If you've been following along with the YouTube channel (youtube.com/rossraddi), you know that we've been talking about low tunnels and how the fig tree is one of the very few perennial fruiting plants that can actually be grown under them successfully. Because the fig is the only one that I know of that can be grown in a temperate climate that can also be cut back to almost nothing and still fruit the following season. Why? The main crop forms on the new growth of the season and doesn't require any buds from last year's wood.
Low tunnels are a great way to extend the season or to keep plants warm during colder periods. Extending the season for the fig tree can be incredibly beneficial to the overall production and fruit quality. Not only that, but low tunnels are affordable, easy to construct, take down and move, so it's a no brainer that they are a great option for those that can't grow in a large greenhouse.
Using some math and knowledge from prior seasons, you can expect much earlier ripening fruits. Simply put, if the soil temperatures are higher, you can almost guarantee earlier fruits. Reaching that 78F optimal soil temperature for the fig tree's metabolism is critical. Doing this at an early point of the season means exponential gains. Most notably in fruit quality. Let me show you the timeline...
Assuming I maximized my soil temperatures and have the right genetics, I can expect that in a normal season here in the Philadelphia area to ripen figs off of in ground trees (not given a head start with plastic) by August 15th. However, I would argue in favor of an August 1st main crop date assuming you really know what you're doing. Especially when using some of the techniques that I've talked about in years prior like pinching, planting the trees above grade, using other means to warm the soil and of course choosing the right genetics.
However, with low tunnels, we can expect earlier production by at least a month. Here's how:
3/1 - The tunnels are constructed.
3/15 - Assuming enough sunny days, the fig trees wake up.
4/15 - Conservatively we can estimate that a month after waking from dormancy, we'll see our first fruits. In prior years potted fig trees in my greenhouse show visible fruits 2 and 3 weeks after waking from dormancy. This process takes about 550 growing degree days regardless of how it's grown.
6/24, 7/15 - First main crops will be ripe. After visible figs are showing on the trees, you can very accurately estimate in most locations with adequate heat/sunlight that figs ripen 70-90 days after formation. Some varieties actually require a whopping 120, but some varieties like Malta Black, Improved Celeste, Florea and many more will ripen figs in as little as 65-70 days after fruit formation.
Therefore I think that growing figs in this way has huge advantages for most of the growers in the country. Even for your average backyard grower. We'll know more as the season progresses as I've yet to see firsthand the full potential of fig trees under low tunnels. I'll know in about a month what to expect, but do follow along with the YouTube channel for more details on the topic. I'll be covering everything you need to know about doing this over the next 2-3 months before I finally take them down in mid to late May.
For a full playlist that details every step of the low tunnel journey thus far, see this playlist I've created on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOUukGOTpsc&list=PLxY197EqTn6hHagFncQt2MRCn8ilOEGaT&ab_channel=RossRaddi