I have been growing figs in the ground for around 15 years. I’ve gotten some figs but have had so many years of dying back to the ground that I’m not sure I am going to keep them. Maybe three years of the 15 I had a good crop. Right now I want to expand my peaches and the place the figs are now sitting is a very nice location. Generally my figs are healthy and get plenty of sun, its the dieback that is the main problem. I don’t usually do any tip pinching but I thin out the branches. I pinched a few years and didn’t notice much improvement.
What varieties do you grow? Hardy varieties like Chicago Hardy wouldn’t die back in your area right?
I have a dozen hardy varieties including Hardy Chicago. Celeste is usually the one that does the best for me.
Getting them through winter is the biggest thing, the crop starts a month earlier and is less spread out. The past 3 falls have had cold snaps in November that did damage. Thinking in terms of ultimate lows misses early and late freezes, trees that died back last year (which makes them grow late into the next season and be more vulnerable to cold) and had no protection are half dead already from one night of 15 f. in November. Last year was worse because there was no frost before the cold snap.
This year was still a challenge because of all the rain, aside from splitting and the pests that brings there were fungal diseases like web blight and anthracnose that have never been a serious problem before. Picking off affected leaves and fruit, along with thinning to increase air circulation helped but was still a major setback.
Using row cover has been a huge advantage, both for season extension and winter protection. Multiple layers are required and the trees need to be bent over after leaf drop so the branches don’t poke through and shred it.
I’m working on other tricks too, hand pollination makes figs ripen 2 weeks early but is time consuming and getting the pollen isn’t easy. The ones in compost socks have done well, providing a crop that is as reliable as container plants with less work and do not require indoor storage space… it is still experimental but I have about 150 now and plan to get rid of most of my containers eventually if I can sort things out.
I’d agree with that. Of course, I haven’t been succeeding at it. But there are at least two Italian families I know (father of a co-worker and a family I bought a property (including the fig) from) who have successfully protected the above ground portion and gotten lots of figs. So, I’m giving it another try this year with the dozen+ varieties I have in ground.
The co-worker’s father has the figs growing out of a barrel with the bottom cut off. He then ties the branches together, packs the barrel with leaves, then covers the whole thing with blankets and a tarp on top.
The other guy said that he put cardboard around them, packed it with leaves, then covered it with a tarp.
This year, I took the 2nd approach. On single plants, I took a cardboard box and opened the top and bottoms. After staking it in the right spot, I filled with leaves and put the tarp on top, putting rocks around the box to hold the tarp down. We’ll see how it works. In the future, I could see using some scrap to make either a wood frame to hold cardboard, or a plywood frame to directly hold the leaves.
Last year I had piles of leaves on the plants, but no tarp on top. Nothing above ground survived. Only 2-3 figs ripened from those dozen plants. Of course, the rainy and cloudy weather probably delayed ripening too.
In zone 6 I have the best luck covering the figs with wood chips and then using the wood chips for mulch in the spring. The plants produce some figs but nothing like the amount of fruit a peach tree would in the same area. If I was tight on space the fig would go first.
I should have mentioned that I covered the figs for five years… I used aluminum bubble insulation. I got zero dieback that way, but as the trees got bigger it got more and more work to do. So I switched to just letting them fend for themselves.
Maybe I need to choose between renewing the covers and just pulling them out.
Are they too big to cut back to say three feet to make it easy for winter covering? That’s what I plan to do but am just now learning the ropes of winterizing. Maybe take out half of them and make it easier to cover the others?
I did cut and cover for five years, also I kept increasing the size (height) of the covers. At some point I had to either make the cover a lot bigger or just cut back to fat stumps which seemed to defeat the purpose.
Toward the end of July were you removing all new figs being produced and thinning inner leaves to provide sunlight to their interiors?
I would think keeping them manageable at 2’ (3’) each fall and winterizing that you should be getting substantial crops.
At the same time thinning weaker branches and keeping sturdy branches… a vase shape plant allowing a lot of penetrable sunlight.
Scott- when you had such good luck with bubblewrap- did you also put mulch or leaves inside the bubblewrap or did you find that was not needed?
It was not needed. It also protected down to -2F with zero dieback, every tip was green. This was with aluminum-coated bubble wrap. Regular bubble wrap would be a bad idea, it would heat up the figs on warm winter days.
What kind of production did you get during those years without dieback?
It was also not super great, but the plants were still young. I think the last year they were covered I got a good crop.
I’ve never tried vertical protection and don’t regret it one bit.
Is container growing an option for you? I don’t have much experience with figs yet, but a bunch of folks here seem to be very successful with that (with garage storage in the winter). I heard from one that he gets ~50 figs per plant from his potted fig plants; does that number sound reasonable to you?
Mine never survive winter. I have maybe 6 varieties. They die back every year. I had three in pots for a few years, but they never produced well in pots. I finally planted those in the ground and decided if they make it fine, if not “oh well”. I’ve given up worrying about it and moved on to other things.
I could in principle grow them in containers, but I have too many projects already and containers require more work, in particular watering and dragging in and out. All of the successes I have heard were either with containers or with covering/burying, the main reason for this post is to see if there were at least a few people getting a good crop with unprotected unpotted figs in my general zone. So far it’s looking like not.
I am curious, which peach varieties are you considering to add?
I am not an expert just two years growing into figs. I am not too far from you scottsmith. In 2017 I put four first year figs into ground and protected with leaves and all these survived and produced me about 45 to 50 figs each.
My take is
Figs variety has lot to do with it. I pruned very low and tried to protect about 12 to 18 inches of wood.
You have to stop water entering into your protection stuff like leaves or straw. If these gets wet then you are in trouble and will damage your plant.
In my opinion second thing is cold wind which is more damaging then actual cold my solution was to plant figs near the wall so it can block wind.
These two things worked for me last year and lets see for this year.