Saturday, June 17, 2017

Late spring update

Here are some pics showing the progression over time in one of our heated tunnels since the last update:

A couple of pics from the other heated tunnel:

And here's a look inside our unheated tunnels:

Monday, March 13, 2017

Early March Fig Update

As many of you know, we have been rapidly scaling up to handle an avalanche of advance orders that were placed last year, and are behind schedule on deliveries of fig trees and cuttings.  Here's where things currently stand: 

Many of the orders for our $7 tree sale were ready to start shipping out last week (if yours was ready, we emailed you), but had to be temporarily delayed because I was hobbled with a broken toe.  Temperatures have now dipped back down into the low 20's again, which prevents shipping, but are due to warm back up late this week, so shipping should commence next Monday.  Many of those $7 tree orders will be shipped out over the next few weeks, but the orders with the rarest varieties (Black Madeira, Figo Preto, I-258, etc) won't be ready until the end of spring.

Most of the orders that had estimated delivery dates of February/March won't be ready until late spring, and will be shipped then, but some won't be ready until late summer.  The orders that will take the longest are the ones containing Ponte Tresa, Galicia Negra, Genovese Nero (Rafed's), and a few others.

These delays are frustrating, but we will work through them.  Thankfully they are short-term issues that won't recur once we get fully up to speed.  The hard work of creating a large in-ground orchard, growing thousands of mother trees, building a bunch of new greenhouses, and installing a lot of electrical and water infrastructure has now been done; next year should go much smoother.

As for the fig trees themselves, they are doing well.  Below are some pics from one of our heated tunnels:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Figs in Early February

Here are some pics of the rooted trees being grown in our greenhouses this winter.  There are around 4,000 figs in rooting cups in these pics, and another 1,000 are about to be added.

We get many questions about when orders will be ready and whether we will ever be able to grow enough of the rare trees to fill everyone's orders.  The short answer is this: YES you will all get your orders soon!  Many of the $7 tree orders will start shipping out as soon as it gets warm enough, and even orders waiting on the very slowest growing varieties should be ready by the end of this spring (which is still 4 months away).  We will email you when your order is ready so that we can discuss shipping details and any possible substitutions you may want to make.

The variety we get asked about more than any other is Black Madeira, which was the #1 most ordered tree among our customers, so we'll use it as an example to demonstrate.  Our potted Black Madeiras started waking up a couple of weeks ago, and our in-ground ones just started waking up a couple of days ago.  Our current Black Madeira inventory is as follows:  5 in-ground in greenhouses, 5 in 7gal pots, 10 in 3gal pots, 18 well-rooted young trees that need up-potted, and 11 more that are rooting in humidity bins and are looking good.  Combined, that's 38 trees with a good shot at up to 49 very shortly (let's conservatively estimate 45).  That total is far short of what is needed to satisfy all of the Black Madeira orders to date, but that is about to change drastically in the next few months.

Since the growing season for these Black Madeiras has already begun, and since we should get 30+ cuttings per potted plant and 50-100 cuttings per in-ground tree over the next 4 months, we're on pace to have enough Black Madeira wood to provide around 1,500 cuttings by the last day of spring.  We won't put all of that wood toward cuttings, since some of it will be air-layered off along the way to help create more trees as quickly as possible, but the point is clear:  very soon we are going to cross a threshold and have more than enough material to fill all orders for trees and cuttings.  That's the power of exponential growth.  


Things are starting to proceed very fast here, and in the interest of doing our best to make sure that the endeavor succeeds, we have hired a professional horticulturist to work on-site for 5-10 hrs/wk.  He's got a lot of experience managing pro greenhouses and fairly large hydroponics systems (~150 containers), has collected and grown orchids as a side hobby, and currently works for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, so we think he's got a lot to contribute. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Winter Fig Propagation update

Here are some updated pics from our fig farm's winter operation.  The first pic shows the progress we're making on a 2nd 'grow room' area.  All of the grow lights in this area should be operational by late tonight or tomorrow: 

The rest of the pics are from a neighboring tunnel that already has grow lights wired up.  The newly rooted baby trees are flourishing under the grow lights, and the established trees in 3gal pots that had previously slipped into dormancy are breaking out now, too:

Yesterday I checked on the 1,200 3gal trees that are overwintering in some other tunnels, and they were all alive and well.  They have all slipped into dormancy now, but with temps soaring into the 50F-55F range outside over the next week, I suspect they're going to start waking up very soon.  When they do, they will grow very fast, and should yield a large crop of air-layers (and some hardwood cuttings below the air-layers) by sometime in March.  Those air-layers, along with the thousands of rooted cuttings that we're growing right now, should be enough to cover the large majority of trees that have been pre-ordered.  So as soon as it gets warm enough to start shipping trees this spring, there will be a lot of boxing and shipping going on.

It should be noted, though, that there are some varieties that were in especially high demand and have been slow growers.  These will be delayed beyond March (possibly until late summer?) and include:

Figo Preto
Maltese Beauty
Bass' Favorite
Galicia Negra
Ponte Tresa
Martinenca Rimada

If you have a chance to get any of those varieties at a good price from another trusted source, I would urge you to do so.  All of those varieties are worth having more than one of, so if you can get a good deal on any of them, I'd jump on it.  Then when our trees arrive at your door, you'll already have backups of some of the best (and most expensive!) varieties.

Regarding cuttings:  in an effort to save tons of soft green wood that is usually lost, I am pursuing a strategy of air-layering just below the lignified/green boundary.  The goal is to save all of the green wood by having it remain as the top of the air-layered tree after it is separated from the mother tree, and to then be able to harvest lignified cuttings from the mother tree beneath where the air-layer was removed.  This means that many cuttings won't be able to be harvested until the air-layers can be removed in March.

Cuttings season was further complicated by the fact that our trees slipped into dormancy at many different times due to having about 6 or 8 different types of environments (outdoor versus indoor; heated tunnels versus unheated tunnels; pit greenhouses versus above-ground greenhouses).  Since all cuttings have to be ready at the same time for them to be shipped out together in orders, and since I want all cuttings to be fresh when they're shipped, the options were to either leave them all on the trees (where they could be damaged, depending on the environment), to prune and refrigerate them (which contradicts my desire for freshness), or to prune them and plow them back into the propagation operation.  I decided on the last option because it seemed like a good way to save and create more wood while still preserving the original cutting; that is, once the green top of the resulting rooted tree is air-layered off, the original lignified cutting (now a baby tree trunk) can be reclaimed.

Some people who live in exceptionally hot areas have asked that I send their trees right now so that they can get established in-ground before the intense heat arrives and kills them.  Most of these trees aren't ready yet, though, and the ones that are maybe ready are still tiny and would probably get beaten down by the elements if they were planted outside right now.  Since it may be too hot to plant the trees later this spring/summer, I am open to the option of growing the plants here for those people, and then shipping the resulting bigger trees later in the season if the person is willing to pay the extra shipping cost involved with shipping bigger trees.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Building more fig space

Here's a new area we've just built. These tables have enough room to hold 3,000 young fig plants, and the space under the tables is enough to hold 4,000+ cupped up figs in humidity bins. The plan is to run 2x4 boards across the top and hang grow lights from them. We have 50 humidity bins stacked up in our house eagerly waiting for this space :)

We experienced a deep freeze about 3 weeks ago where we got down to around -6F, which caused the young trees and cuttings in this area to be frosted (the ones floating in the swimming pools were not frosted because of all that bottom heat). At the time, we didn't have any more electrical capacity to heat with; we were already maxed out. So we hired an electrician who replaced our 100 Amp breaker box with a 200 Amp version and added some more outlets. Now we have the ability to heat this area and keep it well above frost even on the coldest nights. And on a positive note: the plants that were frosted have rebounded and pushed out new leaves, so it looks like they'll make a full recovery.

Here are some updated pics from some of the figs growing under grow lights in another tunnel:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Growing Figs Under Grow Lights

Lately we've been rigging up lighting to help the fig trees grow faster and better over the winter months.  The tunnel greenhouse below has 28 shop light fixtures, each of which is 4ft long and holds two T8 bulbs.  The bulbs are 32W, so their combined power usage in this tunnel is just under 1,800 Watts.

Most of the bulbs are 6500K, some are 5000K, and two fixtures have purple "Gro-Lux" bulbs.

The big tubs that I use as humidity bins, like the one with black handles below, hold around 40 figs each.  I currently have around 50 of these tubs filled with around 2,000 total cuttings in various stages of rooting.

After the cuttings in the humidity bins start to show roots, I move them into shorter tubs that only hold 24 cups; that way the baby fig trees can get a bit more space and light, and the humidity bin can be refilled with the next batch of cuttings.