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Fig trees get more cold hardy with age

Fig winter protection

Fig protection last fallWe fell in love with homegrown figs last year, so I put a bit of extra effort into protecting our tree from winter's cold.  We live on the edge of even the hardiest figs' survival zone, and in the past, a lot of our tree's top growth has died back over the winter despite various forms of protection.  The more top growth that makes it through the winter, the more figs we get to enjoy, so last fall I built a cage out of plastic trellis material, stuffed the cage full of leaves, and topped it off with a tarp to prevent rain from beating the leaves down.

Fig bud break

Unfortunately, over time, the leaves settled just like the contents of a cereal box.  Since I didn't notice the problem until after some very cold snaps, I figured the damage was already done and left it alone.  I was expecting to have to cut back dead wood this spring, but as I was walking by, I noticed buds breaking dormancy in the uncovered wood!

Rooted fig cutting

It's not entirely surprising that the tops of the fig survived the winter unprotected.  We did choose one of the hardiest fig varieties --- Chicago Hardy --- and I've also read that figs become more cold hardy with age.  But it's still very heartening to think that our figs will need less winter protection as they age...because that one fig tree spawned two babies last fall, Mark picked up a Celeste on a whim over the summer, and this winter I've been having great results propagating hardwood cuttings of three more varieties.  If all goes as planned, we may have a dozen or more figs in the ground this time next year.  The only question is, how will I fit them all into our core homestead?  Eating the fruits shouldn't be a problem.

Our chicken waterer makes it easy to go out of town for the weekend without worrying about your flock.


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Why confine your plantings to just the core homestead? You must have lots of different microclimates in a forested mountainous area like yours. Next year take twice as many cuttings, try some south facing slopes and let some take their chances. Especially between boulders or in front of a rock face- that can give you the few degrees difference you need. That is how I grow satsumas not 10 meters away from my cherry tree.
Comment by Eric in Japan Sun Apr 28 08:44:38 2013
Eric --- The trouble with expanding out past the core homestead is that I'm too busy to take care of plants that aren't right in front of my eyes. Plus, everywhere else is forested and prone to major deer damage, so if we wanted to grow anything there, we'd have to cut down a lot of trees and put up deer fences. So it seems to make more sense to focus in on our core area until we've filled in all the gaps.
Comment by anna Sun Apr 28 09:30:38 2013
I live down in Nashville, TN so a little further south than you, but not much. I have a friend that has figs in his back yard. The first 5 years or so, he covered his as well. Now, 10 years later, he does not even bother. They are very hardy now. He does not remember if it is a Chicago Hardy or not.
Comment by Mark Mayer Mon Apr 29 16:44:02 2013
Here in zone 5, both of my Chicago Hardy figs survived quite nicely with little winter damage. I had covered them in a fashion similar to yours. (My biggest problem was a bit of mold growth.) My Mom's two on the other hand, came through with flying colors with absolutely no winter protection. Those figs will surprise you ;)
Comment by MamaHomesteader Wed May 1 03:04:41 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime