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Fig Trial At The Learning Fields

Submitted by Susan Randolph

As humans we learn not by our successes in life but by our mistakes or at least that has been the case for me.

The original thought of a fig trial came about by one of those life lessons of failure.

This lesson started when I purchased 2 health fig trees for $60 from a big box store. Both figs had beautiful Italian names that I should have tagged onto the trees which wasn't done, and I promptly forgot the names.

The trees loved the Arkansas heat and grew happily that summer, while I watched and planed what I would do with all the fresh figs that would be produced. Arkansas has fairly mild winters and that year was no exception with night time lows averaging 39 degrees with a few that dipped down to freezing. Spring arrived and I waited for the trees to put out, waited and waited till July when I finally admitted both trees were dead. The fig trees with beautiful Italian names were never meant to be planted in Arkansas.

I didn't take the failure well. I repeated my story of we to friends and a few unsuspecting strangers that innocently asked how I was doing.

Each time at the end of my rant I would say, "Why hasn't anyone gathered the information to tell us what fig trees will live and produce in Arkansas?" I finally listened to what I was saying and realized I can be that person.

The Learning Fields Fig Trial was created from that failure.

LSU provided cuttings to start the trial. I managed to destroy most of those first cuttings by following instructions from the internet Another lesson learned the hard way. Fig cuttings like a dry environment not a mist bench. Second never follow instructions for what works in the tropics or Australia if you live in Arkansas, Some of the LSU cuttings survived despite my mumbling mistakes.

One good thing came from surfing on the internet, I met Charlie Little. Charlie lives in Arkansas and once I explained the trial he shared the information with fig people in the "Fig 4 Fun" group. The fig people sent cuttings for the trial. Charlie also donated his UC Davis fig cuttings to the trial.

Spring 2015 we planted the first 40 fig trees in the trial orchard. Spring 2016 another 40 varieties of fig trees were added.

Drip irrigation is used on the trees in the summer. Once dormant in winter mulch is applied around the base of each tree. In 2017 I also started dressing the base with oyster shell since fig trees love limestone. The winter of 2017 we had 30 straight nights of freezing temperatures and one night temps dropped to 9 degrees and held there most of the night.

I was sure most, if not all of the fig trees had been lost but spring 2018 finally arrived and 67 of the 80 trees put back up from the roots and many produced fruit.

The plan for the 10 year trial will be to post information as it occurs on this site, and publish the data in 2020 and a final report 2025

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