Muzychko living the fig life in Flemington
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Bill Muzychko of Bill’s Figs in Flemington has been growing and selling figs, fig trees and pots in which to raise fig trees for more than a dozen years.
Muzychko delivered an information-packed slide presentation and talk about the challenges and rewards of growing fig trees at the Niche Crop Session at the New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show in February.
“It’s surprising I grow this many figs and I live in Flemington, New Jersey,” Muzychko told farmers., “but there’s a reason.”
Muzychko keeps his fig trees in carefully covered soil pots and has wagons to move the heavy pots in and out of his barns and garage each winter and spring.
“I get about 250 figs off of my trees,” he said, showing slides of 6-year-old trees and 1-year-old trees.
He told the audience they can expect about a dozen figs the first year, about 30 the second year and the third year a yield of about 60.
Early on in his fig growing adventure, he learned not to plant the cold-sensitive trees in the ground, at least not in New Jersey.
He grows about 180 varieties of figs at his 3-acre farm.
He showed more slides with barns holding as many as 1,400 fig trees.
“You don’t want to put the trees in the ground, they only grow well up to freezing temperatures. Any colder than that, they will die off, and it’s a disaster. So I put them in the garage (and some storage barns) for winter,” he said.
Each fig pot holds about three gallons of water and he irrigates his trees through a system of fill pipes, noting there’s only one hole on the bottom of each pot.
“Figs have to be dry on top and wet down the bottom,” he said, adding, “my fig trees go through about two gallons of water a day. That’s an awful lot of water, but that’s how they survive.
“In summer when I water them on a daily basis, the water comes in through the bottom of the pots,”
His pots are 24 inches wide by 16 inches tall.
Muzychko said he uses a series of timers to get the water into the pots in timely fashion and noted the trees prefer higher PH soil, about 7.8 or 7.9, “so we have to put lime in the soil, and I add about six pounds of lime for each of the fig trees to raise the PH.
“The other thing I do is add 8 ounces of 14-14-14 fertilizer into the potted plants,” Muzychko said, while noting it is time-released over a period of months.
The roots of a healthy fig tree will be showing on the surface of the potted plants, he said, noting he also trims his fig trees down while they’re in the indoor barns for winter.
“Every year we trim the trees down. After you put it away, it has to drop in size from one-quarter to a third. You get rid of all the excess branches, because all your figs come off new growth,” Muzychko said. In response to a question, he said he recommends pruning fig trees “any time it is cold, which could be October, November, December, January, February or March. In the past I would do my pruning in November, but you can do your pruning in March.”
In regard to harvesting his more than 1,500 fig trees, Muzychko said he picks fresh figs from his trees — all set out in full sunlight — every year in August, September and into early October.
For smaller farmers or backyard vegetable and fruit growers with space in a garage or greenhouse, “fig trees are easy to grow. I get about 70 to 80 percent success rate out of every plant.”
Asked how his obsession with growing figs began, Muzychko said that it all started out innocently enough.
“About 15 years ago I was driving along a road and saw a guy selling figs. I bought two fig trees, a Brown Turkey and a Celeste, and I came up with a pot almost immediately. Then I went all around New Jersey and got all the figs I could find from around here,” he said.
“Now, most of the figs I grow come from San Diego. I recently had shipped back probably 200 figs from there and I grew all of them. There are about 1,200 different types of fig trees,” he said. “Farmers in the Garden State “want to avoid those [varieties of] trees that only grow in much warmer climates.”
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925