October 29, 2023

Olympian Fig Tree, Air Layer vs. Cutting Prop

On the topic of bees, figs can't be bee-pollinated! Their flowers are inverted and require a specialized pollinator. They're pollinated by wasps, aptly called fig wasps.

OFF-TOPIC: Here's an update on my fig tree propagations. As a reminder, I took one stem cutting and did an air-layer. I didn't know if one method was better than the other, but now I definitely have a preference.

Cut branch propagation, 6-weeks from being taken off the donor plant and getting its second pot-up. The donor plant is same-old same-old. No worse for the wear of taking props but also no signs of improvement

Air-layered propagation, 6 weeks of root formation despite my negligence and letting the sphagnum dry out. Click on the picture for a zoomable view.
The cutting prop lost all but one leaf to start but then grew so fast it had to be potted up three times. It's put all its energy into a single trunk. The air layered prop went straight into a 1-gallon nursery pot, where it sent up a whole new branch. The difference in leaf size is remarkable. I wonder what difference it'll make in fruit production.
Another 6 weeks: The air-layer prop doubled its number of leaves and is working on a new branch. I wasn't planning on potting up again but the squirrels had other ideas. The cutting is pushing out huge leaves and the trunk is fattening up nicely, too.

It rains so much here, 20 inches in a 3-month period this summer, you can't have a pot with too much drainage. Fabric grow bags work pretty well but you do have to watch out for mold and mushrooms growing on the bags. I haven't had ants move into my grow bags like they do my plastic pots. Every pot with a drainage hole has an ant problem, that is, until I scratch neem seed meal into the soil. It takes care of them like magic! Even though I have a solution, I'd rather not have the problem in the first place, so I'm switching to grow bags whenever possible.

The green stuff is Better Than Rocks, which I use in my outdoor pots with drainage holes. It works to keep the ants from using them as doorways to their new favorite home.

I repotted the dumped over fig into a grow bag like its sibling. It's not quite apples-to-apples, though, because it had a piece of Better Than Rocks in its pot that went into the growbag, so it has superior drainage. I think container grown figs need that, and if they aren't getting it they let you know through brown spots on the leaves.

The Three Little Figs
I finally found a use for those darn plastic onion bags! I'm hoping they'll keep the squirrels from planting any more acorns. The purple one is the cutting prop, red is the air layered prop. See the difference in leaf size? The donor plant is on the right. It's got lots of fresh RKN galls so the neem seed meal and straight vermicompost did not remedy that problem. I'm having a hard time with the thought of throwing it away but it is late in the year to take more propagations. What would you do?More reading on fig pollination: Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Figs


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