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A fig orchard on your patio

Dwarf fig for container gardening grows outside in summer, comes inside in winter.

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If you love figs and cannot get fresh ones, a little extra effort growing a fig tree in a container will give you delicious fresh-from-the-tree fruit no matter where you live.

As the garden catalogs continue to roll in, look for a fruiting fig tree that will give you edible figs on indoor/outdoor trees. One of the best I've found is a dwarf black fig, Petite Negra (Ficus carica), developed for growing in pots. It will grow quickly in the sunny outdoors during summer and then lose its leaves, go dormant, and rest up indoors during winter's cold. When you purchase it, it may look like a stick. Don't be fooled. Figs grow very quickly. In two to three years, you can be eating fruit from your fig tree.

The dwarf black fig tree grows to five feet tall and four feet wide. It has those bow-downs and bends in its branches that make it look old and charming at a young age. It is much better suited for container growing, but it also will fit into small garden beds in Zones 7 through 9.

Pot your new tree in a container one size larger than the one it is growing in when you buy it. Make sure the pot has good drainage holes. Use purchased potting soil, not soilless mix or soil from the yard. Remove any dead or crossing branches and broken roots. The branches may ooze latex when you prune, so wear gloves.

Plant it only as deep as it was growing. You can gauge the proper planting height on bare-root trees by the change in the color of the bark at the soil line. There should also be a slight flare above ground as the trunk gives way to the root ball. Work the soil in and around the roots. Add water until it runs out the bottom of the pot.

Your fig should grow outdoors during the warm summer months, after danger of frost is past. When you move your fig outdoors, get it used to sunshine a little at a time so that its foliage doesn't burn. Eventually it should be sited in a place that receives eight hours of sun daily. Keep your tree well watered during the growing season. It needs one inch of water a week while outdoors.

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