In ground Fig - protecting, unprotecting questions

Newbie Fig Grower here…

Zone 7a, Tennessee

I decided to plant one spring 2019, researched it some, decided on a Chicago Hardy Fig and got it planted (in ground), in a nice microclimate area (south side of my house, just out from a brick wall that reflects heat, and on a south facing hill). I planted it in a raised bed, covered that raised bed with dark river rock…

It was a whip about 3’ long when planted and grew nicely that first year… 8 ft tall, 4 branches and between about Sept 1 until first hard frost in November, we got around 25 figs off it. Never had a fig before and have nothing to compare it to, but IMO it was a very good fig. A special treat for sure.

I did not know I needed to protect it over the winter… and well the next spring (last spring) all that growth was dead to the ground level. (I know better now)…

Despite that… around May 1, I noticed some sprouts coming up from the roots and it sent up several new growth starts 8-10 which I only let 4 of those grow and grow it did. By the end of the summer 12’ tall, with 4 main trunks and several branches. It started producing figs earlier too and before our first hard frost we got around 90 figs off the CH Fig. I was impressed.

And this fall before we got any deep freezes I decided to protect it over this winter. I researched that some (youtube mostly) and saw lots of variations on how people recommend to protect a in ground fig over the winter.

I had some materials on hand that I thought might work and I came up with this…


First I cut those 4 main trunks, down to about 2’ high. and I took a soft rope and sort of pulled them together so I could get that tomato cage to fit over it nicely.

I wrapped that cage with some insulating material and stuffed the inside full of fresh hay, and the outside all around the mound where the roots are, I covered that deep with hay too.

I put a garbage bag on top of the tomato cage to keep most of the rain/snow off it, but left some room for it to breathe some and hopefully not get all wet and just stay wet in side there.

I am sure there are some Fig experts here that can tell me what all I did wrong there, or how I could improve on that. Please do.

Also wanted to ask this… In the spring… how do you decide on exactly when to un-protect your Fig ?

Last spring, we had some warm weather in Early April… and then a nasty frost April 15.

I am sure I would have unprotected it… and then needed to put all that back in place for one more night.

May not be a simple solution to that.

Any tips will be much appreciated !




Chicago hardy is very good imo. It’s a must have for marginal fig zone’s because of the ability to fruit from ground dieback as you mentioned.

Is that insulation impervious to moisture? Insulation loses its r value when wet.

The main problem with hay/straw/mulch around trunk is rodents go in their for warmth and chew on the trunk girdling it. Then you have same problem as a freeze gives you…a tree dead above ground

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Rodents … yuck. Hope that does not happen, but you would not know until you unprotected it in the spring.

Any thoughts on how you could protect a Fig… in such a way as to keep it from freezing and dyeing back to the ground… without creating a possible nice warm place that rodents could get into ?

Seems like what ever you covered it with, or surrounded it with you would have that possibility.


You can bury it. Videos are on YouTube

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I grow Hardy Chicago in ground in zone 5 ,a suburban of Chicagoland. With winter protection, it can bear two crops of fruits in a year. In late fall, I bury the bush under large tarp, insulated with thick layer of hay. In the spring, I uncovered it when the weather is warn around May. It can stand a little dip temporary around 32 as long as it has not leaf out yet.

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I buried my fig like i’d bury a body…about the same size hole… I have no idea if it will work. I mounded snow on it (we have extra) and will hope for the best.


I have heard they should bear two crops… and I guess mine might have done that last year if it did not have to come back from the roots…

Perhaps this year I will get two crops.

I saw a guy on youtube recommending that you plant them deep and in a raised bed and I did that… that way if it does freeze to the ground your roots are deeper and better chance of come back from that. That did work for me, but I never thought of just covering it deeper with (regular dirt?) for winter protection.

I wonder if something like this might work. Take something like a new metal trash can, and take the bottom out… prune it back to 2 ft tall (like I did this time) and put that trash can over it… then fill that trash can up with some fine pine bark mulch to burry it ?

Our Lowe’s has some 3 cf bags of fine pine bark mulch - 2-3 of those should fill up the trash can.

I wonder if that would be dense enough to keep the critters out.

That would be pretty easy to do… and in the spring you would have some extra mulch right there for your Fig ???


In 6b we grow Celsete, hard winters mean hard dieback, but we get figs. Brown Turkey takes a long time to ripen here.

Hello, I have grown Chicago Hardy fig back when I lived in Nebraska (zone 5b) and it was delicious. Since all figs fruit on new wood, I left it alone and waited for it to come back each year. I didn’t think chicago hardy had a breba crop (this is an earlier crop, usually summertime, on old wood), but most breba crops do not taste good (there are plenty of exceptions, just a rule of thumb, don’t count on breba crop for a good tasting fig).
The fun part here is that Chicago Hardy has had so many mutations, what you have can be a completely different fig from what someone else has. Brown Turkey suffers the same issue, if I get one and my neighbor has one from a different store, out figs could easily have different mutations and taste different. The Chicago Hardy that I tried to grow down here in Texas was a huge disappointment.

If you are set on protecting it so that it can grow on from existing growth and not from the roots, your idea is pretty sound with the trash can and mulch. I would first wrap some 1/4" hardware cloth around the stems a few times, this would discourage any rodents from chewing on the trunks.

You are going to have a lot of heat loss through that empty center section. Should run that insulation material further way up, leave some small holes for water vapor, and consider a clear tarp over that.

fig is pretty tough. My fig has been in the ground about 8~9 years now. Before it was planted in the ground outside,it was in a 5 gallon pot. I just left the pot outside without any protection. It died back completely but around July~august a little green grew out of the soil , the root didn’t die.
Regard the critters, I did had problem with animals ( not sure it was rabbit or mouse made home under the tarp ) ate the bark last year. The barks were all stripped yet more new shoots grew in the spring.

If you can trap the ground heat in, that will greatly help the plant to over winter safely. Dirt is good insulator, in my zone, thick layer of hay is sufficient insulator too.

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Hey All… appreciate the tips… I got some ideas that I am for sure going to try next year from this.

On burying your fig tree - I did find some youtube vids of people (far north zone 4-5) actually digging up their fig tree (exposing the root ball an all) digging a trench (like a grave for a body), and laying the entire fig tree down and burry it…covering with straw, leaves, tarps, etc… WOW… that is a little extreme BUT perhaps in extremely cold regions that is your best bet…

I found lots of others down around Zone 7 (like me)… who simply pruned them some, tied them up, and wrapped them with various materials (lots of variations on that)… from plastic, to burlap, to roofing felt, etc…

Many of them seemed to leave their fig tree trunks, branches 5-6 ft tall… rather than pruning them down to just 2 ft tall (like I was trying). As I understand it, Figs only produce fruit on new wood ? so why not prune them down low enough to make it much easier to protect for the winter. I am thinking if you can get 4-5 - 2’ tall trunks… to survive the winter, they would bud and leaf out quickly and you would get a jump on growth and production that season.

Not sure why all of these folks on youtube, in more southern states, zone 7-8… were leaving their fig tree so tall before wrapping it for winter protection. Is there some advantage to that ?

Better to get 6ft of fig tree to survive the winter… than 2 or 3 ft ?

Below is one of the guys on youtube that I watched several video’s of… now he is a FIG NUT… he obviously loves them and is growing (hundreds)… and up in PA too… Much colder there than it is here in TN.

He seems to favor pruning them off at about 1 ft tall, for the winter… and protecting that 1 ft, by burying with various insulating materials topped over with layers of tarp.

He has a bed of figs… probably a hundred or so in the bed, planted at 2 ft spacing… and lops them all off about 1 ft high, and covers the entire bed.

In the video (link above) he mentions 3 methods of protecting figs that he has used…

If you are a northern fig grower… you might get some good tips from Ross.

I am not sure that the more extreme protection plans… that apply to Zones 4-5-6… would apply to my Zone 7a location. I am not going to dig up my fig root ball, and lay it over in a grave and burry it (for example)…

But next fall, I think I will try something different.

A large new Garbage Can… with the bottom removed… prune my fig back to 2 ft tall, and wrap the 4-5 trunks in soft rope to pull them to the center some, some hardware cloth around that to protect from rodents… then simply place that bottomless can on top, and fill it with pine bark mulch to burry it.

I will also cover the root ball area (the entire raised bed/mound) with extra deep mulch to protect it thru the winter. If the top does die, the roots will be protected.

In the spring… if I happened to un-protect my Fig… and then along comes a late frost…

Since it is pruned down to 2 ft tall… even if it has budded out some at that point… I should be able to simply put my can back on top, and cover with a few blankets, or tarps for the night.

Once I do unprotect my Fig this spring… I will report back here on how it did with the protection I had in place this year.

Thanks for all the help.



PS… I work from a home office, have been since 1997. Computer, Technical work field…

On the back right corner of my home is where my home office is. Lots of windows looking out over my back yard (east), and basement side yard (south) and that is where my Fig is planted… I can see it right outside my office window.

it is cold as heck here today, winter is fighting to stay on here… I will be glad when it is gone and hope for no hard late frost this year.

But the Robins and Bluebirds have started showing up in droves already… there is a male bluebird sitting on top of my fig protection now.

They know what’s coming… even if it does not feel like spring, they have arrived…

Here in TN, when you hear the Spring Peepers… you know that winter is about to give up and Spring is coming soon. We have not made it to that point yet… but I have heard them before in Late Feb…

If you don’t know what a spring peeper is, you can look those up on youtube.



I wonder if you wouldn’t get earlier figs if you kept some smaller wood, even beyond the breba affect. The brebas are the tiny figs that form just before plants go dormant and if you protect the tree before first frost they will survive the winter and ripen very early. However, I don’t find their quality particularly good- too foamy and not sweet enough. Even when I lived in CA they were not the best of figs, but better than they get than in our weaker NY sun. Anyway, it’s tricky to time protection to protect them because you want the tree to experience a full dormancy. I don’t protect them from cold until there is danger of temps dropping below 24F or so.

When you cut the branches to stubs the trees have to regrow the small wood where figs are formed to it’s bound to take more time. I would prefer to keep a lower growing tree if it was needed for easier protection than cutting it to branchless stubs. I accomplish this by popping out my potted plants from the soil in late Nov and moving them into my unheated well-house that’s built into the side of a hill and rarely freezes inside- and then, just barely and close to the door. The roots that have expanded beyond the pots get torn up good but what comes out of the soil is protected somewhat by wrapping them with the pots within a tarp.

The easiest way to protect a fig tree outdoors is just to make a fence ring and fill it with leaves. Don’t even cover with a tarp because it encourages rot during warm spells. Bait a locking plastic rodent bait station, placing it where you can reach it under the leaves and through the fencing. Check once or twice during winter and your tree probably won’t be damaged by voles.

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Protecting 1-2’ of growth isn’t much better than the top being killed back completely. Figs that are heavily pruned set fruit later than those that aren’t. Also, because figs form one at a time, one after another as the branch grows, having a growth with more buds really increases early harvest. A 2’ growth will regrow from 2-3 shoots, so you might be able to pick 2-3 figs per day once they start ripening. While a 5’ growth will regrow with 5 or more shoots.

If you can keep secondary branches intact, you can begin harvesting sooner, because side branches set fruit earlier in the season.

So what I do is bend them over as much as I can and cover them horizontally. I use 2 or more layers of row cover, which is fine to leave in place until after threat of frost has passed. My technique is set up for rows, tying anchor lines to neighboring trees. But you can use it on single trees if you drive stakes into the ground to act as anchors. It is also good to keep the cover from resting on the bundled branches because anything touching the cover can be frozen, I use sacrifice growths and twine to form an upper level.

The traditional way of bundling branches together and wrapping vertically failed for growers around here during the really bad polar vortex winters. Without the warmth from the ground there is very little protection, mostly from wind.



You may be right about that, getting that smaller wood to survive the winter, means you might get that early crop…

In my case I don’t think I will try that. Looking back at my records… last year when my CH Fig had to sprout up from the roots… and put on all new growth… (this was it’s second year planted)… we got our first ripe Fig on July 25… and at first it produced ripe figs slowly… a few a week, but that picked up as the summer went on into Aug, Sept… where I was picking them every other day and getting 4-5-6 ripe figs every other day… and it continued to produce figs (got our last ones on Dec 3)… and wow in that last few weeks, they were getting ripe in droves…

Considering that it came back from (roots below ground) and performed like that… WOW… I was impressed for sure.

If I can get a couple feet of the main trunks to survive the winter, and that improves the harvest some… (perhaps a little earlier start) I will be happy with that for sure.

In the months of May, June, July… I have a lot of other stuff that produce (30 other types/varieties of berries bushes/canes, fruit trees, etc) so I will not miss figs during that time.

Just a couple years ago I had very little that produced late in the year (Aug thru Dec)… and last year we had Figs and Raspberries galore during that time and also a new Strawberry I planted last spring (Eversweet) that produced nicely thru the fall into late October.

I have some apple trees, European plums, JuJube in place now that should start producing soon, hopefully some will this season… and they will bear late in the year, Aug-Nov…

So my late season harvest should soon balance out and be about as abundant as my early summer harvests.

That is one of my goals… having several varieties of fruit, berries, nuts, etc… getting ripe each week of the year… May thru Nov…

If I only get Figs July - Dec… no complaints.


The proof is in the pudding.
Fig pudding…
eating some 2-3 times a week.
This works for me…
6b a high tunnel

That (step over figs) is interesting Hillbilly… and in that situation sounds ideal.

But for me… Home Grower, happy with 1 Fig tree (out in the yard) where I have to mow around it…
Not going to do that.

If I ever do get a high tunnel… I will sure keep that in mind.

PS… I looked up a few pics of my Fig last year and I had a good pic showing the lower part… and it actually had 3 main trunks coming up from the ground… that by August were anywhere from 1 to 2 inches thick (it grew 12 ft tall by season end) and they got thicker later on…

But mixed in with those 3 main trunks… were 3 other smaller ones 1/2 inch or so in diameter, some smaller. I don’t remember exactly how large all those trunks were when I protected it in Mid December… but if I left those smaller trunks in with my bundle… perhaps that will speed up the fruiting next summer some.


Well ok , then .
This should work on one fig tree in the yard too…
Should be even easier…
Like I say.
The proof is in the pudding… yuumm !

The bed I have my fig planted in is about a 4 ft circle/mound raised bed.

If I bent it over and ran it across my yard… it would get mowed over - not good :frowning:

Now in a year or two, I will be moving to a new location, and at this new location I plan to make long raised beds to plant my fruit trees and berry bushes/canes in… (our in my field) The long beds will be anywhere from 50 to 100 ft long, 4 ft wide. I will space the trees, bushes, canes out appropriately along the top of the raised bed.

I will have plenty of room there to try laying a fig down along the top of that bed… and no problems mowing around that bed. That will work.

I created a bed like that year before last and planted it last spring, and wow was impressed with how well everything grew there.