Post By Redbrick
If you grow figs north of the Mason Dixon line, now is the time for action. While our Southern neighbors can safely grow fig trees outdoors in the ground without a care, we Yankees need to give some thought to winter protection.
A Mediterranean plant, the fig cannot handle winter temperatures much below freezing without some help. If you provide them with a little shelter, however, they do quite nicely as far north as Chicago and Boston!
You can protect your fig tree in one of three different ways. I have used two of them myself, and many New England and Lake State growers swear by the third. The first method requires keeping your trees in large planters year round. You simply move the potted plant into a cold but never freezing storage place for the winter. An attached garage or unheated cellar works great. My figs never had any complaints about being stored in the back stairwell of my basement, under a set of metal ‘Bilco’ doors . Don’t worry about light, a dormant fig doesn’t need it. Do remember to water it once a month, however. And remember, a fig bush in a large decorative pot makes a beautiful accent for your deck or patio!
Once I planted my figs in the ground, that was no longer an option, so I switched to method two: bundling, or as I like to call it, ‘crating’. Simply put, you tie and wrap the branches of your tree into a bundle, covered with burlap or old carpet, or something similar. Paper-bagged leaves make a great packing material. As a final touch, you can even wrap the entire affair in black roofing paper. But never, ever wrap it in plastic sheeting. That’s an invitation for mold and fungus.
Finally, you can bury your fig for its winter nap. No, I’ve never done it; it sounds too much like work. The practice is sound, however. Tie and wrap your fig as if you were going to crate it, then dig a bundle-shaped trench to one side of it. Use your shovel to cut the roots on the opposite side of the bundle. Now say a prayer, think happy thoughts, and push the bundle over into the trench. Cover it with the soil from the hole, plus as many fall leaves as you can get. That’s it. Well, except for worrying that you just committed ‘arboricide’. But don’t be afraid, the tree’s just fine!
Yes, we Yankees go through a lot of work for fresh figs, but that first luscious bite of fig makes it all worthwhile, don’t you think?