The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Protecting a fig from winter cold

Fig after a killing frost

Even though it was hard to believe when I stripped down to a t-shirt five hours later, we had a low of 21 on Sunday night. The killing frost was definitely enough to nip our fig leaves and put the tree to sleep, which meant it was time to protect our fig from winter cold.

Regular readers will probably know all about our fig trees (which I talk about almost as much as cute goats). But if you're new, here are some answers to obvious questions:

Fig winter protection

Snipping off the top of a figOkay, now that you're all up to speed, it's time to protect that fig! I opted to return to the 2012 method, figuring that more leaves around the base of the plant will protect the sensitive junction of stem and root from winter injury. Brian suggested stones around the base, which is a great idea, but I never seem to have extra rocks to throw around. (It's a momentous occasion when a new stone turns up in the garden.) Assuming we don't have a repeat of last year's ultra-cold winter, and assuming that I secured the tarp well enough, hopefully the three stems I kept will produce an early crop (which we missed out on this year).

Rooted fig cutting

As I pruned, I was excited to see that several of the small stems that had grown horizontally out from the tree base had sprouted roots over the summer! I snipped the rooted segments off and wrapped them in damp newspaper in case any of our readers want to give Chicago Hardy figs a try. Enter the giveaway using the widget below if you're interested (and be sure to plan ahead for five cuttings that should be potted up and spend the winter in a cool spot inside while they finish growing roots).

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm concerned about soil quality. As you know, the Tri-Cities area doesn't really have soil - we've got clay, which is good for making bricks and pots but not so good for most plants. Do you have mostly clay soil and if so, do you add any kind of amendments, or do you have very nice loamy soil?


Comment by Nayan Wed Nov 5 08:14:50 2014
Nayan --- Well, technically we have silt soil, but if you don't run a soil test, you'd call it clay. It's all about adding organic matter. We double down on manure, straw, hugelkultur (for perennials), and cover crops, and slowly but surely our soil improves. In fact, in the areas we've been gardening for six or seven years, you might almost think it was loam!
Comment by anna Wed Nov 5 09:50:15 2014
There is an older gentleman around here (central ny) who has gorgeous fig trees. This year I stopped by to purchase some of his figs and ask him for advice. He says to wrap the limbs together and bend it over if the fig tree is youngish, mulch it, place a board on it with something heavy to hold it down and cover it with a tarp and a heavy blanket. Then he said to mound the dirt over the edges of the blanket. He also said that the tree/bush will be more likely to fruit if it has four or less branches coming from the ground. He said the others are babies and should be dug out. I'm going to try it this year, fingers crossed.
Comment by Susan Wed Nov 5 11:51:05 2014
Approximately how long does it take fig trees to grow and mature from cuttings into producing trees? Thanks!
Comment by Rae Wed Nov 5 14:00:48 2014

Susan --- I'll be curious to hear how your experiment turns out!

Rae --- That's a good question! Our Chicago Hardy fruited for the first time when it had been in the ground a year and a half. Of course, that wasn't from a cutting, so I'd add 1 to 2 years on top of that for serious fruit. That said, I gave my mom one of last year's cuttings...and she had fruit this summer! She lives one zone warmer than me, though, which I think helped.

Comment by anna Wed Nov 5 18:13:00 2014
Do voles not target fig trees or do they need to be protected from voles too?
Comment by Daniel Sat Nov 8 14:51:08 2014
Daniel --- good question! We do have a lot of voles in the winter, but I've never noticed damage to the figs, so maybe they don't like them? Or maybe that spot just isn't particularly vole-friendly? I'm not sure, but I'll be hoping they never find it!
Comment by anna Sun Nov 9 08:00:17 2014

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