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The Last Step of Wrapping Fig Trees for Winter Protection
Winter is a crucial time for fig trees, and proper protection is essential for their survival and reliable fruit production in the following growing season. Wrapping fig trees during the winter season is a common practice among fig growers, and it helps to trap heat and protect the branches from harsh cold temperatures.
In this article, we will delve into the process of wrapping fig trees, when to unwrap fig trees, the results of wrapping compared to unprotected trees, the severity, and duration of the recent winter season, how to check for winter damage, and tricks to improve the wrapping process.
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The Importance of Wrapping and Unwrapping Fig Trees
Wrapping and unwrapping fig trees are crucial steps in ensuring their survival during the winter and ensuring a successful harvest the following spring. Fig trees are often sensitive to cold temperatures, and without proper protection, the harsh winter weather can damage or even kill a fig tree.
Wrapping the tree provides an extra layer of insulation from the cold and wind, helping to preserve the critical fruiting buds that are essential for producing earlier fruits, and fruits at a higher quality, and making fruit set easier the following year.
Unwrapping the fig tree in the spring is just as important as wrapping it in the winter. If the tree is left wrapped for too long, heat and moisture can build up inside, causing mold and rot that’ll potentially damage the tree. Therefore, it's important to unwrap the fig tree at the right time, usually when temperatures are consistently above 20°F.
Fig Tree Temperature Tolerance
The temperature tolerance of fig trees varies greatly among different varieties. Some fig tree varieties are hardier than others and can survive lower temperatures without damage. For example, hardy varieties like Hardy Chicago can survive temperatures around 0°F to 5°F and above, while less hardy varieties may not survive temperatures below 15°F. Unfortunately, only about 2.5% of the thousands of fig varieties in existence can survive a winter low of 5°F, and even fewer can survive temperatures of 0°F or below.
This is why it's important to understand the temperature tolerance of your specific fig tree variety and take necessary measures to protect it during the winter. By wrapping the tree, growers can help increase the warmth around their tree, potentially protecting it from temperatures that it may not normally be able to tolerate.
Additionally, planting near structures or sources of thermodynamic heating can also help provide additional warmth and protect the fig tree from the cold.
To read about hardy fig varieties, click here:
Understanding the Wrapping Process
The wrapping process for fig trees includes the following steps:
Pruning the fig tree: Consider pruning the fig tree to make the size of the tree more manageable to wrap.
Stringing up the branches and trunks: String up all of the branches and trunks to bring them close together using jute twine or bungee cords.
Wrapping the branches and trunks: Wrap the branches and trunks in burlap, housing insulation, moving blankets, bubble wrap, pipe insulation, or fleece row cover.
Creating a frame around the tree (optional): Create a frame around the tree with bamboo or metal stakes and wrap chicken wire or poultry netting around the frame. Fill the inside of the frame with mulch or shredded cardboard.
Covering the frame with a tarp: Cover the frame or wrapped branches and trunks with a tarp, concrete blanket, tar paper, or roofing felt, and secure it tightly with twine or bungee cords to make it as airtight as possible.
Adding a heavy-duty container on top: Place a heavy-duty empty plastic container or trash can on top of the wrapping to seal the top and increase insulation.
Mulching around the base: Mulch around the base of the wrapping to trap heat from the Earth and prevent cold air from getting inside the wrapping.
Discussion of the effect of trapping heat
Trapping heat is a critical aspect of wrapping fig trees for the winter. By wrapping the tree and creating airtight insulation around it, growers can help increase the warmth around the tree and protect it from the cold. The extra warmth provided by the wrapping can make a significant difference in the survival and health of the fig tree, especially during harsh winter weather.
However, it's important to follow the wrapping process properly to ensure that heat is being trapped effectively. If the wrapping is not tight and airtight, cold air can still get inside and potentially damage the tree. To prevent this, growers should ensure that they use a waterproof and insulative material for the outer layer of the wrapping, such as a tarp or tar paper, and secure it tightly with twine or bungee cords.
Additionally, growers should make sure that the wrapping is airtight by using a heavy-duty container on top to seal the top of the wrapping and trap heat inside. Mulching around the base of the wrapping can also help trap heat from the Earth and prevent cold air from getting inside.
To read more about fig tree winter protection, click here:
The Results of Wrapping Fig Trees
Wrapping fig trees has proven to be a successful method for protecting them from harsh winter conditions. When compared to unprotected fig trees, the results of wrapping fig trees are overwhelmingly positive. I was shocked to see that my Ronde de Bordeaux tree looked like it never went through winter at all while the other unprotected trees (while not damaged) do look like they have some wear and tear.
This does make me wonder if a product like Wilt Pruf, which is a natural anti-desiccant might be a nice option for the future as a possible way to protect my fig trees during mild winters.
Discussion of the severity and duration of the winter season
The winter season of 2022-2023 in the Philadelphia area was marked by a severe cold that affected the middle of the country and the edges of the Northeast. The low temperature of the winter was 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which lasted for 10 hours straight.
The following day, the temperature did not rise above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a very unusual winter with strange temperature patterns. This severe cold resulted in a longer duration of cold temperatures, which may pose a challenge for fig trees that were not protected during the winter season.
Checking for winter damage on the branches
The Scratch Test: Checking the winter damage of fig trees can be done by doing a scratch test on the branches. To perform this test, simply take a fingernail or a knife and scratch the surface of the branch. If the inner layer is bright green, it means that the branch is still alive and healthy. If the inner layer is brown or has a different color, it may indicate damage from the winter.
The pliability of the Branches: Another way to check for winter damage is by checking the pliability of the branches. If the branches are firm and rigid, it may indicate that the tree has suffered some damage. On the other hand, if the branches are still flexible and pliable, it may indicate that the tree has come through the winter unscathed.
Red Coloration of the Branches: A sure sign of winter damage is the red coloration of the branches. If the branches have turned red, it’s very likely that winter temperatures were extreme, and the branches lost all moisture and are now dead.