Boosting Northern Fig Harvests

On a recent trip to Vancouver Island, B.C., I stopped in to see Bob Duncan at Fruit Trees and More nursery and demonstration orchard. Bob uses his microclimate in Sidney (near Victoria) to grow fruit that you’d normally expect in Mediterranean climates.

Bob has given me many pointers over the years about growing lemons and olives—and about figs in the Pacific Northwest. More on the olives and lemons in a future blog, but I want to share some fig tidbits here today.

Added Heat for Main-Crop Figs

I’ve written before about how Bob uses a greenhouse with no walls to ripen main-crop (fall) figs. He has mild winters, but not enough summer heat to ripen many main crop figs. The greenhouse is his way of capturing summer heat for his fig plants. They don’t need winter protection where he is.

Bob fed me main-crop figs as we toured his greenhouse in September. So for would-be fig growers in the Pacific Northwest, remember: supplemental summer heat might be the ticket for a fall main-crop harvest.

 A greenhouse to capture summer heat for ripening main-crop figs

A greenhouse to capture summer heat for ripening main-crop figs

Breba Figs in the Pacific Northwest

Bob is trialling dozens of varieties with heavy breba (summer) production. I’ve sent him a few of my favourite varieties for breba figs over the years.

I asked Bob to suggest one of his favourite varieties to get a heavy breba (summer) crop. He’s a fan of Grantham’s Royal (a variety I’ve never grown). He says it has a significant breba production. This variety is a “San Pedro” type fig, meaning it doesn’t ripen another crop afterwards (just like the well-known variety Desert King.)

Bob describes Grantham’s Royal as very large and tasty. “It’s one of the largest figs out there,” he says.

Pruning

Check out the pruning system that Bob is using for some of his greenhouse-grown figs. The main stems are running parallel to the ground with verticals coming off of them.

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Fig pruning system: The main stems are running parallel to the ground with verticals coming off of them.