Fall Fruit Trees: Why Your Homegrown Figs Aren’t Always Just for You

By Loren Skoug | October 21, 2021
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by Loren Skoug
October 21, 2021

Growing up, I detested figs. I wouldn’t get near them, let alone consider eating one. My parents, however, loved them, so they bought a tree. It’s been nearly 15 years since we planted the tree and not only have I grown to love figs, but that same tree is now the crown jewel of my sunny southern California garden.

Figs are not commercially popular fruit, and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve offered them to people who’ve never tried them. Logically, it makes sense. The fruit is extremely thin skinned and does not store or ship well. The only access most people have to fresh figs is from neighborhood trees. It’s unfortunate that such a tasty treat is underrepresented and, as a result, unpopular.

While they aren’t always a hit with humans, the animal world can’t seem to get enough of them.

Harvesting Figs And Sharing Them With Wildlife

It’s ironic that the reason that we don’t value figs (their fragility) is the same reason that they are extremely popular amongst our fuzzy, buzzy, or feathered garden friends.

Over the years I’ve had many creatures visit my garden, and most of them come for the figs. Their delicate skin and sweet flesh attract anything that can get a bite, so every year I have to share.

As the first few figs begin to ripen up, the birds swoop in. Jays and Mockingbirds mostly, but many finches and sparrows frequent the tree as well; pecking away at the fruit and devouring any insects that want a piece. But the most elusive fig thieves are the opossums. They’re nocturnal, so it was difficult to even identify them as culprits at first.

Figs turn quickly, and having the tree in my backyard allows me to pick them at their peak ripeness. Suddenly, I noticed that those nearly ripe figs seemed to be disappearing overnight. After a few nights of investigation I caught the peculiar looking rodents in the act, adding another fig fan to the growing list.

Attracting Beneficial Wildlife

At first I was bothered by the visitors. I felt they were stealing my hard earned harvest. But after watching them and learning more about their place in nature, I’ve realized they fill a vital role in my garden.

The opossums, jays, and mockingbirds do more than just eat my fruit. They’re omnivorous, so while the figs draw them to my garden every summer, they stick around for the insects and, as a result, help regulate the tiny ecosystem I’ve created in my backyard.

I’ve discovered that nature is extremely generous, and my fig tree produces more than enough fruit. What I can’t eat is shared with my garden guests, which brings biodiversity into my garden. It’s a pretty fair trade: a thriving green space for a few sweet, juicy figs.

Fall is the perfect time to plant, so if you want delicate, delicious figs to share with local wildlife (or just keep for yourself) head over to www.FastGrowingTrees.com, the leading online retailer of high quality trees, shrubs, and perennials.

The above article was sponsored by www.FastGrowingTrees.com. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.
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  • PaulaA
    Comment added November 19, 2021Reply

    Opossums are North America’s only marsupial, they are not rodents. The young are born after only 13 days gestation, and make their way to the pouch where they nurse and grow for 2-3 months, when they are old enough to either remain in the nest or travel with the mom on her back. Thank you for sharing your yard and your figs with this beneficial creature. Learn more at https://www.opossum.org

    • Loren Skoug
      Comment added November 20, 2021Reply

      Paula, thank you for catching this error!

      Opossums are fascinating creatures and I don't want to misrepresent them. That was improper wood choice on my part. Whoops!

  • Diane Smith
    Comment added November 16, 2021Reply

    I had a healthy fig tree (N. Calif., 2400 ft elev.) Brown turkey but the underground rodents appear to have destroyed /eaten its root system. Gophers and moles abound here. Is there any way I could use a planter box outside even during winter snow (zone 7) ? I love figs but they are not made available fresh and the dried are just that . Soaking doesn't help

  • Doug Cherry
    Comment added November 11, 2021Reply

    Easier to root cuttings and have another fig tree, then if you don't need the original, you can dig it out and try to replant it without risking losing your fig variety.

  • Rosie Nash
    Comment added November 6, 2021Reply

    I have just heard that figs do well in Southwest Michigan. I want to plant some; what would be the best variety and where could I get them? And when is the best time to plant them? Fall or Spring?

  • Dianne Bauer
    Comment added November 5, 2021Reply

    I have a fig that is called ever bearing. The bees love it as do possum and raccoon. Birds too. So I share. It is too close to wild apple tree (green) of which grew from thrown out apple. Any way how do I dig up roots to plant in more sunny spot?

  • Annette Kohan
    Comment added October 31, 2021Reply

    I live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and I have to search high and low for dogs when they are in season. I can only get them two places. Whole Foods and they disappear within an hour of being put out. And Mercante Grocery, which is a tiny market in Oakland. The owner drives west once a week and meets a truck. I pay $30 for a case of 12. My Chicago gig plants are only 3 years old. They are starting to produce this year but I get one gig ripen every couple weeks.

  • Virginia Copeland
    Comment added October 26, 2021Reply

    Strawberry fig jam is my families favorite. You grind figs, add strawberry jello and sure jell. Better than any strawberry jam ever.

    • JDB
      Comment added October 31, 2021Reply

      What would be the ratio/amounts for the Fig/Stawberry Jam.
      Thx

  • Curt Mull
    Comment added October 23, 2021Reply

    Have a 20 year old brown turkey which gives off lots of figs. Also a Celeste fig Bday a 2 year old letitia ilalian fig which has yet. To produce . Do you ever. Fertilize?

    • Loren Skoug
      Comment added October 29, 2021Reply

      Those all sound excellent. I'm a fan of the brown turkeys, but haven't tried the other two. My tree is a black mission and I do fertilize. Once a year I apply 2-3 inches of homemade compost around the base of the tree. That's it!

  • Jim Perdue
    Comment added October 22, 2021Reply

    I stumbled across your bag in looking for information on growing peonies in a container. I greatly appreciate the information. I also read your piece on figs. It was a little baffling to me. "Figs aren't a commercially popular fruit"......maybe where you live but certainly not where I live. They are in every grocery and farmers market during the season. Many of them are grown in California and shipped here (Atlanta, GA), particularly the black mission figs. I'm not sure why you think they aren't popular.???

    • Diane Smith
      Comment added November 16, 2021Reply

      Maybe that is the reason we can't find figs at the California market.......

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