Black Jack FigFicus carica ‘Black Jack’
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Ficus carica ‘Black Jack’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Black Jack Fig is a compact deciduous bush that can easily be kept to 6 feet tall and wide, with some simple pruning. Left unpruned it is still small, growing to no more than 12 or 15 feet tall. It has large lobed leaves that are very ornamental, and produces a heavy crop of fruit in August or September. In hot zones it can produce an early crop in June as well. Figs ripened on the bush are delicious, and totally different from dried figs, or even fresh figs from the store. Give your family delicious treats and enjoy figs at their best with this top-quality variety.
Full sun is best if you want a good crop from your Black Jack Fig. Plant it in well-drained soil, without adding any organic materials – it enjoys rocky and gravel soils too. Water regularly until established, and after that only if you see leaves beginning to yellow in summer – it has good drought resistance. Pests and diseases are rare, and no special care is needed. Prune as you wish in early spring, to allow fruit to develop on the new branches.
Nothing beats the taste of a sun-ripened fig. If you have never eaten fresh figs, you have a big pleasure awaiting you, and to enjoy it at its greatest height, the fig should be brought to perfection in the heat of summer, and be growing in your garden, so you can enjoy it still warm from those golden rays. When growing your own, though, garden space can be a problem, as most fig trees grow very large, very quickly. That’s where the Black Jack Fig comes into the picture. This variety, closely related to the ‘Brown Turkey’ Fig, is very compact, and it’s easy to keep it to around 6 feet tall – perfect for a smaller garden. Grow it on a sunny wall – the best way to grow figs in cooler areas – and it takes up almost no space at all, the perfect solution. It’s a perfect fig too, dark skin surrounding deep-pink flesh that is juicy and delicious. The unique flavor of figs, eaten fresh or sliced into salads, is a highlight of summer eating, and this is your chance to enjoy it right from your own garden. This is one black-jack that is no gamble at all.
The Black Jack Fig is a compact variety of fig, which can be grown in several different ways. You can plant it and leave it to grow naturally, in which case it will be 12 to 15 feet tall and wide. With some annual pruning it can be kept to around 6 feet tall and wide. Or, you can spread it out on a wall, where it takes up no garden footage at all – and thrives. The stems are thick but flexible, with a smooth, light-gray bark that becomes rougher with age. The leaves are large, up to 10 inches across, and very ornamental. They are deeply divided into 3 or 5 lobes, and each lobe has rounded, divided edges, giving a decorative effect that makes this tree an ornamental part of your garden – as well as productive.
The fruit of the fig is unique among plants, because the flowers are inside it, not outside. It is a bowl filled with tiny blossoms, turned outside in. In nature figs are pollinated by tiny wasps, but garden figs need no pollination. They are all female, and without pollination there are no seeds, so the flesh inside is soft and delicious. When ripe the outside is a deep purple-brown, and inside is a white layer, containing the bright pink center. Fresh figs have a delicate aroma and a unique and subtle flavor very different from the heavy sweetness of dried figs – it’s like a totally different fruit. The Black Jack Fig usually has one crop a year, ripening sometime in August or September. In hot areas you may get two crops – an early one from tiny fruits that stay on the tree through the winter, ripening in June, and a later one from fruits that form on new branches, and ripen in fall. Figs are ready to harvest when they are deep purple and when the neck (where they join the tree) begins to soften and sag. It is definitely worth waiting for that moment, to enjoy their true glory.
There are several different ways to grow the Black Jack Fig in your garden. You can simply plant it, allowing enough room for its development, and let it grow. You can plant it in a smaller space, or in a container, if you plan to prune it, which will keep it much smaller. You can also grow it planted at the foot of a sunny wall, and spread out the branches, tying it to the wall. This method is a good choice in zone 7, and will give much larger crops, and better ripening.
The Black Jack Fig is hardy in zone 7, and in all warmer zones. It thrives in areas with lots of sun and enjoys dry summers. If you have it in a container in zone 7, place the pot in a cold shed or unheated garage for the coldest months of the year, keeping the soil dry.
Although it will grow in a little shade, full sun is far better for the Black Jack Fig, as bushes may never form fruit if it is too shady. It grows well in all well-drained soils, and does best in poor, sandy or gravel soils. Rich soils will produce plenty of growth, but little fruit. If your garden soil is rich, build a box with some old paving slabs, set into the ground. Replace the soil with a mix of 2 parts your garden soil and 1 part coarse sand or fine gravel. This ‘poorer’ soil will control growth and encourage fruiting.
The Black JackFig is normally free of pests or diseases, and it doesn’t need fertilizer, except if grown in a container. Water young plants regularly, until they are established. Although this tree is very drought resistant, if it becomes too dry and leaves or developing fruits begin to drop, soak it deeply. To keep it smaller, prune in early spring, removing tall branches, or cutting them back by around half.
The fig tree, Ficus carica, has been grown by humans for thousands of years, mostly in countries around the Mediterranean. The Spanish missionaries who settled the south-west brought branches with them, and it was probably from one of these, or from branches brought by Italian settlers, the variety called ‘California Brown Turkey’ arose. We don’t know the story of the plant called Black Jack, but it seems to have been a plant simply found by an unknown gardener. Most experts think it is a seedling of ‘California Brown Turkey’.
Figs are great plants for your garden, because they are fast-growing, easy to grow, and attractive. The wonderful fresh fruit is almost a bonus – but an excellent one, and incredibly tasty. If you haven’t eaten a fresh, garden-ripened fig, you are in for a treat. If you have, you will love this juicy and delicious variety. Order now, because figs are only produced by specialist nurseries, and always in short supply.