Cold hardy figs

Desert King is the most common fig in the Puget Sound lowlands.
It’s pretty soft and sticky when full ripe.

Do you trade cuttings?

1 Like

After many years I scrapped this project as it became to much work for me. It was fun and I highly recommend it if your up to it.

Which varieties did you grow? I’m also in Kansas and have been seriously considering figs.

2 Likes

@JVD

Chicago hardy is your best choice. They require covering every year. Burying them in woodchips works very well.

2 Likes

By bury you mean trench next to the root ball and lay over? I would really prefer to avoid that if possible. Been looking at varieties that will die to the ground but bounce back same year to fruit. I’d be fine to never have a breba just want a few figs now and again.

Focusing in on La Radek, Chicago Hardy, and MBVS.

2 Likes

@JVD

Brown turkey cannot ripen in time. Chicago hardy can but your crop is 3x larger if you cover them.

2 Likes

The really early ones that can fruit after die to ground are Teramo, Florea, RDB and probably Improved Celeste. Hardy Chicago and other Mt. Etna figs are considered mid-season figs. They can fruit from die-back if your season is long enough.

If you mulch and protect at least the top 6"-8", you should get some fruit production if the trees are old enough. You’ll also need to learn how to pinch the branches if you do not get figlets early enough.

6 Likes

Which is best for your area is hard to answer, a variety that can produce in protected in lets say zone 5b, might not be able to produce in your area, it’s not just about cold, it’s about light requirements, how long the cold stays, how common is late frost in April and May, how bad is the wind chill, how fast does the warmth kick in, how long does the warm stay, and so on. I have helped to start a project testing cold hardy fig cultivators in NYC.

2 Likes

The only special hardy zone I’ll be concerned is the PNW. You can get a mild zone 6. But the problem is the lack of heat. So it is hard to ripen some of the deep dark berry figs. This is why a lot figgers grow primarily breba crop. They get both mild winter and mild summer.

Most of the Eastern seaboard from NE to Mid-Atlantic regions have similar climate. FL, LA and TX are in the deep South and are different.

1 Like

Great list! I did have Florea on my list as well as Ronde de Bordeaux.

Around here getting a truck load of straw bales is cheap and easy, but my fear with protecting the trunks like that is it gives refuge for voles. I guess if I wrap high enough I could mitigate some of that.

1 Like

I’m 6a in NC Kansas, so we get the worst of the worst with weather. Frigid winters which break into stretches of 60 degrees punctuated by 0 degree spurts and frosts into April. Late frost are frequent. 100 degree days with hot, dry wind 30-50 mph is especially common this far west, and my location is very exposed from the south and west. Full sun all day. Last February got down to -16F, but that cold is but once a decade.

I am really counting on my hot, dry, windy location to help ripen figs.

1 Like

Is there fall leaf pick up in a neighborhood near you? @eboone just grabs and bags the neighbors leaves after they so kindly collect them for him, then puts a tarp around the leaves and ties it all together. This is using a cordoned system touching the ground (or very close to the ground). He buys vole poison pellets, puts them in a cut off soda bottle, and places them laying sideways with each fig. Those pellets are replaced a couple of times throughout the winter. I’ll be trying out this exact method with my in ground figs once I have them rooted. Fortunately Ed and I are just far enough away from each other that we shouldn’t need to compete for bags of leaves :sweat_smile:

2 Likes

Bagged leaves are hard to come by here. I’m in a small town of about 300 people. I also do not use poison because of owls.

2 Likes

The problem with cordon system is that, you limit the amount of fruiting branches and do not use all the upper growing space. You can still get decent fruit production, but still less than regular grown bush shape trees.

1 Like

The problem with leaving it as a grown bush where we are, based on my understanding from Ed’s experience (he’s been doing the fig thing for 9 years) is that it typically dies to the ground. Because of that, the cordoned setup is better than a fresh start to get ripe fruit weeks or months earlier. I agree a bush would be better but I’m not wasting electricity to keep it warm during the coldest days of the year and ground heat won’t cut it for smaller high branches in the single digits or occasionally negative digits.

1 Like

That is a valid reason for the poison. You could set up a couple mechanical traps in each plant in lieu of the poison. Maybe check your local recycling center for ideas on insulation? Even bags of shredded Styrofoam or something like that might work. Necessity is the mother of invention :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

It depends on how you wrap the trees. A lot people wrap their fig trees. I’ve seen some folks in NE protect a 10’ tall fig tree. But to most, we can just protect the top 4’ wood.

2 Likes

Ryan mentions @eboone using a low cordon system for figs. I realize that not everyone is a fan and that all systems have advantages and disadvantages, but I would at least consider such a system for marginal zone in-grounds. For the past few years, I’ve been cutting back/bending and surrounding figs with straw-stuffed, tarp-topped cages. With multiple figs, this vertical wrapping/packing is troublesome, time-consuming, expensive (if you have to buy straw), and the results can be inconsistent. I’m going to start converting over to a low cordon system myself.

Just had a great discussion with a neighbor and forum member, who told me about a guy about 50 miles north from here who is successfully protecting “stepover”-trained figs with low tunnels . . . Something to consider!

And remember: regardless of protection method, micro-climates (e.g., sunny slopes protected from prevailing winds, southern exposures of buildings) are your friend, and will make whatever method you use that much better. Also, any method that takes advantage of residual warmth from the earth—as a low cordon or the burial method used by some immigrants in the NE (a little more labor intensive, but okay if you have only a fig or three to tip over and inter)—should, all things else being equal, offer better results at damaging low temperatures than vertically-oriented wrapping methods. Bending limber young trunks toward the ground and covering—which I believe @hoosierbanana often does—works, too. I believe some growers regularly prune away older, thicker and harder-to-bend trunks, leaving only trunks of an age and diameter to facilitate bending for winter . . . In brief, there are many roads to Rome. . . . but the most consistently successful methods do seem to take advantage of microclimates and the warmth of the earth in some manner.

However you do it, protecting at least some wood is imperative for decent production; and the more efficient and low-input this protection system, the better. It is true that some figs will produce main-crop fruit after total winter topkill, especially when they attain some age; however, such figs are unlikely to produce abundantly in such circumstances, and the figs may ripen so late in the season that quality suffers.

For your first fig, strongly consider just getting a healthy specimen of any Mt. Etna-type fig—Hardy Chicago has already been mentioned, and is a good one and easy to acquire. If you really like growing it (and eating its figs!), you can then get more. Actually, if all you have is a good, productive Mt. Etna fig, you’re doing a-okay! :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m with you there. I did this once, but the idea of hurting raptors—and, even worse, kitties! (yes, the Toxoplasma gondii is in full control now . . . and I’m lovin’ it!)----made me stop. I’ve been putting mothballs and castor oil-based repellents in with my figs; could just be dumb luck, but no damage so far. With low cordons, I will probably paint the trunks and main scaffolds with castor oil-infused indoor latex or whitewash, for added protection.

5 Likes

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but if I have to gather up bags of trash then stake them down in 50mph winds I’d rather pass on figs. If I do anything, it would be straw bales. Mice chewing up bags of styrofoam then scattering that to the four winds would be 1,000 times work than just containerizing them. :laughing:

The best vole control we ever had was an Airedale terrier. He’d patrol our pumpkin patch and catch half a dozen a day. He lived for it. I’d just love to get a little Cairn or Westy to do similar work.

1 Like

BigBill from Off the Beaten Path Nursery and I have been communicating and we do similar things. Here is a video of what we are doing. He has other videos too.

Of course, our hardy zones are different. Another forum member (DCxx?) is in upper state NY and he uses a solid low cordon system. I just do not have that much energy and equipment to do anything like that. So I do like what BigBill has been doing. We choose the early hardy varieties that can still produce even if most of the top wood gets killed to ground. This will fail if we have another polar vertex. This also won’t work with any varieties that require long ripening days.

Any fresh figs are good. Not chasing the BBKK that requires 90 or 100 days to ripen…

2 Likes