Figs are a delightful addition to gardens, providing flavorful and nutritious fruits in the summer. However, to ensure healthy fig trees, it’s important to properly prepare them for winter. Figs need protection when temperatures drop less than 25 degrees F. There are a few key steps you can take to protect them from the cold temperatures and potential damage from frost.
Once temperatures start to decrease you can begin preparing your fig tree for winter. Remove any remaining figs or leaves from the fig tree. Also, prune any weak or diseased branches. Make sure to stop fertilizing until spring. It is important that your fig tree remains dormant until spring since fig trees need a minimum of 100 hours of chilling to be able to produce fruit.
For fig trees that are in pots or containers, the best option is to bring them indoors. Remove any remaining figs or leaves and put them in an insulated, dark room if possible. A garage or a cool basement are great options as long as they won’t get cold enough to freeze. Consider adding insulation around the pots if the indoor area may get too cold. Water them monthly until the soil is moist, but make sure not to overwater. When outdoor temperatures remain over 35 degrees F, you can bring your fig tree back outside.
If your fig trees are planted in the ground, there are ways you can protect them throughout the winter. The most common way to protect them is by wrapping and covering them. First, protect the base of the plant. You can use leaves, straw, or other organic materials. Next, bundle the branches with twine or rope. Fig trees are very bendable, allowing you to closely bundle the branches and tie them together. You should then wrap burlap, tar paper, or old blankets around the bundled branches and secure them with more twine. Plastic alone will not be effective in protecting your fig trees. Make sure to keep the top open to allow moisture to escape. Then use cardboard or chicken wire to build a cage around the tree. Fill this cage with shredded leaves, straw, or other dry materials. Finally, wrap a tarp or burlap around the cage. Place a plastic bucket on top of the wrapped fig tree. This allows heat and moisture to escape while preventing any rain from getting in.
Another method for protecting fig trees in the winter outdoors is by burying them. Prune your fig trees to a manageable height. Then, bundle the branches with twine or rope as described above. You can wrap the bundled fig tree in a cloth. Next, dig a trench next to the fig tree. This trench should be as long, wide, and tall as the fig tree. Utilize a sharp spade to cut lateral roots growing about one foot out from the trunk on the opposite side of the trench. Insert the spade beneath the fig tree and undercut a portion of the root ball facing the trench. Be cautious not to sever roots on the remaining two sides. Also make sure you are not cutting the central, largest roots. Although you will be cutting some roots, this method ensures the tree will remain alive while also being able to bend into the trench. Bend the fig tree into the trench until it’s lying down. Cover the tree with plywood or cardboard then fill the trench with mulch. Mulch heavily to a depth of one foot to protect the fig tree.
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