Fig trees are a delightful addition to any garden, but their hardiness in the face of winter weather can be a cause for concern. That’s where winter protection comes in.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the nuances of my favorite method of winter protection for fig trees, the results of that method, and when to uncover your fig tree. I also explore the steps to take after the winter season, including pruning and using season extension techniques to give your fig trees a head start. And, for those living in colder climates, I’ll highlight some of the hardiest fig varieties to ensure your trees survive the winter season.
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Fig Tree Care During the Winter
Fig trees are known to be hardy plants, but they require proper winter protection to thrive in zones 6 and 7. One of my favorite methods of winter protection involves bending the branches of fig trees close to the ground and staking them with garden staples or bamboo. After the branches are along the ground, I cover them with mulch or other insulative materials.
Why does this work?
When the branches are low to the ground, they are closer to the earth, which is a source of heat. If you have a heat source, the only left to do is insulate it. Woodchips, straw, and leaves are great insulative materials that are easy to find. What I like about this method is that it offers a more efficient alternative to wrapping fig trees for winter protection.
The Results of Winter Protection
Despite some challenges with warmer than usual weather and rotting in some branches, the majority of the trees survived and appear to be in great condition. This method was particularly effective in ensuring that the growth tips and lateral buds were still intact on the branches, which is critical for fruit production in the coming season.
One of the most important aspects of this method is ensuring that the entire branch is protected to prevent damage, as opposed to just the trunk or base of the tree. Next year, I am going to be a bit more thorough when applying my mulch layer. Where branches stuck out above the mulch line, the damage was observed.
The one negative to any fig tree winter protection method is the chance of mold and rot from a warm and moist environment. In particular, this method is susceptible because wood chips, leaves, or other coverings can create lead to excess moisture around the bark leading to rot.
Here’s how to combat this:
Choose thicker branches to protect and bend in the fall. Thicker branches tend to fare better with this method, as they are less likely to rot and can handle being bent closer to the ground.
Consider covering your insulative materials with a tarp. A tarp keeps the excess moisture out leading to less rot.
Don’t just cross your fingers for a dry and cold winter. Instead, uncover your fig trees before it gets too warm, and don’t cover them too early in the fall. It is the combination of warmth and excess moisture around the bark that leads to rot.