The fig tree is talking about them among gardeners in Gering as the fruits ripen

GERING, Neb. (AP) – A nearly half-century old tree native to the Mediterranean and West Asia resides in a local greenhouse in the Panhandle. It remains the talk of the town almost every summer as its fruit ripens for harvest.

Growing up with the tree, many residents of Gering consider the fig tree at the Ever Green Community Greenhouse to be a staple food for the garden and the community.

“A lot of people are still interested in our big old fig tree,” said Carol Knaub, the master gardener who has run the greenhouse for almost seven years.

She told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald that the tree originated in Gering in the 1980s from the fig tree at Cheyenne Botanical Gardens. Since then, the little start has grown into a two-story tree that tries to grow through the greenhouse ceiling every year.

“In January, the city comes in and prunes everything for me,” Knaub said. “They prune it every year because the branches penetrate the ceiling in the glazing on the south side. So we have to reduce it or it will go through.

The tree hasn’t always seen prosperous days, however. Just a few years ago, aphids took hold of the tree and took the entire crop, Knaub said. Since she doesn’t use chemicals in the greenhouse for any of the plants, it took a lot of work to rid the tree of aphids and whiteflies, using only neem oil and a little soapy water.

“I had to bathe this tree twice a week,” she said. “I was spraying from the bottom, then I had to go up the stairs and spray down. … It was quite a chore but hopefully we’ll just keep going and keep these little baddies out of here.

After aphids took over the entire fig crop two years ago, the tree was able to produce a few figs last year. Knaub said this year has been even better.

In fact, Knaub recently harvested over 4 pounds of figs, which she sold for $ 5 a pound. She said the fig harvest helps fund the greenhouse for things like seeds, soil, and its non-profit status.

“The product of that, again, the money just goes into the greenhouse,” she said. “… We are all volunteers here. “

Knaub said she assumed the tree would continue to “stir” until October. After that, the tree loses its leaves until it leaves again around March.

With the tree as old as it is, however, Knaub said she wanted to start taking steps to preserve it for years to come – in the form of its cloning.

“We’re going to try to layer it on the air, that way it’s the exact tree, it’s just a new start,” she said.

Air layering is an asexual process that clones a plant by transferring the exact same genetic material through a newly rooted stem, which can then be cut from the parent plant to become a separate plant, but still the same.

While some fig trees have been recorded to live up to 200 years, Knaub wants to take the appropriate steps to maintain the tree – whether it’s the 42-year-old giant tree that still commands the entire greenhouse, or a new miniature copy. who keeps his legacy alive.

Knaub plans to harvest more figs on Thursday, September 9 and will sell them that morning. All profits will be used for the maintenance of the greenhouse.

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