Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrap that Fig

Holidays are good reminders for certain garden activities…. In Bucks County we think of planting tomatoes about Mother’s Day, seeding new lawns on Labor Day, planting garlic on Columbus Day. To this list I’d add… wrap you fig on Thanksgiving.

What? You don’t have a fig tree? Well ask around. You’d be surprised how many Bucks County gardeners cultivate figs. These exotic, tasty fruit ripen in late summer and are a real treat. The plants are almost pest free and require very little care beyond a bit or pruning and winter protection. I joined the fig club a few years ago when a Bucks County Master Gardener gave me a root sucker to plant. I am not certain of the variety but it is probably Brown Turkey which is reported to be hardy to 10 degrees F.

Winter protection really starts with site selection. Place figs in a sunny protected area, preferably against a southern exposed building wall. This alone will go a long way towards improving winter survival of above ground canes. Although I mentioned fig tree, the plants growth habit is more like a multi-stemmed shrub. Fruit is borne on current seasons’ growth.

So, back to wrapping. Is it necessary? Maybe not. The person I got my plant from lives in central Bucks County and provides no protection. For insurance, consider tying all of the existing canes together in a bundle and wrapping them with burlap or any other sturdy cloth-like material and them re-wrapping with a more wind protective material. I’ve used the cheap tarps commonly sold in hardware stores. Some folks wrap loosely and fill the center with insulating material such as straw.It's a two person job.

Finally, mound soil over the crown of the plant. Even if the top growth freezes out, you’re likely to get re-growth from below ground if the crown is protected in this manner. Since fruit is born on current sesons growth you’ll still get a crop, although not as much as when old wood overwinters.

I discovered this the hard way on my first fig growing attempt. I assumed the worst after an unexpected, early December temperature plunge to single digits left my plant unprotected. After tilling the planted area in the spring, I discovered that there was life after all, below ground.

For a fact sheet on growing figs in northrern climates, check out what the folks from Cornell University on Long Island have to say at this site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Recognizes Master Gardners Efforts

An educational garden extraordinaire! This garden is the perfect location for a field trip for those anxious to learn about horticulture. There are displays of sun, shade, perennial, butterfly and pollinator gardens. So many varieties all beautifully labeled. Those well placed labels quickly resolved identification disputes. This Penn State Master Gardener Demonstration Garden provides a blast of color in an ocean of cold hard architecture.

That’s how the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) described the gardens at Neshaminy Manor Center at the awards ceremony earlier this month at PHS headquarters in Philadelphia. We were one of about 75 gardens recognized in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey this year with the Community Greening Award. While Master Gardener coordinator Sue Schneck and I accepted the award, we both know that it is the hard work of dozens of volunteers who make it happen. The design, installation and management of these gardens is done by an outstanding crew of dedicated volunteers. Recently, we cleaned up dead summer foliage and planted pansies, so the gardens continue to look good. PHS folks must have missed it but our mini arboretum is part of our educational efforts and is functional all year long.
What is PHS? Just one of the oldest and most active horticulture societies in the U.S. Most folks know the Philadelphia Flower Show and sure enough, PHS puts on this popular event. But did you know that the proceeds from the Flower Show go to community greening efforts? Did you know that PHS has one of the finest horticultural libraries around? I spent an hour of so browsing the collection. Fantastic! They sponsor great lectures and other educational events. Check out PHS and consider becoming a member.