Fig trees, podocarpus trees and blossom end root

Iwould like to plant a few fig trees. I want to know what I’m getting into with the figs. What problems can I anticipate? Are they susceptible to many pests like some of my other fruit trees?

There are a couple of potential problems with figs.

Perhaps the worst is birds attacking the ripening fruit. Placing bird netting over the tree is the easiest and surest way of keeping them out. Plastic owls, hawks, snakes along with balloons and iridescent foils work for a while, but usually, the birds grow accustomed to them.

Figs are also a fruit fly host; the brown turkey variety is reported to be less susceptible than White Kadota.

In addition, a fungus disease called fig rust might attack the leaves; it first appears as small, yellowish-orange spots on the leaves. These spots are covered with rust spores. Severely infected leaves turn yellow-brown and drop. The disease can cause a complete defoliation of the tree. Yet, infected trees will eventually sprout new leaves. Fig rust is not fatal, but repeated leaf drop can weaken the plant and reduce size and quality of the fruit. Unfortunately, the more rainfall, the more of a problem the rust will be.

Another fungus can cause black or brown spots on the fruit.

Again, the severity is dependent upon the amount of rain.

Hi Nick, I’ve had to severely prune some podocarpus trees. All that’s remaining are trunks about 6 feet tall, 6 inches diameter and a few spindly lower branches. I want to stimulate new branch growth from the trunk. Can I maybe do this by making small nicks to the trunk with the chain saw or machete? If so, which?

Are there any chemical similar to root dip but for branches? Any particular fertilizers? Thanks, Jeff

I think you already stimulated the tree to set forth new buds and, therefore, encourage new branches to grow. These trees take pruning very well, and if healthy, they should recover nicely on their own. Do not put any more cuts into the tree.

Unless the tree’s color was a bit yellow, I would not recommend fertilizer at this time. Wait, at least, until new growth comes out. Even then, if the tree was healthy and green before the severe pruning, fertilization is not necessarily required. When nutrients are finally applied, choose a high nitrogen fertilizer.

A number of the tomatoes I harvested this year had a rot at the bottom of the fruit. Some of the fruit I was able to just cut off the bottom and the rest was OK. What is causing this? Do I need to spray something?

Blossom end rot (BER) is a physiological disorder. It is caused by something other than a fungus, bacteria, virus, etc., and, therefore, there is no need to spray anything topically.

Symptoms might occur at any stage of fruit development but most often on the immature, green fruit. Light brown spots at or near the blossom end first appear.

Then, as the fruit ripens, these spots gradually expand into a sunken, leathery, brown or black lesion.

Recent studies show blossom end rot results from a low level of calcium in the fruit. Other factors that influence the development of BER include excessive amounts of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen during early fruiting, and irregular watering patterns, including heavy rains and drought. Mulching can prevent these wide fluctuations of soil moisture.

Lastly, BER is more common on sandier soils. Adding lime to the soil will help prevent this problem. Using a nitrate nitrogen fertilizer such as calcium nitrate is helpful. Some varieties are more affected than others. Check seed catalog descriptions for those varieties resistant to BER.

For more information about growing tomatoes and other vegetables and fruit, visit

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at


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