Fig Tree Care During Excessive Heat
I'm in Seattle, Washington also known as Pacific Northwest PNW. Earlier this week, on Thursday, we were notified about an excessive heatwave affecting the evenings of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Most local nursery businesses have decided to close early. Starting from 1 pm to 9 pm the heat peaks to 98 degrees at 2 pm. As I watched the clock, I worry about all my fig plants. Heats over 100s in Seattle, WA is not normal. I need air conditioning for anything over the 80s. Usually, the heat for Seattle is gradual and this is unexpected. As weather.gov said the warning is until Monday 9 pm. With the highest temperature being 109 degrees. National Weather Service said, 76 years of records, while a high of 106 degrees would exceed the city’s highest temperature recorded of 103 degrees. Seattle’s average high for June between the 70s and 80s. And last week it has been over 80s. It’s never seen three days in a row at or above the 90s in June, now three continuous days of over 100s. Lucky, starting on Tuesday we will be in the 90s and Wednesday back to the 80s. I have been living in Washington state for over 30 years and I have never been to that high temperature. As I write this article on air conditioner set to 72 degrees I'm sweating. People in Seattle are panic buying air conditioners. My house's best feature was an air conditioner. Much better than my old window air conditioner. This extreme heat affects the Northwest and West Central Washington. As Washington is well known for our Cherry this is cherry U-pick season. The cherry and strawberry season started last week for us. And, my mom went to Chelan, WA to U-pick cherry. She only picked 14 pounds of cherry. She rented an overnight place to stay. I think the cost of the U-pick plus gas and hotel exceed the savings she thought she got. When I told her that she said it's ok, it was fun making a 7-hour round trip just for the cherries. I can barely travel more than 20 minutes with my fussy toddler anywhere! While I enjoyed the fresh-picked cherries dropped off. I don't think anyone should go U-pick this weekend. When U-pick isn't picked in a timely manner they will spoil. We can get heat exhaustion during this weekend, it's not a joke and it can get serious.
I have a huge pine tree in my backyard over 30 ft tall. It provides shade to all my trees on that side of the yard. And, the open space opposite to it is what I'm worried about. We have been watering all our trees in the early morning as well as late evening. Remember plants love deep watering, compared to frequent shallow watering it may look wet on top but very bone dry in the soil itself. Some of us use shade cover for our plants. This works when we have a small area to cover. For us, it would be expensive to cover a huge sq/ft area.
Potted figs need to be under shade otherwise they are most prone to the heatwave. Even on a normal summer when I touch the black pot it's hot. Some paint their pots as well as the trunks of their fig trees white to reflect the heat. During a heatwave potted plant's roots will get extremely warmer, losing more moisture, and easy to dry out. Having irrigation set up before summer is helpful. We haven't had time to set up ours and we still hand water all our plants. Remember water at the soil, don't water the leaves.
As we plan for summer care for our plan, the correct winter care is a must. From January to Late April, we repotted all our trees with organic potting mix. If you are planting in-ground you should use in-ground soil. For PNW, potted figs must use potting mix. This makes a huge difference. Since I'm not making a winter care article this year, I will go over it now. PNW we had heavy rains just a few weeks ago, we call it summer rains. And, if you use in-ground soil for potted figs, it will hold too much moisture and can cause the roots to rot. In the potting mix, they have more pumice, styrofoam, perlite, and vermiculite which provides well drainage. There is also a control-moisture potting mix. Often when you buy any soil from the store and open the bag you will see the differences in the quality. The cheaper soils are of a different quality than the expensive ones. Don't believe me just buy a cheap bag and buy an expensive similar bag and compare. Never use topsoil for any of your plants. Topsoil contains little nutrient value but is a great filler, not for planting. Not all soils are the same, it's not just dirt. Their differences can be seen not just in the color of the soil but the tree will either thrive or not. If you already invested money into rooting a cutting or buying a plant wouldn't you want the tree to be as healthy as it can? The soil does play a huge role in the root development of the tree. Don't be cheap with soil.
Winter care up potting with the correct soil will help prevent root-bound trees. In a rootbound tree, the leaves will begin to wilt, no matter how frequently you water the plant. And, it is very hard to fix a root-bound tree. There was a discussion on growingfruits.org, a post about nurseries who sell let say a 1 gal plant, and when it arrives it is not root bounded like filling up the entire 1 gal pot size as advertised. Other nurseries will sell a 1 gal pot and the roots are maybe half that size. People seem to feel cheated by nurseries who have a smaller root than the pot that it came in with. Some complain the tree was bare-root then put in a pot and shipped. Well, a nursery hasn't sold the tree during bare root season, it must be in a pot. Mail-order trees can be tricky unless it says you will receive the tree that is pictured, most nurseries might have a photo of the fruit. Others have photos of some of the trees they have in stock, it doesn't mean that is the exact tree you will receive just a reference. There is no reference for how a bare root tree will look like upon receiving it. So try some mail over fig-trees, see what you like and just buy from places you had a good experience or buy locally. Even in local nurseries, I don't like bringing home a root-bounded tree. I rather have a tree that will grow into the pot. People like me will repot everything during winter so any plants in Summer will take time to fill into the next potting size. To up pot, every winter takes a lot of time, saves on watering during summer.
For in-ground, don't reuse the dirt you just dig up, it can be heavy clay. Clay soils can be difficult for roots to penetrate and worst/ poor draining soil. Leading to many problems. To fix heavy clay you must mix organic matter this is best to do before planting a new tree.
Mulching a good amount around the tree base away from the trunk. Don't make an anthill. This will keep the roots of the trees cooler and prevent moisture loss, as well as control weed.
Avoid any repotting or transplanting during excessive heat, best to plant during cool weather either early morning or late evening this also requires looking at the 7-day forecast. Avoid fertilizing during excessive heat.
Excessive heat, I think this is a game-changer for PNW. I think we will get figs to ripen much earlier this summer. Will late-ripening figs be something we can finally grow if this 80s degree becomes typical for PNW? What are your tips and tricks for caring for your figs during extreme heat?