Sometimes we have to bow to nature. After all, when a plant has been developing for aeons who really knows its requirements best? The grower or the plant? Consider the fig. What substantive good can come of imposing your will upon a plant which has evolved over 60 million years? Far better to cultivate and study than to manage and assert.
That might suggest a hands-off, in-earth approach to growing. However, there are simple, ’sympathetic’ technologies available that serve plants in accordance with their needs. One example of such technologies are ‘passive’ or ‘plant-controlled’ watering systems. These can provide irrigation and, if desired, nutrients – only as and when required by the plant. With feeding and watering taken care of growers can crack on with learning more about the plant, tending to its foibles, and honing complimentary growing techniques.
Keen to prove the validity of such an approach, we at AutoPot test-grow constantly with all manner of hitherto-untried plants using our own plant-controlled, power-free watering systems. A Brown Turkey Fig tree is just our latest voyage of discovery.
Multifaceted and deeply intriguing, the fig tree is a prime example of a plant whose intricacies a grower might wish to explore at leisure. Ours bypasses wasp pollination but still manages to encapsulate all the quirky majesty of life on earth. It’s fascinating to watch its fruit, technically inverted flowers, as they develop and ripen. Incredibly prolific and adaptable, the tree will happily accept transplants of other different fig plants. Growers have been known to graft up to eleven different figs onto one tree. Proof, if proof were needed, that variety is the ‘splice’ of life!
We selected an organic soil and coco mix by Biobizz as the ideal substrate for our tree. Fluffy, aerated, free-draining but water retaining, it provides a great base for bioactivity. Essentially it also facilitates the capillary action necessary when growing in a bottom-fed watering system such as AutoPot.
Via the module tray in which the pot sits, the plant has ready access to a water and nutrient solution – gravity-fed through pipework from a collapsible FlexiTank reservoir. In this, and every AutoPot system, an AQUAvalve in the module tray controls the supply of water and nutrient. That AQUAvalve only opens when the plant has exhausted the previous supply – hence ‘plant-controlled’.
In the reservoir we’ve kept the EC to 1.8 and pH to 6.5 which seems to be a happy medium, especially as figs prefer things on the alkali side. The nutrient in use here is a Evoponics mineral feed, however liquid organic solutions will work just as well. ‘Fish Sh!t’ organic soil conditioner, derived from fish waste, and Epsom salts are helping to maintain the leaves and are augmenting new growth.
Although pleasingly fruitful, care has been required in keeping our fig tree on an even keel. Rusty patches on the leaves are a sure sign of Mosaic Virus. Likely caused by Eriophyid mites, the virus hasn’t impeded fruit production but may account for some early fruit drop. Without a proven cure the best advice is mite control using neem oil on the leaves – though we’ve been assured by fig fanciers that mosaic simply grows out. Meanwhile, on and around the substrate we’ve remedied an invasion of fungus gnats with a top dressing of Seramis clay granules.
Figs are happy to oblige with fruit year-round when grown indoors and we’re very excited to get our first taste. However, a long and cautious wait is required as they only ripen on the tree. The fruit need to be hanging downwards and to have softened before we can even contemplate harvesting. Any fig that is perpendicular to the branches will taste pretty awful!
Come autumn we look forward to receiving Wesley Burton, one of the U.K.’s preeminent fig transplant surgeons, at our grow room. His guidance thus far has been invaluable in getting to know the fig and he’ll be giving us a practical demo of fig grafting. You can follow his work via Instagram @fig_grows_81 and on Facebook via the UK Fig Growers group. Our grow room adventures are similarly at your disposal on Insta @autopot_global and on Facebook via @autopotsystems.