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Originally published Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:05 PM

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In the Garden

Fig trees are easy to grow and offer garden beauty and fruit

Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, offers tips on growing a fig tree; keeping young trees tethered while they acclimate to their new environment; and using lime on the lawn.

Special to The Seattle Times

Bite into a warm juicy fig, picked fresh off the tree, and I guarantee you'll want to grow a fig tree in your garden. A wide variety of bareroot fig trees will soon be available at local nurseries and mail-order catalogs. Besides the tasty fruit, these trees add a tropical flavor to your garden with their large lobed leaves and gnarled trunks.

These fast-growing beautiful trees can reach their ultimate height of 15-30 feet tall in about five years. Plant your fig in the sunniest spot you can find or train it against a south wall. Cut the tree to about 2 feet tall when you plant it.

Figs are easy to prune, you can cut hard to keep it small, or let it grow large and prune only lightly to shape and remove crossing branches. Fertilize sparingly near your tree and avoid cultivating around the roots. Flavor varies greatly between varieties. Visit www.raintreenursery.com for detailed descriptions of delicious figs that do well in our area.

Trees don't like

to wear girdles

Only stake a newly planted tree if it's in a location where strong winds will cause the tree to rock or blow over.

Use sturdy stakes and fasten the tree to them with soft strong materials such as a bicycle inner tube or piece of nylon stocking. Tie loops rather than wrapping the ties tightly around the trunk.

Tie the supports as low as possible on the tree, never more than two-thirds of the way up the trunk. That will allow the trunk to flex in the wind, necessary for establishment of a healthy root system and development of a strong well-tapered trunk. Stakes are usually only needed for about a year, and if left on too long, can result in a weak, poorly established tree.

Occasionally test to see if stakes are still needed by rocking the trunk; then remove them if the roots stay steady.

The worst thing is to leave ties on the tree too long. As the trunk grows in width, the ties can girdle a trunk by becoming so tight they block nutrient flow to the roots, resulting in a swollen build up above the point of constriction.

Eventually the tie will cut into the bark, and end up enveloped inside the trunk. Once that happens you're better off removing the tree. If it doesn't die from root starvation, there will always be the danger that the tree might break at the weak spot where it was tied.

Apply lime now

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to your lawn

There is a much-believed myth that applying lime to your lawn will kill moss. It won't. Only products labeled for moss control will accomplish that goal. The reason to apply lime is to encourage a thick, vigorous stand of grass that will be better equipped to compete with moss once it's been removed.

Applying lime provides calcium, a nutrient required for healthy turf growth that is often lacking in Western Washington soils. Applying lime also raises soil pH, creating a better environment for nutrient uptake.

Midwinter is the ideal time to apply lime because harsh winter weather helps break the limestone down to make it available for spring growth.

The only way to know exactly how much lime your soil needs is to have a soil test done. (Look up "Soil Testing" in the Yellow Pages or do a search on your computer.) In lieu of a test, the general rule is to apply 30 pounds of agricultural lime on your lawn every five years.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com. "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About In the Garden

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.
ciscoe@ciscoe.com

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