Thursday, March 31, 2016

Have You Really Seen a Fig Flower?

Fig. 1    Parts of a Fig Branch.

One of the trick questions that I like to ask people regarding fig plants is: Have you ever seen a fig flower? The response I get is usually a quizzical look.  Of course! Why ask the question?  Doesn't everyone know?   

If you are looking for colorful petals where bees and butterflies land to get nectar and pollen then you are wasting your time.  The fig is different from most plants in that it produces a syconium.  The flowers are hidden inside and can only be seen by a special wasp that can enter the fruit through the ostiole (Fig. 2).  When the fruit starts to develop we only see the ovary as a syconium wall where all multiple flowers are fused together (Fig. 3). The flowers are facing inside - a characteristic of syconiun.  Imagine a fussy sock with a very tiny opening that is turned inside out.  That is how fig flowers are.  The pollination happens inside with the aid of a tiny fig wasp.  What happens to the wasp is another story. :)

Fig 2     The Ostiole: the entrance for the wasp.

Fig. 3     Cross-section of the fig syconium

Several years ago my fascination about the fig plant and it's fruit led me to write about it and buy my own fig trees.  Because of the uniqueness of the fig, even after so many years, I still am intrigued by it.  And with my own fig plants being close view from my kitchen, the scrutiny is even more intense.
So I thought that figs just bear fruits and we harvest them as they mature.  But recently I read some literature that a normal fig plant bears three crops of syconia in a given year.   And each crop has a name of its own.

Types of Syconia

1.   Mamme - .  These are the fruits remaining on the tree after the leaves have fallen off late in the fall and over winters in the tree and ripen in spring (Fig. 4).
2.  Profichi - .  These are the fruits that develop in early spring and ripen in early summer (Fig. 5).
3.   Mammoni - These are the second wave of edible fruits of the year which ripen in fall.

Fig. 4       Mamme:  The fruits that over winter on the tree

Fig. 5     Profichi. The first new fruits of the year

Every plant holds a mystery that awaits discovery.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gardening Begins Again

It’s been raining a lot this week!  With the temperature warming up at the same time, plants are rushing to come back from their winter break.  Leaves are rapidly growing - changing the gray landscape to vibrant green once again.   Life is back!  For the angiosperms – also known as flowering plants - it’s show time! 

But while we watch the rebirth in plants, it is also time consider the work that needs to be done at this time in the garden in order to prolong the show that just begun.   Here’s my to-do-list of activities this month.  It’s kind of short because I will be on vacation for a few days – this is realistic and doable.

Activities for March

Replenish soil nutrients   An application of balanced fertilizer such as 15-15-15, 16-16-16, 10-10-10, or even the organic version 5-5-5 to perennial plants, shrubs and trees, groundcover and lawn is a good thing to do at this time.

Increase soil organic matter content A distinguishing characteristic of a poor soil is low in organic matter.  Invest in good compost (including decomposed animal manure) to apply throughout the cultivated areas of your garden every year.   You can either purchase or make your own compost.  If you have not done composting before, this is a good time to try it. 

Pull out weeds.   Pull them out when you see them.  There is no better time to control weeds other than before they use up some resources meant for your plant and before they produce seeds. 

Check irrigation system.   Make sure the system is working before we need to turn them on again.  In this area, where we do not have the luxury of regular rainfall, irrigation system is the lifeline of the garden during late spring all the way to fall.  In addition to that, we want to continue to consciously conserve and use water efficiently.   Drought might be over for a while but we need to get into the habit of conserving our natural resources.

Plant annuals In my case I’m planting some vegetables such as radishes (‘French Breakfast’ and ‘Cherry Belle’), chard, and Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia Torch).   I intend to plant other warm-season veggies but not yet.  However, if you want to harvest tomatoes early, you can plant them now – make sure to protect them from late frost.  The problem with planting too early is that they sit there in the garden without showing any significant growth for a long time and that only prolongs their  exposure to pests while they’re vulnerable.

Clean and Fertilize Plants in Containers  Remove all dead stems and leaves.  Prune if necessary.   Apply a side-dressing of fresh potting soil with a little bit of complete fertilizer to boost initial growth.  Apply another dose of complete fertilizer again after the first month of growth. 

Stroll in your's good for you.
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