The “F” word is popular around here. Bet you were thinking the queen mother, and lately with the wicked cold and 36″ of snow we’ve had for February, I’ve muttered it a few times. All kidding aside though, my favorite “F” word is “Fig.” It’s an amazing plant and one that announces like clockwork every February from the pitch black darkness of my husband’s workshop that the end is near…the end of winter, that is. It feels so good to have such soft spoken reassurance.
The fig thing started as an experiment which you can read about here. I didn’t know the first thing about how to take care of figs. I just knew I had to have it and I’d figure it out along the way. That’s how it usually goes. Fast forward four years and I’m happy to report things are going well. Every August, I have more figs than the year before, so I’m doing something right and that is incredibly satisifying.
Don’t ask me how it knows spring is on the way, but it does. Since November, the fig has sat in a corner of my husband’s workshop in the basement, receiving a light drink of water each month and a dose of light occasionally when we pop in for a tool and flip the switch.
Natural light never touches the fig through the winter. It’s dark 99% of the time and yet it wakes each February. Tiny yellow leaves emerge from the ends of the branches. The growth is weak but it tells me all I need to know this time of year. It is the sweetest reassurance from a plant with some of the sweetest fruit.
This quiet dose of hope greases the gardening wheels. Ideas churn, anticipation builds. The days are getting longer, the light outside brighter. An earthy fragrance captures the air. Before long, the fig will rise from its underground winter lair to drink in the light it was deprived for all those months. Winter will be nothing more than a distant memory.
Sometime in late March/early April, I’ll start acclimating the fig outside in much the way you would harden off young seedlings. An hour in a shaded spot the first day, tacking on an additional hour each day and a bit more sunlight until it’s ready to take up residence in the vegetable garden where it’ll hold court among the cucamelons, tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, cucumbers and zucchini. Good days are ahead.
Check out Here She Grows on YouTube for more on growing Chicago Hardy Figs and so much more!