In ground Fig - protecting, unprotecting questions

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.

TNHunter

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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.

TNHunter

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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.

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Alan…

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.

TNHunter

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

TNHunter

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.

TNHunter

This is probably a silly idea, but what if you trained the step-over in a spiral within that 4’ circle? Would that even work?

If you are just bending over for the winter, they will pretty much right themselves the next spring as long as they are not tied down.

JinMa…

You might be able to do that, but for me not sure it would be worth the effort, comparted to just letting it grow naturally.

Last year, it was dead to the ground, sprouted up from the roots, grew to be 12 ft tall, 6 ft wide, and gave us 90 figs from the end of July to Dec 3.

I just can’t complain about that :slight_smile:

And not sure I want to go thru a lot of fuss and trouble to force it to do a little more.

TNHunter

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It might be that you had a very good growing season last year, or planted in a very warm microclimate. Main crop in July is very, very early, especially for a tree that died back so much. I hope it stays that way for you, but I would not take it as a given that your tree will perform so well every year.

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hoosier… after our very late frost April 15 last year… we did have a very good growing year, plenty of rain, even late in the year, July, August, Sept, Oct… more rain than usual. In Sept and Oct the grass in my field and the bushes, trees, in the woods were still looking like early June… That may be why it did so well last year. I do think it likes where it is growing, full sun, all day, and slope to the south.

When I do move to my new location, establish new plantings of all my favorite things… I may add another Fig Tree for a total of 2… and there I will be able to try the (step over fig) thing and see how well that works.

Chicago Hardy - I will for sure have another one of those there…

I have heard that Celeste may be a good choice for TN Zone 7a, also… (cold hardy to 0 degrees)…
Brown Turkey, (10 degrees)…

Are those as likely to come back from the roots, if the entire top does not survive the winter.

In my 59 years… I have seen -17 degrees here (one time) early 80’s.
Not sure we will see that again…

TNHunter

Pretty much any variety will come back from the roots here, but for me, celeste did not set figs after dying back. LSU Tiger might work out for you, and I like the flavor more. The only downside to hardy Chicago is the figs split more in the rain and don’t ripen as well in the fall.

A tree of that size really should yield more fruit than that. If you do a good job protecting it, I’d imagine you could easily exceed 500 figs. I prune my Mt Etna figs down to 4-5 feet before winter protecting and they each yield that much. Vigorous new growth from extensive dieback does not ripen as many figs as growth that is retained from previous years. The tree is putting more energy into vegetative growth rather than fruiting.

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PharmerDrewee… had not checked this post in a while.

My CH Fig was on it’s second year last year… First year we got around 25 figs, Year 2 (after being dead to the ground) and sprouting up from roots, we got around 75 figs.

I can’t imaging getting 500 figs in a season from one tree… but bring it on. I will take that.

This year is year 3 for my CH Fig… Today I just took the Protection off it and found this…

No critter, mole, vole, mouse, rat - damage — some had mentioned that they often chew the bark off the trunks… but no damage at all.

TNHunter

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Fig-Green

And I scraped a couple of those smaller stumps, and found GREEN.

GREEN is GOOD !!!

Looks like my make shift protection worked OK this winter. We hit 8 and 10 degrees a few nights, a month or so ago.

TNHunter

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spring weather up here in Michigan always teases me to start unwrapping things early…

Last frost date is early May.

It was over 70 degrees here today. Temps this weekend are due to fall back into the mid-20’s next week overnights…

I am happily willing to wait a couple more weeks…

Scott

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Fig wood is quite bendy, so you can pull the branches together with a tow strap or wide cable ties before wrapping it up with something. I use 2 layers of burlap and a clear tarp with a bucket over top. It has been pretty effective for me in 7a, but the last two winters have been reasonably mild too.

I’ve got a Celeste that’s about 7-8 feet tall in-ground, with the central leader about 3-4 inches across near the base.