May 10

Thermalito fig fig tree, my first air layer of the year


I received a dormant thermalito fig tree from a generous forum member. It had a main trunk and a small node growing from the base of the root system.

Quickly I decided to place an air layer on the main trunk so I could get a copy of that tree, it took around 5 weeks to see roots and I took the air layer off today, around 8 weeks since setting it up.

Air layering with spherical reusable pods

Typically I use a plastic sandwich bag for my air layers but this time I used one of these reusable transparent plastic spheres. My experience with them is that it’s not exactly easier to setup, it can be kind of messy closing the two halves full of potting mix vertically around the trunk but it works.

Thermalito fig tree air layer
Thermalito fig air layer

It was definitely easier to open without breaking the roots compared to a plastic bag and the root growth is more uniform. But there’s definitely a lot of root circling and I wasn’t able to bare root it or untangle the roots easily.

The roots of this Thermalito fig are very very densely packed and wrapping around each other. Which is not a good thing.

That’s not desirable for future tree health so I will be removing these types of air-layers sooner in the future.

I decided to cut all roots tips to force branching and since they’re going into a root pruning 1 gallon container, that should alleviate this problem.

Up potting to a 4 inch rootmaker knit fabric bag

I like to use root pruning containers for 1st year tree. I find that these 4 inch rootmaker knit fabric bags are great. Especially they can be put inside another pot or in ground. And they produce an amazing fibrous and highly branched root system while allowing roots to venture outside of the bag for extra water and nutrients.

I found this 6 inches diameter net pot lids for standard 5 gallong buckets and the bags fit perfectly in there. It’s a great combination, the root system grows like it’s in a pot while having access to hydroponic nutrients and aeration from the larger 5 gallon bucket. It’s kind of an hybrid of pot culture, SIP and hydroponics in one.

I am using straight Grodan cubes as my media, they do provide perfect aeration and water retention out of the bag. Additionally, I am mulching with a 1 inch layer of pumice, that reduces algae growth and the pumice is heavy enough to anchor the tree better than the lightweight grodan cubes alone.

Thermalito grodan rootmaker knit fabric

Hydroponic setup for this Thermalito fig tree

The next step is to prepare a nutrition solution, I am using Masterblend. For a 5 gallon bucket the recipe is:

  • 12 grams of Masterblend 4-18-38
  • 6 grams of Epsom salt
  • 12 grams of calcium nitrate

These nutrient mix has been a proven winner for all my plants from tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, spinach to fig trees. Nothing beats it so far and it’s relatively cheap, especially compared to a liquid formula but it takes more time mixing and weighting all ingredients.

IMO, it’s really worth it!

The bucket was filled until touching the bottom 1/2 inch of the net pot to act as a SIP container until I will connect it to an air pump when it’s ready to go in full sun.

Now the tree is resting in a shaded aera of my year and I will update on progress in a few weeks!

Thermalito fig tree hydroponic pumice


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