct. 3, 1917, authorized Sept. 11, 1918."

Artcraft Printers. Tallahassee

Fig Growing in Florida

Late Chief Clerk, Department of Agriculture.

That the fig has not long since been developed
as a commercial fruit may be attributed chiefly to
the inability thus far to produce a marketable dried
fig, the fig of commerce, in the humid southern cli-
mate. Moreover, the fresh fruit, which is highly
esteemed both by those who grow it and those who
have acquired a taste for it, is practically unknown
in large commercial centers, being an extremely
poor shipper under usual conditions.
Fresh figs are not known or appreciated in the
northern markets, and consequently the demand is
too limited to encourage large shipments. The fruit
is more perishable than any other that is generally
marketed. It can be handled only by the most care-
ful and experienced persons, and even then it is not
in a condition to show its best quality. Ripening
in midsummer, when the northern markets are
crowded with many well-known fruits, and not be-
ing especially attractive to the eye, fresh figs would
at best gain favor slowly.
As a domestic fruit, however, the fig is of prime
importance, for in addition to its use direct from
the tree, it may be either canned or made into jams,
marmalades, jellies or preserves. It is a wholesome
fruit, and in the older fig-growing countries is an
important food. The fig should never be eaten until
thoroughly ripe, since green figs contain an acrid

milky juice which not only has a disagreeable
flavor, but is unhealthful. This trouble disappears
when the fruit is ripe.
They are eaten fresh from the tree or are served
on the table with sugar and cream. They can also
be stewed, and made into puddings and pies, and
when canned or preserved they make an acceptable
table delicacy throughout the year.
For canning, figs should be picked when still firm
enough to hold their shape. To secure the best
results they require more sugar than do some
other fruits. If undersweetened, they seem taste-
less and lacking in quality. The amount of sugar
used and the method of procedure vary greatly in
different households. A pound of sugar to three or
four pounds of fruit would probably suit most tastes,
though some prefer the regular "pound for pound"
preserve. Ginger root or orange peel is sometimes
added to give variety of flavoring, and figs are often
made into sweet pickles by adding spices and vine-
gar. Figs are sometimes peeled before canning, and
this is considered to increase their delicacy of flavor.
More frequently, however, they are cooked un-
peeled and with stems on, just as they come from
the tree. They hold their shape better and look
more attractive when treated in this way, and the
difference in flavor, if any, is very slight.
Figs are occasionally dried for household use, but
as they ripen during the season of frequent summer
showers, this is so troublesome that it is not often
attempted. A nice product could doubtless be made
by use of fruit evaporators, but these are seldom
used this far south.
The future commercial development of the fig in
the south probably lies in the shipment of selected
fresh figs to the larger towns within four to eight
hundred miles or more from the source of produc-

tion, and in the consumption of the surplus crop and
inferior grades by the canneries. Figs have been
canned on a small scale for many years in lower
Mississippi and Louisiana, and the industry is now
being extensively developed along the Texas coast.
The canned product is liked by every one, and the
present limited output is disposed of at high prices.
According to recent press reports from Texas, sev-
eral hundred thousands of fig trees have been
planted by farmers and truck growers in the coast
country of that State during the past few years.
The fig will grow in a variety of soils and is gen-
erally adapted for back yard and garden condition,
flourishing with little care or attention. There is a
scarcity of experience in the south relative to its
culture under field conditions. It requires an abun-
dance of plant food, however, and is relatively a
surface feeder, the depth of the feeding roots de-
pending to a great extent on the distance to moist-
ure. It reaches its highest development on a fertile,
moist, but well drained loamy soil, containing an
abundant supply of lime. In general, low land soils
which do not overflow, or which can be readily
drained to a depth of three or more feet, will prove
ideal for the fig orchard.
Trees will make satisfactory growth on fertile
soils without the use of additional plant food. If
either lime, phosphoric acid or potash is lacking, it
should be liberally supplied, especially when the
trees reach the bearing age.
A good annual mulch is the best fertilizer that
can be given the fig, supplemented when the trees
are of bearing age and the growth of wood is vig-
orous, by the addition of phosphoric acid and pot-
ash. Five or six pounds of acid phosphate and two
to four pounds of muriate potash per tree would
not be too much. Eight pounds of kainit or a peck

or so of hardwood ashes may be substituted for the
muriate of potash and would prove profitable; but
it should be applied separately and never in con-
junction or mixed with either the mulch or com-
mercial fertilizer.

The cuttings are taken during the winter from
wood grown the previous season. It is essential that
the wood be of the right degree of maturity or the
rooting process will not be successful. When the
wood is cut the surface of the wound should be
moist and covered with small drops of milky white
sap. The length of the cuttings depends upon the
moisture of the soils. If the soil is quite moist they
may be as short as from 6 to 10 inches, but if the
surface soil be dry they must be long enough to ex-
tend down into the moisture, if it be two or more
feet. Cuts should be made just at the joint, at both
base and top. This is important, for the fig has a
solid stem at the joint, but has a pith in the center
of the stem between the joints which quickly decays,
and the wood will always die back to the first joint.
If decay once starts it is very likely to extend beyond
the first joint and destroy the cuttings. Insert the
cuttings to the top bud in rich, moist, well drained
land. It is essential that the soil be well packed at
the base of the cutting, for if an air space be left,
the cutting will likely shrivel without rooting.

Where the climate is too severe to plant the cut-
tings immediately in the open, they may be bundled
and buried until spring, as with grape cuttings. It
is frequently advised that the cuttings be planted
in the site the tree is to occupy permanently, as the
fig is often severely set back by transplanting.
When transplanted to the orchard from the nursery
row the roots should be carefully protected from
drying out. It is well to plant two or more cuttings

in each tree position. This will tend to lessen vacan-
cies in the orchard, and the excess number can be
taken out later. Planting distances differ with the
varieties grown and with varying soil and climatic
conditions. Available figures indicate that 12 to 16
feet, with every other row removed when the trees
begin to crowd, will be sufficient for most varieties.
This would leave the permanent planting 16 to 24
No general system of orchard cultivation has been
worked out for the fig. Some advocate as little cul-
ture as possible, since the fig is a shallow feeder. If
the preparatory plowing, as well as subsequent cul-
tivations, are made as deep as is consistent with the
nature of the soil in each case, the roots will be
encouraged to feed more deeply and the danger
from mechanical injury confined largely to thin
On the thin soils which abound in many parts of
the State, it is difficult to cultivate without doing
serious injury to the roots. Mulching heavily near
the tree with any available material that will hold
moisture and keep down the weeds will be found a
good plan. The middle of the rows can be kept
clean by shallow plowing and harrowing without
disturbing the mulch and without injury to the
roots protected by it. When the weeds and grass
are not allowed to get too big a start, the small-
toothed cultivator or an acme harrow will prove
efficient tools for surface culture. The practice in
Texas, where the soil is a heavy clay loam, has been
to disk the orchard lightly at frequent intervals dur-
ing the spring and early summer to keep down the
weeds and conserve the moisture. This method
proved satisfactory for tree growth.
Frequent pruning is considered detrimental to the
fig tree. The quality of the fruit is not improved,

and the quantity is usually decreased thereby. The
general advice is given to prune only sufficiently to
shape the young tree, to remove all injured wood,
and to thin out the head of the tree to admit air and
sunlight. All cuts should be made at a joint, and
as a rule the branches or canes should be completely
removed rather than stubbed back. When a branch
is only partially removed, the numerous shoots
forming below the cut make the head irregular in
shape and necessitate more pruning later on. Where
the fig is to be grown as a standard tree, pinching
back the leader during the growing season will
hasten the development of the lateral branches.
The use of low-branching standards to shade the
soil is advisable in sections where long continued
droughts occur. The same effect may be produced
by starting two or three main stems from the
ground. The latter form of tree is less liable to
Lreak down under a heavy crop. In colder or ex-
posed sections, where the bush or stool form is
grown, pruning should be limited chiefly to the re-
moval of weak or injured canes.
The Celeste, Brown Turkey, Magnolia, Blue
Genoa, Green Sachia and Brunswick appear to be
the most widely grown general-purpose varieties.
The prospective grower, however, will be assisted
in the choice of varieties for different purposes and
sections by consulting some of the latest authorities
on this fruit. He should also seek the advice of local
practical growers, since varietal names are not the
same in all sections; and, furthermore, well-known
varieties are held in different esteem in different
sections. The Celestial or Celeste is preferred for
canning in the northern Gulf coast region, while a
variety locally known as the Magnolia, but said to
be identical with the Brunswick grown at the Texas
Station, is largely used for canning in the coast
region of that State.

The fig has thus far been relatively free from in-
sect pests and fungus diseases. Its worst enemies
appear to be wet weather and fruit depredators
such as birds, junebugs, wasps and other insects.
The birds pay their score most royally by the de-
struction they visit upon insects injurious to other
crops. Fungus affections are fortunately few and
do not effect a great amount of damage, if we ex-
cept the operation of the ferment production, the
fig "sour," which is almost always a concomitant of
prolonged wet weather. A leaf rust sometimes pre-
maturely defoliates the trees, but does not do much
harm. Although the cotton root-rot fungus (Ozo-
nium auricomum) is said to occur on the fig, no
particular damage from this source has been thus
far reported.
The nematode (Heterodera radiciola), a minute
worm which causes the disease known as root knot
by infesting the soft fibrous roots, thrives best in
moist sandy soils, and is more or less troublesome
throughout the entire coast region, but they are not
a serious drawback.
Figs develop so rapidly that a vacancy is soon
filled, and the chance of the malady, whatever it
may. be, involving the rest of the plant, is thereby
reduced. Yet it is well to be first assured that some
actively injurious agency and not deficient nourish-
ment is the operating cause. Therefore, noting any
apparent weakness or deterioration, the sickly in-
dividual should receive a top-dressing of nitrate of
soda protected by a good mulch. If this fails to
renew its vigor and the tree still maintains an ab-
normal appearance, grub it out and renew.
During the long continued rainy weather or in
wet soils the crop often sours on the tree. Aside
from attention to drainage and using care not to
over-irrigate, little can be done for this trouble.

The fig should be thoroughly ripe when picked
for immediate home consumption, and only a trifle
green when picked for shipment.
It must be picked fully ripe to be worth eating,
and cannot be gathered prematurely, like the peach
or plum. But a day's wilt somewhat improves its
quality and increases the sugar content, provided it
is carefully handled. After twenty-four hours, how-
ever, the danger line is reached and fermentation is
imminent. It must, therefore, be handled rapidly
as well as tenderly.
Gathering the fig is a difficult and clumsy process
when the fruit cannot be reached by hand from the
ground, on account of its very soft character. It is
almost as troublesome to gather safely as the per-
simmon, and the slightest fall ruins it. Yet the fig
tree, while possessing brittle wood, and therefore
not to be climbed, is fortunately not lofty, as a rule,
and its fruit is readily reached by the help of a
stepladder. From the ground the fruit can be
conveniently reached by means of a home-made
"gatherer" or "fig cup," constructed very simply by
tacking a baking-powder can to a pole of any de-
sired length, first filing a portion of the rim of the
can to a cutting edge. For horizontal work-reach-
ing out from the ladder for a distant fruit-a modi-
fication may be made by tacking the can to a pole
at a right angle to it, like a dip-net.
Shipping must be effected in either berry baskets
or extremely shallow trays-preferably the former.
The standard 24-quart strawberry crate is the best
package to use. Formerly, only near-by markets
were practicable, but with improved transportation
facilities and refrigerator cars they should be easily
transported to market several hundred miles dis-


It should be borne in mind, however, that al-
though figs grow successfully in almost every garden
in the State, there are as yet no extensive fig
orchards in existence and that every such planting
will be, to a large extent, an experiment in which
the individual planter must work out questions per-
taining to soil, climate and varieties as well as many
of the details of cultivation. In general, it may be
said that other conditions being equal, the farther
south the fig is grown the greater will be the chance
of success.


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