Friday, June 4, 2010


Those of you who are gardeners will recognize these frightful words that you see stamped in ALL CAPS over a description of an item in a seed or plant catalog. For the non-gardeners: the catalog is put together early in the season when the growers have just started their crops which are expected to be ready for sale around the time when the catalog is already printed. By then it's too late to remove the item description of anything that didn't take, so "CROP FAILURE" is stamped across it. Among us gardeners, it elicits a little gasp, maybe a tisk, and sinking feeling in the stomach. CROP FAILURE! The WHOLE crop!? My God.

Well, it's worse when it's your own CROP FAILURE in your own garden, I can tell you. I've been pampering a Negronne fig tree for two years now. There are so many romantic notions about growing one's own food, and in some ways it is indeed romantic and absolutely fulfilling, joyful and wonderful. But sometimes it's just plain hard, a terribly frustrating struggle against forces you sometimes can't see, understand or control, especially with fruit. A veggie garden is one thing; fruit trees are an endeavor only for the very knowledgeable and tough-spirited. I don't quite have a handle on either of those yet, despite the fact that I now boast 11 different kinds of fruit trees in my little homestead, plus raspberries, two kinds of blackberries and three kinds of table grapes, all of which are a breeze by comparison.

Figs are not hardy here so I planted my Negronne in a huge pot and put it on wheels so it can be rolled into the house for the winter where it renders an entire room unusable. Once spring temps have warmed enough, it gets rolled out -- thunking and clunking, catching and lurching over the threshold -- Don't break a limb! Don't knock a fig off! That branch is caught behind the door frame! -- to the south facing patio for the day, and must be rolled back in -- Don't break a limb! Don't knock a fig off! That branch is caught behind the door frame! -- for the night. Then when we reach summer temps, it can be left out overnight, residing on the patio until fall, when I have to verrrry carefully watch the weather because if I fail to roll the tree back inside a single night that gets too chilly, the tree gets zapped. Dead. DEAD. A bit ridiculous, you say? Ever had a fresh fig plucked right from the tree? Seen figs in the grocery store lately in GJ? Yeah, it's worth it.

All this past winter we've been watching the tree's first crop -- FIRST CROP! -- develop oh so slowly, swelling and plumping and fattening into bright green bulbs that promised to be huge, luscious, sweet, seductive, juicy....
From dirt & dogs

There were 13 of them. I recounted them a few times during the winter just to be sure. Thirteen figs! Do you realize what that means? Ten for me and three for Greg!

So, a whole winter of babying this tree, anticipating with watering mouths a crop of thirteen extremely precious figs. Greg has never even HAD a fresh fig! In the last week they had started showing some color, reddening toward the deep chocolatey-purpley brown that they would soon become when they ripened in mid June, a mere couple of weeks away.

And then the wind blew.

It turns out -- Who knew? Not me. -- that figs are fussy. Persnickety. Fragile. Finnicky. Temperamental. One garden forum even says they have sexual problems. Yes, I'm certain I was on a garden forum. Something about not being able to be pollinated because a fig is in fact an inside out flower; the flower parts are the inside of the fruit. For a plant, that constitutes a sexual problem. Anyway, aside from many other little quirks and idiosyncrasies, figs don't like wind. So when the wind blows -- ok, if it's really windy, which it was -- THE TREE WILL ABORT ITS WHOLE CROP. As my tree is now doing, starting with shriveling.

From dirt & dogs

There will be not thirteen figs this June, not even just the ten for me. Just like that, there will be no figs -- NO FIGS -- this year. This CROP FAILURE means it will be another YEAR before we can try again to have fresh, succulent figs picked right from the tree. It makes my stomach hurt, even more so than eating too many figs.


  1. Oh Trina, I do understand your plight. What a bummer. We lost two papaya trees with a total of 30 maturing fruits this last winter. We grew them from seed!!! It is heartbreaking. We are thinking of building a greenhouse and trying again.Take Greg to Georgia in the fall and you can pick figs and fill up on them. It is worth the trip. You made my mouth water with your description. Our papaya's looked sort of like your melted figs.

  2. Arg! Thats exactly how I thought they would look. All pathetic and shrivled up. How can you ever be happy with a pair like that Trina? Figs Out!