Fig's First Winter

The Chicago Hardy Fig is the most likely variety to survive outside in our 6b winters but it still needs the right location and winter protection. My options were limited, but I planted my fig tree in the sunniest part of my backyard garden bed, somewhat sheltered between the porch and the fence. This area also gets deep snow cover because my upstairs neighbors shovel off their porch. I had been lazily just putting a bucket over it at night to protect from early frosts.

One morning I went out, lifted the bucket, and found that all the leaves had dropped. Shocking, but defoliation is a normal part of the tree’s transition into winter dormancy. It is also a sign that I needed to get my act together on the winter protection measures. (I should probably tidy up the rest of the garden bed too)

There are many methods of protecting outdoor fig trees in cold climates. The idea is to keep the branches from dying back so you get more fruit sooner in the season. Some people build fig “houses” over the tree with foam board and duct tape or wrap trees with burlap, plastic, tarpaper, old carpets, and whatnot. Burying the tree horizontally in a deep trench is another option, but seemed like a lot of work.

This year’s method is: wrap with burlap, tie, heap up dirt around the tree, cover with bucket stuffed with leaves, big flowerpot on top, keep the dog from digging it up. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully by next fall my tree will be too big for the bucket.

I collect useful bits of string for gardening. This nice cotton string was first used to tie up the napkin and utensil sets at a restaurant. I'm not crazy, just thrifty.

For my local readers, I bought the fig tree through the Pomona Project, just one of the many projects organized by the Belmont Food Collaborative. The 2016 order form will probably go up in January or February.

And yes, you can absolutely grow fig trees in pots and move them into your heated garage, sunroom, or basement each winter. I didn't feel like dragging a big pot down my basement stairs-from-hell.