During the winter, I think about:
1. Fig cuttings
2. Bareroots (next article)
3. Repotting (next article)
I live in Seattle, WA, also known as the Pacific Northwest (PNW). The timing of when fig trees go dormant and wake up depends on climate and location. For us, fig cuttings are taken anytime now in January to March. When figs leaf out in April, we stop taking cuttings and start on air-layering. I’ll make a different article on just air-layering. What are desirable cuttings? What are good or bad cuttings?
Number of Nodes: Three-nods minimal, why three? usually, two-node is below the soil and one-node is above. We have some professional rooters doing two-node and even one-node cuttings just as easy. That is not what we decide as the person trimming the cutting. We simply send a good cutting that even a newbie can root. If the recipient decides to trim it into smaller cuttings then that up to them. More nodes per cutting are always better!
Length: Preferrable six to eight inches long with three or more nodes per cutting. I have seen short cuttings with really close nodes. And, extra-long cuttings with far spacing nodes. But then again, some consider twelve inches cutting a good standard. When the cutting is too long, I might cut it into smaller cuttings. When it’s extra-long cutting with only three-node, expert rooters can do the one-node cuttings. It just better to air-layer the branch if the nodes are extremely far apart. It is not impossible to root, just a little more challenging for some people like me.
Thickness: Preferable size are pencil-thick, sharpy-thick cuttings are even better! Thinner than pencil-thick, we call them skinny cuttings. Even skinny cuttings can root, probably better for grafting. And, not everyone is a grafter so don’t assume and send skinny cuttings. For trades, if you are not so sure if the other person will like it, just be honest. Take a photo and show them before you ship. Often, most issues can be avoided if we are upfront about it. The key to avoiding disappointment is communication to clear any unrealistic expectations! On Harvey’s Figaholics website, on some varieties, I believe it was White Madeira #1, he offers a smaller diameter for grafting and thicker cuttings for rooting. Some of us might not like log cuttings because it looks intimidating! Log cuttings just take longer to root. I think fig cuttings sold online should show the actual cuttings for sale with a ruler or something to compare for size. Buyers don’t like surprises! A photo of the ripe fruit that belongs to them, not a borrrowed photo is preferred. The exception is Harvey’s Figaholics, he sets the standard for us. His website list the variety, price, information, photos, and videos of his fruits. He doesn’t need to show us how each cutting will look. Harvey’s cuttings are the gold standard!
Lignified or Semi-lignified: I personally prefer lignified cuttings. Semi-lignified cuttings root just as easy. When we say green cuttings, we mean soft tip cuttings. Green cuttings don’t seem to stay well in storage as long as lignified cuttings. And, should be rooted as soon as possible. These soft tips. tend to die back in my area. After April, when we are safe from the last date of frost I often go through and prune off these frost damage tips.
Quality: Last winter some of my baby figs were in my greenhouse. By Spring I saw mice had chew at my citruses and figs. There was no point in crying. I simply trim off all the damage and hope for it to come back from its own roots. Now, at the start of winter, I already have fig trees, whose barks have been completely chewed off! As my heart breaks, the wound is too large to seal over. Once again, I have chosen to cut back to the top of the soil line and start over again. It hurts more to prune to the soil line on a mature tree. Some of my smaller trees show signs of tiny bite marks, in time will heal over. I bring this up because I know some people question minor color discoloration or little marks on cuttings. I think we prefer no damage, but most often we are putting these cuttings below the soil line where these marks are not even seen! And, if we are particular when the cutting takes we can always air layer or make other cuttings from the tree. Simply put, we shouldn’t be so particular about little things because as long as a cutting is fresh. The technique of rooting is a more important factor in successful rooting.
Disinfecting: As a standard practice, the person receiving the cuttings should always disinfect the cuttings with hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and or dish soap. Some people use a toothbrush to lightly clean before they root. I’m probably one of those particular people but lucky my husband does all the rooting.
Packing, Sealing, and Labelling: Last year, I made a video about how I love parafilm-wrapped fig cuttings. It’s beautiful to see them wrapped so neatly. The key is to stretch when you wrap. I love to send parafilm-wrapped cuttings but I can never seem to find them when I need them. Instead, I use kitchen ziplock bags. I was really impressed by 2AngelsMushrooms food-grade cheese wax sealed ends, it smelled lovely. Some of us use wet paint markers to write on the cuttings themselves. You would want to label as you cut the branches. I get easily distracted so I write the variety name on the ziplock before I trim. This reduces the chances of mislabelling.
Storage: For people in PNW most cuttings are received in January and stored until March/ April before rooting or grafting outside. Last year, one of my mistakes was improper storage. I usually store my cuttings on the lowest shelf and I failed to repack them to be airtight before storing. Even parafilm is not airtight, some developed mold by the time I rooted them. Once you receive your cuttings some start rooting indoors ASAP. The success rate of rooting of cuttings declines as it gets dried out. Some people quickly, dehydrate their cuttings before rooting.
Shipping: Avoid shipping during the peak holiday season. Before Christmas, everyone is shipping presents! I ship my cuttings out right after New Years’. This year USPS informed it was delayed by 3-4 weeks. And, when I sent it after New Years’, on January 2nd, packages of 2-day shipping arrived a few days later on top of that it must have passed by some freezing areas. The cuttings arrived a little dry and not the best. It was in a bubble pack mailer. In this particular case, the receiver trimmed the ends and they were still fresh and green inside. I strongly recommend waiting after January 15th or later. Someone who had sent me a package on December 27, as of today January 6, 2021, was still Pre-Shipment Info Sent to USPS, USPS Awaiting Item status. That local USPS office was backed up. Oddly, that local USPS office was on time with the package I had sent to this person. Apparently, their local delivery mails were not as backed up at their mail going out. At this rate, I figure I’ll get it hopefully by end of January. I hope the cuttings are still good to use. I see no point in rushing the person to sent me another set of cuttings, it will still be stuck in pre-shipment, which means allowing time for USPS to catches up.
Issues: If any point cuttings arrived not as expected. It’s best to communicate. Like in my case, I wouldn’t have known the cuttings arrived less than I shipped. During trades/sales we all want to be happy. Sometimes, things happen out of our control like shipping delays or like damage due to weather. When conflict arises let’s not quickly assume, we should treat others as we wish to be treated. If we were the other person wouldn’t we want an opportunity to explain and fix it? We are all human, we do make mistakes. It’s about how we work it out.
Scammers: Finally, those who purposely send the wrong variety or never send you what they promised. I remember I had one person who kept on making promises but never intended to keep their promise. After trying again and again months go by waiting. Let’s be clear, mistakes happen, not a scammer if they offer a solution. In another situation, was promised an air layer that is been over a year long. I can quickly assume, but I chose to talk to them. They tried air layering but it failed or the tree didn’t grow as they assumed and couldn’t be air layered. Recently, I contacted the person, the person explained several of their trees died. So I was offered another variety of rooted plants as a replacement. And, that ok, they offered me a solution. In another situation, my air layer is still just a promise. I reached out to them recently but have not heard back. I really don’t want to say someone is a scammer. Each situation taught me it is always best to actually trade/sale when you have either cuttings or air layers ready to be shipped. Yes, we can always talk about I can air layer you this but it’s based on making a promise on a successful air layer. There is always a risk, air layers fail and that means waiting another year for the right season to make air layers.
Bad Business Practice: Something caught my attention this winter. I saw newly made fig pops, sold as fig plants/trees just because it had a few young roots. It was sold locally as well as on our Fig Addiction Facebook group as fig pop. Since it was locally, I saw the listing on the Facebook marketplace and offer up being ship and sold as fig trees. It was really just a cutting that just barely made a few roots. Usually, the tree has to be stable well-rooted before shipping. Shipping these fig pops, the roots can easily break. The buyer may have received the fig pops, but when they go to look at the roots if they died shortly after the buyer probably would have preferred if they rooted themselves or buy a well-rooted plant elsewhere. And, it was even priced like one-gallon one-year-old plants. A fig pop tree was sold for $15 local pick up or $20 with shipping. You can probably find better-rooted trees from your local hardware store or local nursery. Sadly, this person does know what a well-rooted tree looks like, they are successful at making air layers. While this fig pop person is not a scammer, it only takes until May to ship out fig trees that would have been well-rooted. Let’s be clear, these fig pops are not fig trees yet. Last year, I made a video about fig plants that I bought on figbid and online, when I tried to repot it, the roots were not well-rooted. Some of these poorly rooted plants died shortly afterward. I talked to some local friends who also experienced poorly rooted fig plants it was discouraging to buy online so he decided to just buy locally from now on. There are some awesome online fig sellers who only send well-rooted plants. Trees too young to ship should not be sold or traded, only issues will arise.
When you have tried everything, maybe others on ourfigs.com or Facebook fig groups should know the names of these people so we can be cautious!