This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Until the first crop begins to show signs of ripening, keep the atmosphere moist, and syringe at shutting-up time on all fine days. But as soon as they begin to ripen discontinue syringing; give more air and just sufficient water at the root to keep the foliage and second crop of fruit healthy and free from danger, otherwise the flavour of the first crop when early will be deficient, and a badly-ripened Fig is a very insipid production. But I would here warn the inexperienced against an extreme of drought either at the root or in the air; for this would place the second crop in jeopardy. Circumstances must be modified to as much as possible suit the welfare of both crops.
The ripening stage is easily detected: the fruit suddenly complete their second swelling; the skin cracks longitudinally, and frequently it drops down from the neck of the fruit, becoming soft at its junction with the stalk. To gather a Tig in perfection, it should be allowed to hang till the juice begins to exude from its eye or apex. Of course if they have to be packed and sent to a distance, they should be gathered a day earlier.
As soon as the first crop is all gathered, give every encouragement to the second. The natural heat of the season having increased, the temperature may range a few degrees higher; syringing be resumed and practised regularly on all fine days; and more water can be given at the root. The house may be shut up in the afternoon with a temperature of 80° to 85° according to the weather, with a corresponding degree of atmospheric moisture. The Fig is very fond of heat, especially when derived from the sun, and also of a moist atmosphere.
When the second crop begins to ripen, air liberally, and give just sufficient water to keep the system active and healthy, but no more. As soon as the fruit are all gathered, should there be any signs of red-spider, syringe the foliage vigorously with water in which a little sulphur is mixed. Look over the trees, and remove entirely any growths that seem at all to crowd them; and when the wood is ripened remove the plants to the open air, plunging them in a place where they can have full sun, and keep them well watered until the leaves drop.
The routine of forcing trees planted out in borders does not differ in any essential point from the foregoing directions. They of course require less frequent watering at the root than plants in pots. Still, after the trees have thoroughly filled the border with roots and have covered the roof of the house with fruit-bearing wood, they require copious supplies of water and liberal annual top-dressing with rotten manure. When bearing heavy crops, ordinary manure or guano-water should be liberally supplied to them. Fxcept when the fruit are ripening, it is not easy to over-water a limited border filled with one mass of Fig-roots. In the first few years of their growth and forcing, it is, as has already been stated, undesirable to over-feed them. Old Fig-trees that are properly managed sometimes show more fruit than it is advisable to allow them to bear, and it is desirable to thin them; for as in the case of most other fruits, a lesser quantity of fine Figs is more satisfactory than a greater number of inferior ones.
To have the first crop of fruit ripe on planted-out Figs between the time that the first crop is over and the coming in of the second on trees in pots, the time to begin forcing the former must be regulated by the time at which those in pots have been started. If they are started at the new year, the Fig-house proper should be started in about eight or ten weeks after.
Red-spider and thrips are the chief insects that infest the foliage of the Fig. The former is sure to attack them if they are kept too dry at the root and the syringe is not freely used, hut it rarely becomes formidable when the trees are sufficiently supplied with moisture. Thrips must be kept in check by occasional fumigations with tobacco-smoke, but never when the fruit are ripe, as they will taste of the tobacco. The Fig, as far as I know, is exempt from disease.
To pack ripe Figs to go safely to a distance requires great care. Tin boxes divided into compartments, as directed in the case of Peaches, are indispensable if the fruit are to be allowed to ripen and to be carried without mutilation. The compartments, of course, need not be so large as for Peaches. Into each put some fine paper-shavings, then a layer of cotton wadding, and over the wadding a square of tissue-paper sufficiently large to come up the sides of the compartments to the top; wrap each fruit in a tender dry Vine-leaf and lay it in its place, covering it over with another leaf to keep the paper from contact with the fruit. Then double the tissue-paper over all, fill up with cotton wool, lay a little paper-shavings all over the surface of the box, and screw the lid down. When Figs have to be packed, it is best to gather the fruit before the juice begins to ooze out of them, but not till they rend slightly at the sides.