This is what our yard looked like in July of 2010, one month before we moved in:
By the end of August three of the trees produced literally hundreds and hundreds of delicious brown figs – more than we could keep up with or even give away fast enough. The birds devoured what we could not reach (even with the big ladder) and the occasional squirrel or two helped out as well. Then, in October, “Fig Tree #3”, which is a late-blooming “white” variety, produced a crop. (We preferred the brown figs, which have more flavor and are a bit sweeter.)
I was so curious to find out more about the cycle of the fig trees…what they do, when it happens, etc.
The landlord warned us that they would eventually drop their leaves and instructed us to pile all the leaves around the base of each tree. These trees are all mature and very well established trees, plus we have a “micro climate” here in Brooklyn – the protection these trees have from the house, the garage, and the tree-lined fences to the east and south eliminate the need to wrap the trees at all. Perhaps that was necessary when they were young, but these trees have been here for a long, long time and were brought over from Sicily by the landlord’s relatives! The oldest and biggest tree is nearly 50 years old!
They looked strange without their big, exotic leaves last fall but my husband and I were not prepared at all for the drastic change that took place when the landlord came, with his CHAINSAW, and pruned them. And I do not mean cut them back, I mean chopped the trees pretty much in HALF. I nearly cried when I saw him doing it.
Actually, the landlord’s chainsaw broke after he did the three smaller trees…and he never came back to prune the big tree.
The landlord claimed such an extreme cut was necessary because he had neglected to prune them at all the previous year. Because of this (and perhaps in part because I couldn’t live with such asymmetry and unbalance – just look at the next photo!) I went out there with a long-handled pruning saw one brisk 20-degree day and I did the big tree myself. Here it is before I went at it with the saw:
Here they are a few months ago in March…pretty stark. (click on photos to enlarge)
Yes, it was a pretty bleak winter with all the leaves and grass gone and the fig trees chopped down so severely.
It was hard to believe they would grow back anywhere close to as full as they had been. We wondered if we’d get any figs this year…friends who knew how big they were last year were shocked to see them hacked away and debated how long it would take them to come back.
I examined all of the cuts very closely and all of the small, twig-like branches that remained wondering where on earth any new growth would come from.
One benefit of having the trees cut back so far was that our yard had a lot of sunshine this spring – much more than I would have imagined, and it was great for my bulbs and other spring-blooming flowers.
Much to our surprise and delight, the trees have indeed begun to grow back…fiercely! They were beginning to leaf out around Memorial Day and since then they have really taken off. I’m hoping my sunny perennial border won’t be too upset about this gradual increase of shade, but I’m thrilled we’ll have figs this year!
Actually, these pictures were taken on June 15th, and the trees have already filled out even more. Last week there were tiny little figs-to-be, about the size of the eraser on top of a pencil. Over the weekend they were at least the size of my fingertip – about double in size compared to last week.
It’s time to get a canner and start looking ahead at fig preserve recipes!