Position – This tree loves a wet spot and full sun, so it thrives on the banks of streams or rivers. Plant it about 4 or 5 metres away from other trees, walls or paving. If you live in a humid area, choose a spot with plenty of air circulation to keep things a little drier.
Size – Cape figs reach a height and width of 2.5 to 4 metres when they are mature, which takes about 10 years.
Soil Type – They key to growing southern black figs is well-draining soil that doesn’t hold onto too much water. It can grow in clay, loam or sand, and even in rocky soil; as long as it doesn’t become waterlogged. They prefer a slightly alkaline soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.8.
Mulch – Apply organic mulch in July. A mixture of bone meal and compost works very well. This supplies enough nitrogen to the plant when it needs to start producing fruits.
Watering – Water your tree well in the early part of the season (September to December), about twice a week. Once the fruits arrive, usually around December to February, reduce your watering to once every week or two. Too much water will result in fruits that taste bland. The secret is to be consistent about watering your tree. Choose a day every week or two and always water on that day.
Fertilising – Fertilise your Cape black fig in September, as spring starts, with a 7.1.3 fertiliser. Follow that with well-rotted manure. During the season, keep on fertilising your fig tree until about February.
Pruning – Southern black fig trees should be pruned during the dormant period, when the leaves have fallen off the tree (usually just before spring). Use clean cuts to remove weak and thin branches. When cutting secondary branches from the main trunk, leave a little shoulder of each (rather than cutting them off right against the trunk). Cut off all branches that cross each other. Ensure that your main trunk and branches have enough leaf cover to prevent sunburn on the bark.
Harvesting – Figs don’t ripen once they have been plucked, so ensure that they’re ready before you pick them. They should be slightly soft to the touch. Ripe figs will begin to droop and may have a drop of nectar coming out of the bottom. Always use secateurs to remove your figs instead of pulling them off.