Step over figs


Last year I planted a row of Figs ( a mt. Etna type ) in my
un heated high tunnel 10 ft apart. Pruning to 2 upright shoots.when those shoots got like 3 ft tall, I bent them over , and tied them , in opposite directions,to a piece of pipe ,6 inches off the ground. Running
the length of the row,
About 80ft.
So , the plant came up 6inches and then layed flat ( tied to the pipe)in opposite directions. Soon after this ,most of the buds along the flat part started to grow upright, all along that flat stem. A few Figs last year ( their first year in ground)
Late fall,- early winter before it got really cold ,I cut those uprights off at 2 buds. So like November , the whole row was just over 6inches high. Along the whole length of the pipe.
At that point I covered the row with large pieces of cardboard, and remay row cover frost blankets. May be 3 ft wide along the whole row. Fairly easy to do ,really. Putting a few moth balls and rodent bait underneath for good measure.
It got close to 0 deg. F in side high tunnel this winter.
In spring when I uncovered it , there was No winter damage to the plants.
The shoots came up along the whole length of the horizontal trunk and have grown 6- 8 ft.
Many Many Figs! !
A real success. And a lot easyer than wrapping individual plants.
I topped most at 5-6 ft. Mid summer to encourage ripening of the remaining Figs, made a big difference.On many of the ones I topped ,they ripened every fig on that shoot, no little green ones left. But still picking on others.

This was not “my” idea.
Scott and others, have discussed that in the winter, the heat comes from the ground, so wrapping up a plant above ground catches little of that heat.
But a plant laying flat, with a LARGE foot print of insulation over it can benefit from that ground heat.
Also the “step over” idea came from on line Japanese methods of fig training. A photo of which is below.
Theirs is nicer looking than mine, but same idea.
So this photo is from the web. Similar to what mine looked like this spring when I uncovered,before the growth went up 6-8ft.
Will try to get photos of mine after leaf fall , can’t really "

It now, too many leafs.
I would call this a very successful method of winter protection.
Fairly easy.

How are your in ground figs handle this past Winter?

Love it


figs lend themselves well to espaliering due to the bendy and rubbery stems. And if grown in relatively warm areas where winter dieback is unlikely, the espaliers are pretty much permanent, since figs are not subject to borers or other pests, and the species itself has long life expectancy.
the gnarly tortuous stems shown in pictures sure indicate old age. Would be cool to see what they look like after 20 years— an ornamental methuselah!


There are borers that attack fig trees, at least two types killing fig trees in the Mediterranean, and there is one that may go after them in the south east USA.


you are right. I was admittedly self-centric with regards to my location when i wrote that, as fig trees where am at have no significant pest issues, if at all has any
the advantage of importing a disease/pest-free non-native into a far away place is that it obviously protects the non-native from the pests and diseases it left behind


Very neat! Thanks for posting this. I look forward to those pictures after leaf drop!

Wrapping is indeed a pain (I’m a fellow 6ber. . . and hillbilly! :slightly_smiling_face:)----and I’ve got about 30 to do later this fall.

(BTW, I use wire cages well-packed with straw—either cereal or pine----and roofed with plastic sheeting to protect cut-back fig bushes. Beneath sheeting is a layer of mylar emergency blanket: the idea—perhaps entirely wrong-headed—being that it will help reflect any ground heat escaping from the top of my “fig stack” back down, and also reflect solar heat that might encourage premature bud break. For extra insurance, I also bend, pin to the ground and cover—with the bulk of the “fig stack”----any young, pliable suckers; these seem to survive well. With a low of 4F last winter, this protection worked very well with yearling Mt. Etnas in all locations—and with yearlings of other cultivars that were planted in microclimates; but not as well with non-Etnas planted in the open. We had a seriously rainy winter, and I had major problems with the straw wicking up moisture from the saturated ground. Will try to prevent such a problem this season by putting a layer of plastic at the bottom of my cages.)

If I can ever acquire a high tunnel—which, alas, probably wont happen in the near future—I will definitely try this. Actually, when time (and space!) allow, I think I will try it with a couple of specimens anyway, as such a low cordon would be easy to bury for the winter.


Yes, I think this would work outside as well.
My high tunnel gets almost as cold as outside at night.
It does gather more heat units during the growing season to help ripen things. But on cold winter nights its about as cold as outside.
So I am hoping to do a row through the garden like this soon.
I think it will work ?


This is a really neat system! Figs may be back on the orchard plan…


I have contemplated doing this for years but have never tried. I’m really glad you posted about your success. Now I just need to get my butt motivated and build a greenhouse. Maybe @fruitnut will travel to Missouri and build me one just like his lol!


As mentioned above . ,I think this will work outside.
It’s a matter of the right insulation.
Many insulation opptions


I may try one or two on the south side of my house next year. I just need to start some cuttings and then decide who to sacrifice lol.


I’m thinking the same thing. South foundation + raised bed+insulation ought to do the trick.


Now I just need to get some figs…


! If we get a few more to try this …
A organized mobileization of our collective energy.
We could call it …?
One small step ( over ) for fig growers.
One giant leap for … ?
Birds ?
Fruit flies ?
Yellow jackets ?
Frogs ? Toads? ( well they CAN leap ) ?
And ,… I saw some near there.


That actually made me snort, I better go check my beard lol.


Nifty way to beat the chill. I am in north central Texas and have 10 different figs started from cutting last winter. They are now 3-5’ tall. I wll try to over winter them outdoors first, but if they die back this technique looks very effective. Thanks for sharing.


They should be flexible enough to bend over and and cover as a row. If they still have green wood a sudden freeze will most likely kill them to the ground.

I covered 135 3-5 ft. trees in about 6 hours by running tomato twine down the row and wrapping twice around the base of each twice, then bending and wrapping them around the twine.

Then I covered with the ground cover for the first frost, they will relax some and I will bend them over more then cover with 2 layers, wire hoops in between to create an air gap to insulate them for the rest of winter.


How long do you plan to row the two main stems/cordons? I plan on doing this next year


I have been using old carpets, so far so good. Old carpeting is easy to come by for me. My soil is very rocky, never have drainage problems.
Cut a 8” hole in the center and a slit towards the center. It last years.
It makes good weedguard too.


Ok , here are some pics.
It has been hard to get a photo , during growth , that really showed what was going on, sorry.
They just have not been very photogenic .
Suffice to say that , they grew 6- 8 ft + , full of Figs !
As it is to get in the teens soon , I topped them, and covered., they are less than a foot tall now, that is a doble layer of agibon -70, rowcover. ( very thick ) 6ft. Wide ,.held down on edges with pipe. No support just laying on plants,
( could not get card board on short notice, last year I covered with cardboard before rowcover. And may still this year ? )
The photos of the Japanese ones are nicer, but I am learning.