Most varieties of figs do extremely well in the New Orleans area — sometimes, it seems, a little too well.
Many fig trees are treated as a “plant it and forget about it” tree, attended only when the figs are ripe for the picking. In general, figs are fairly low maintenance compared to many other fruit trees, but they do benefit from occasional care. If you have established fig trees in your yard, take a look. They may be due for a good pruning.
The winter dormant period, from now through January, is the best time to prune. This is when the fig tree is not actively growing and cuts have the best chance of healing correctly.
Start with a sharp pair of garden loppers. Dull or blunt loppers or pruning tools will crush the branch, rather than cut it cleanly. Stand back to get a good, overall look at the fig tree and make a mental note of the main trunk and branch structures. Picture the ideal form and shape you will be trying to create. Are some branches getting too high to harvest from? Are other branches too close to a house or fence? Remember to keep a balanced shape and not to remove too much from any one area. For the most part, figs are very forgiving, so don’t be scared to remove large branches that need to go.
Begin by removing any dead or broken branches. Next, remove any “suckers,” or new growth, from the base of the tree — suckers usually just get in the way. Next, remove any branches that are crossing or overlapping with others. Branches that cross can rub the bark away from one another in windy weather, which opens the tree up to infection.
The next step is to remove any secondary branches growing off the main branches that may be growing too close to the trunk, or too thickly. These branches rarely produce enough fruit to justify keeping. Finally, cut the main branches back by a third or a quarter of its length. This will encourage new growth in the spring and maintain the tree to a manageable size. If the tree is too tall, topping the uppermost branches is also fine. The following year you should notice an improved crop of figs.
For more information on growing figs, please visit www.lsuagcenter.com. A free, downloadable PDF containing more information on figs is also available at this site. (Publication 1529)
Q: Recently I've noticed a change in the appearance of the leaves of my red okra. They look like they are covered with a white powder. Is this normal, or is it something I should be concerned about and treat?
A: Powdery mildew has set into your okra. This is extremely common at the end of the growing season. Most okra should be wrapping up this time of year. Since treating the mildew does little to correct it at this stage of the game, it's best to pull the plant and replace it with cool-season crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or kale.
- Anna Timmerman, LSU AgCenter
Joe Willis and Anna Timmerman are LSU AgCenter extension agents. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org