THE FIG TREE TIMELINE - Based on Average Frost Dates
Updated: Jun 28
Get the beautiful fig tree timeline in poster form here:
This post is dedicated to helping beginner fig growers along the way of their season. This will give you the information that you need at any point during your season, so if you ever get lost, you can figure out exactly the things you should be doing for your fig trees to ensure success.
Lets start from the beginning of the season and work our way to the end.
30-60 days prior to your last frost: The main goal during this period is to complete any last minute tasks that you did not accomplish earlier in the dormancy period like pruning, root pruning, rejuvenation pruning, or applications of dormant oil. This is also the time to unwrap your fig trees and remove any winter protection. You do not want a wrapped fig tree in consistent warm weather. I would strongly recommend using season extension for those of you in short season climates-- a heated greenhouse, high tunnels or low tunnels will be advantageous. This will give your trees a head start to the season. Keep trees that have broke dormancy and are actively growing away from frost and above 32F.
0-30 days prior to your last frost: The main goal during this period is to aid your trees in waking them up from dormancy and to provide them with as much sunlight and warmth as possible to increase their metabolic rate. If your tree is not yet awake, the two main things that help them wake up is warm and rehydrated root systems. If your tree is awake, you will need to protect them from frost or temperatures below 32F. Either re-wrap your tree planted in the ground or move your container tree to safety. Assuming you are free of potential late frost and once they're actively growing, continue with additional water and make sure they are staying warm and are getting ample sunlight. This will help them grow quicker, fruit more abundantly and produce figs that ripen earlier. These 3 factors that you as the grower have control over are exponential gains that you'll see very clearly at the end of the growing season. To put it more simply, what you do now, pays major dividends later.
Shortly after your last frost: At this point, most of your trees should be awake. Our main concerns like the prior period are sunlight, heat, food & water. All trees can be safely moved out of winter storage. Transition leafed out trees slowly to full sun to avoid sunburn.
-- Apply container trees with 4-8 weekly applications of a well balanced fertilizer. Stick to a schedule. Cover your micronutrients and consider adding lime, diatomaceous earth, compost tea and mulch in dry/hot locations. While it's important to stick to a fertilization schedule early in the growing season, be sure to correct any nutritional deficiencies immediately. If you're unsure of what your in ground trees may need, the best way to figure out any deficiencies is to get a soil test.
-- Pruning should have been completed by this point, but thinning new shoots shortly after bud break that will be growing in disadvantageous positions is recommended. These are shoots that won't receive much sunlight or they'll shade others. Maximizing photosynthesis is what separates the average fig grower from the exceptional. This is where staking comes in handy. Instead of removing a branch in the wrong location over the winter, I recommend staking it instead into a new position. Fig trees have quite a pliable wood and this usually can be easily accomplished.
-- While I think up potting and planting can be accomplished at anytime given the right circumstances, this is a great time to do so.
15-45 days after last frost: The sap flow & metabolic rates are increasing. This is another opportune time to up pot your trees and plant them in the ground. This is also a great time for propagation. Begin outdoor rooting, grafting and air layering now that soil temperatures have risen significantly.
2 months after your last frost: By this point, you should be seeing most of your fruit set. Cease all synthetic fertilizers and organic fertilizers heavy in nitrogen. Excess nitrogen will decrease fruit quality. Consider Rivers pruning if you want to time a second crop of fruits. Otherwise, reduce water to ensure a higher brix in your fruits.
3 months after your last frost: This is when you'll start seeing your first main crop figs ripen. Decrease soil moisture and protect fruits if necessary. Organza bags, chicken wire, traps and netting are all great options.
Once you reach cooler fall weather: Reduce water even further to encourage lignification. Pick up and dispose of any fallen leaves to lessen rust issues. Pick up and dispose of any fallen fruits to lessen fruit fly pressure. This is a great time to do any up potting or planting of trees in the ground.
After a few frosts: The trees are now entering dormancy. Consider light pruning to thin out the tree's canopy. Make thinning cuts. Not heading cuts. Remove scaffolds or trunks at soil level to maintain size, but try to avoid removing too many apical or lateral buds with each cut. Put potted trees away in storage no earlier than when you see temperatures in the forecast below 15F. That will ensure they're dormant. Mulch well and water the trees in well before placing them in storage. Root prune/bare root for shipment if necessary. Begin indoor rooting. Wrap or protect your fig trees planted in the ground in zones 7A and below when the forecast is predicting 15-20F.
Midway through dormancy: To be safe, water dormant container fig trees. 4 ounces per tree.
*During dormancy it is appropriate to do any bare rooting, pruning, root pruning, planting or really anything where the top or bottom of the tree is disturbed. Propagation of any kind should not take place until the tree is awake and the day time high and night time low temperatures average is close to 78F.