Zone 5 hearty fig question

Has anyone grown zone 5 hardy figs?
It looks like they can die back to roots and come back.
My theory is to treat them like everbearing raspberrys. Cut them back to the ground every sping.
Will this make the roots sprout multiple “canes” from the ground? My gut says it would.
Then after 5 years or so of pruning down to nothing every year, maybe getting 5 solid canes our of each rootball.
Anyone tried this?
Another possibility is pruning down to the ground end of fall, then mulching heavy, but it feels like this would not allow for nutrients to return to the roots. Possibly better for winter protection.
Anyone tried treating hardy fig like a fall bearing raspberry?

The issue is that you need a long enough growing season for the new growth to come back, set fruit and ripen. It may be possible with the very quickest ripening varieties, but I would say it is unlikely and not worth the effort. If you really want fresh figs you will have to build a small greenhouse or do the famous fig shuffle for 2 months.

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Hey! Welcome to the forum. Look up the step over fig method. You’d likely want to cut back in the fall and protect the remaining trunk in the winter. This will give you more growing time than growing all the way back from the roots. If you do that, you’ll want to pick very limited varieties which ripen very early, like Florea.

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Any thoughts on using low maintenance mulch for winterizing low cordons?
I dont like the idea of having to tarp a plant.
But i use heavy straw mulch twice every year. Using a full bale of straw per plant would be entirely doable.
Ive also read about burying in topsoil, but that seems like a bit to much effort IMO.

If by low maintenance mulch you mean rubber, I’d recommend against it but it would be better than bare ground. Wood mulch retains moisture along with being a slow release nutrient source and provides habitat for earthworms and other beneficials to build soil.

Going to tag @JesseinMaine into the conversation

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I grew figs in the ground here in borderline Z6b/7A for 10 years. My take-aways:

  1. Yes, the roots can survive but as noted you probably will not have a long enough growing season to ripen much if any fruit. Very different from primocane berries.

  2. Covering short (e.g., low cordon) trees with mulch or tarp can work but it invites rodents, mainly voles, which will eat all the bark.

  3. Covering 3-4’ trees with an insulating, reflective material can work – the earth is a massive heat source – but it is a ton of work.

It is WAY easier to grow fig trees in pots. Just throw the pots in a garage for the winter. You do have to water the pots daily during summer so automate the watering.

After 12 years growing figs, I have abandoned the in-ground trees. But I have almost 100 trees in pots. Despite my short season, I pick thousands of delicious figs August-Octoebr.

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Thanks for all the help.
I never use artificial mulch. I was refering to straw mulch. I love straw mulch.
It sounds to me like i might have to rethink 2025 and abandon hope on my fig plan.
I have about a 3ft wide by 12ft long by 4ft high strip of full sun that i can have a 4ft welded wire fence behind for training.
If figs wont perform i might fit 3 more fruit trees in there and try my hand at espalier.
Thanks again all.

I have both in ground fig and potted fig in Chicagoland.
My in ground fig is over 10 years. My thought about having a in ground fig is lot of work, almost no ripe fruits. Some years I had ripen fruits, most years there were not enough heat to ripen the fruits to have decent flavor.

About your mulch with straw approach, I would proceed with caution because voles, mice, rabbits love to have nice straw beds for the winter and have their favorite food nearby. it would be little creatures’ heaven if someone put a bail of straw over the fig tree. These creatures love the bark of fig’s root and branches. They can have breakfast in bed every day!

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Zone 5 is really broad – a bit more info on location would help.

I think for any real level of in-ground fruit, you would need the perfect zone 5b location, and even then I don’t really know if it’s realistic. For reference, I have access to a location with a moderate south slope on a ridge in full sun, our summers are pretty warm – 3 solid months with an average high of about 80 degrees. I think it may be worth experimenting with stepover trained figs, using mulch and low tunnels, but I’m not optimistic so I probably will focus my zone pushing on hybrid persimmons.

For me, I grow in 7-gallon tall pots and store them in my garage over the winter. My two-year old figs were mostly rooted from cuttings, and with our warm spring and fig shuffle I already have figlets showing on a few plants. If you have a garage or other place that stays 30-50 degrees from November to March, figs are actually really easy as long as you focus on early or early-mid cultivars.

So my upshot:

Figs in pots in 5b with a good storage spot are one of the easiest fruit trees.

Figs outdoors will be really, really tough even in the perfect location.

I’m in 6b/7a and am about to put a Chicago hardy in ground this year, up against a heated building’s wall next to the foundation. even then I don’t know.

brown turkey died back over winter here and came back with tiny branches that never developed. no figs and it took another winter, protected with mulch, to kill the roots.

That’s it exactly – bedroom and kitchen, all in one.

This approach seems sound intuitively but it falls apart when subject to scrutiny.

Planting near a heat source tends to warm a tree enough in late winter to encourage an early exit from dormancy. But it won’t protect the tree from a subsequent temperature plunge. Think about it – You could be sun-bathing naked some afternoon in late Feb next to your heated building. Then it gets dark, and the polar express rolls in. If you’re still lying naked outside when it’s -5 F, how long would you last?

Figs are toughest when fully dormant. Planting next to a warm building softens them up for a kill. I learned this lesson first with apricots – I killed a couple of them by planting them on a south corner of my house. The same applies to figs.

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I do have a garage, but i overwinter a couple bins of red wigglers every year. Use partially finished compost bedding, then start seriously feeding in february. By april the bins are packed and writhing and i can transfer into a couple 2x8 bins in the back.
Point being the realestate in the garage is limited once the cars and tools are in there. Not sure the wife would be too keen on me packing plants in there as well.

I have planted Chicago Hardy next to my house’s foundation for 7-8 years now. I am in zone 6a.

The house is facing southwest. That area probably zone 7a, judging from how faster/earlier my other flowering plants there wake up and bloom. Unfortunately, although it gets sun, it does not get full sun.

At first, I winter protected this CH for a couple of years and got tired of it. When a winter is harsh, the tree dies to the ground and grows back in the spring every year. The years that it re-sprout early (mild winter), fruit will ripen in time (late Sept into Oct). Some years after a harsh winter, they don’t.

In addition to an issue with ripening time, rain is also a headache. It may rain in Oct and ruin the crop. The never dies. It is too warm where it was planted to kill the roots.

This past winter it was so mild, the canes did not even die back to the ground. Leaves have sprouted from canes from 3-4 feet off the ground. I think where you put your tree will be fine. You have a better chance planting it there than any other place unprotected.

I am in zone 7… have a Chicago Hardy in ground that produces 400 figs yearly (Aug-Nov)

Last two winters our low was 2-3F.

I winter protect it using hay bales and wood chips. First after a few light frosts it will drop all leaves. I then cut it back to short stumps (12-18 inches).




I surround those stumps with dry hay bales… fill the center cavity where the stumps are with dry pine bark chips…cover it all with a tarp.

Before i put the pinebark mulch in the center… i wrap those stumps with a few layers of wire cloth to keep critters from chewing the bark.

I can mostly uncover it late march… and let some sun start hitting those stumps… and they will bud and send out shoots off those stumps in April.

If I let it die to the ground it can be mid May before the shoots come up from the roots.

Getting a month earlier start on shoot growth is worth the effort. We get many more figs with the earlier start.

TNHunter

This is what my CH Fig looks like by October.

This is what it looks like this morning.
Notice… i steak and pull the shoots… some to the east some to the west… to give them all as much access to the sunlight as possible. Those shoots grow anywhere from 9 to 12 ft each season.

By October… i am harvesting figs with a step ladder.

This is evidence of the critical variable – length of the growing season. I’ll discuss two scenarios; my estimates of the growing season are educated guesses – I don’t know exactly where people relocated – but you should see the point.

  1. An in-ground fig that is killed back to the ground in Z7 TN performs beautifully, as your tree shows. My brother-in-law has similar results in north GA. That’s because it has something like a 7-8 month growing season. It starts in March or April and continues to October or November.

  2. In contrast, an in-ground fig in Z5 has roughly a 4 month growing season. It starts its season in late May and finishes by late September. There’s a good chance of a hard frost as late as May 15 and as early as October 15. As @mamuang points out, even in Z6A central MA his tree barely manages to ripen fruit by October, if at all. So he gets few ripe fruit and the quality is poor.