The Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 2

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July 15, 2019

Fig Problems

Figs are a popular, low maintenance fruit for residents in the Florida Parishes but occasionally I receive calls about figs not performing. Recently, I have received one or two calls about figs setting fruit that never ripens. I spent some time researching this and here are some common reasons figs do not ripen:

  • Not enough water- Fruit, just like us, is made up of a lot of water. A fig tree needs adequate water to produce those juicy, ripe figs that you enjoy. If you don’t get much rain during the summer, think about irrigating your fig tree. I recommend placing your water hose at the base of the fig tree and letting it trickle for about 30 minutes once per week.
  • Too much nitrogen- The LSU AgCenter recommends that you fertilize fig trees but too much nitrogen can cause issues. The tree may spend too much effort making pretty leaves and not enough effort trying to reproduce (a fig is a reproductive structure). Ideally, you should see 1-1 ½ feet of shoot growth each year. Monitor your tree and if it is not growing at this pace, apply fertilizer in late winter or early spring. A general fertilizer recommendation is 1 pound of 8-8-8 per year of age of the tree up to 10 years old.
  • Young tree or severely pruned tree- Fig trees will produce very small crops until they are 3 or 4 years old. If your tree is young, it may still be trying to find its place. Give it time. If you have severely pruned back a tree, it may take a year or two for it to reach its pre-pruning production levels.
  • Soil pH too acidic- Figs like a soil pH level around 6.5. The native pH in the Florida parishes is anywhere from 4.5-5.5. If you have exhausted all efforts, have your soil tested and make the required pH adjustments by adding lime. Lime will make your soil pH go up.

I always recommend that fig owners apply mulch around the base of their tree. Applying mulch 2-3 inches thick will help conserve moisture and prevent weeds. It doesn’t take long for privet and vines to take over a fig tree if left unattended.

Birds are a fig producer’s worst enemy. I love watching birds but when I go outside to enjoy figs, I get pretty upset to find the best fruit already eaten. The best method for deterring birds is to place a net around your tree. I’ve heard of people putting plastic owls and snakes in their tree to deter birds, and these may work for a while, but the only sure way to protect your fruit is with a net.

Ornamental Peppers

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. I love fall colors and the anticipation of cooler weather. Late summer and early fall are an excellent time to switch out exhausted annuals for new plants that will last until the first. Some have beautiful dark purple foliage. Ornamental peppers are an excellent addition to fall landscapes. They provide great fall colors and are hardy plants that can take our hot weather. The peppers are attractive due to their multi colored fruit and foliage. Some plants may have three different colored peppers on the same plant and Ornamental peppers prefer slightly acidic soil (5.5-6.0) and full sun.

The plants range in size, from 8 inches tall to 3 feet tall. They make great additions to beds and can be grown in containers too. Some ornamental peppers are even sold in hanging baskets.

Fertilize the peppers at planting with a slow release fertilizer. Monitor them for additional nutrient needs but after they set fruit there is little need to fertilize again. In dry periods you may need to irrigate.

Starting Seeds

August is a great time to begin starting seeds for fall vegetable gardens. Seed catalogs offer varieties you may not commonly find in your local garden center and growing your own vegetables from seeds is a rewarding challenge. Starting seeds is tricky if you don’t have the right environment. You need a space where you can control the amount of water your seeds receive. I tried setting some seeds out in the rain last fall and they stayed too wet and eventually succumbed to root rot. You don’t need a greenhouse, but a sunny room or a clear lid over the seedlings will help.

First, select small pots or trays to start your seeds in. I’ve seen people use recycled cans, bottles, fruit clam shells, and baby food jars. Anything that will hold a small amount of growing media will do. Garden centers also sell special seed starting trays.

Next, fill your containers with moistened seed starting media. I suggest you purchase a special seed starting mix because they are formulated to be finely textured, drain well, and are sterile media mixes. Fill your containers almost to the top and then spread your seeds. Put 2-3 seeds per spot if you have enough. You can always come back and pinch off extra seedlings.

Cover your seeds with the seed starting mix to the depth recommended on the seed packet. Some seeds require light for germination and may not need covering. Water in your seeds with a fine mist spray. Do not flood the container as seeds need to stay moist, not soggy, while they are growing. Do not let your seeds dry out.

Fertilize your seedlings once per week with a 20-20-20 fertilizer mixed at half strength. Too much fertilizer will harm seedlings.

Place your seeds in a sunny area. Normally, seeds need temperatures of 65 degrees to 75 degrees to germinate. Sun is not always required for germination but as soon as leaves begin to appear, your seedlings will need bright light. If the seedlings look leggy, they need more direct sunlight.

Seedlings grown indoors need to be hardened off before they are planted outside. Hardening off is the practice of slowly introducing seeds to full sun and outside temperatures. I recommend you place your seedlings outside in a partially shaded area, then slowly, over the next few days, introduce them to more sunlight. Keep the soil moist. If you are expecting a downpour you may want to protect the seedlings.

Finally, plant your seedlings in your garden!


The Leaflet is a newsletter for horticulturists. It is published three times per year. To subscribe to this publication please email Jessie Hoover at

Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit the LSU AgCenter website.

8/12/2020 4:24:05 PM
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