Updated: Nov 3
Are you a fig grower looking to ensure a bountiful harvest next spring? Or just want to protect your backyard fig tree from the harsh winter? Look no further! In today's blog post, we're revealing the secret to winter fig tree survival - wrapping.
That's right, by simply wrapping your fig trees, you can add an extra layer of protection from the cold and wind, potentially saving your tree and ensuring successful fruit production. This is the ultimate guide to wrapping your fig tree for winter protection, so don't miss out and read on to find out how to protect your fig tree and ensure a successful harvest next spring.
For a demonstration of the actual wrapping process, I would highly recommend watching my latest video below. The video also covers other methods of winter fig tree protection that I'm doing in my yard. Some of these are discussed in great detail elsewhere on the blog, found here:
Wrapping fig trees is an effective way to protect them from cold temperatures and wind during winter, potentially saving the tree and ensuring successful fruit production in the spring.
Wrapping is not the only technique, other methods of insulation and heat sources such as Christmas lights, heating cables, and trapping the Earth's heat can also be used to ensure the survival of the fig tree.
The importance of protecting the apical and lateral buds on fig trees for earlier fruits, higher quality fruits, and easier fruit set the following year is discussed.
Planting near structures and sources of thermodynamic heating can also raise ambient temperatures and provide extra warmth for fig trees.
The blog post includes a demonstration video on the wrapping process and other winter fig tree protection methods.
Why should we wrap our fig trees?
You should wrap your fig tree because your winter weather may be too severe. By wrapping we're protecting them from the wind, but also potentially giving them some insulation from the cold. The goal for our fig trees during the winter time is for them to take zero winter damage so that we can preserve the critical fruiting buds of our fig trees.
Take my Ronde de Bordeaux fig tree as an example. It usually doesn't lignify well and thus far has not proven itself to be very hardy. I know it can be winter hardy to about 5F based on information from growers in different locations, but if I protect it by wrapping it, I will ensure that a less hardy variety survives while also having its apical and lateral buds in tact come spring.
These buds are critical for producing earlier fruits, fruits at a higher quality, and making fruit set easier the following year.
I cover the importance of these buds in the comprehensive pruning discussion that I published about a month ago here:
With the understanding of the importance of the apical and lateral buds, it makes a lot more sense as to why protecting fig trees may be necessary for you. By wrapping our trees correctly, we're gaining about 5 degrees of warmth. If the forecast is predicting 10F at your location and your fig tree might be at risk of its fruiting buds taking damage, then I would highly recommend wrapping your fig tree before that winter low.
Temperature tolerance of fig trees:
Some fig tree varieties are hardier than others and can survive lower temperatures without damage. For example, hardy varieties (like Hardy Chicago) will survive at temperatures of around 0-5F and above, while less hardy varieties may not survive temperatures below 15F.
Unfortunately, only about 2.5% of the 1000s of fig varieties in existence can survive a 5F winter low. And much less (maybe 0.25%) will survive a temperature of 0F or below. But if we wrap our trees, we can grow a much wider amount of varieties.
To see a list of hardy fig varieties, check out my blog post on that here:
This is also why it's critical to plant near structures and also near other sources of thermodynamic heating. They act as a source of heat that raises ambient temperatures around them. Similar to wrapping, any extra degrees of warmth will go a long way.
Will fig trees come back after winter?
Whether or not a fig tree will come back after the winter depends on the severity of the cold temperatures, the variety of the fig tree, and whether or not the roots took damage.
Fig trees have an incredible ability to come back from their roots once your tree is established and planted correctly. As long as the roots are protected and the ground temperatures don't exceed 10F, a fig tree's resilience will always amaze even the most experienced fig tree grower.
Protecting cold-sensitive fig tree roots
The roots of a fig tree are more sensitive to the cold than their branches and are more susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. However, the roots are well insulated in the Earth's crust and are not as exposed to the cold as the branches. While the branches may show signs of damage from the cold, the roots may still be healthy and able to revive the tree in the spring.
To protect the roots, it is important to ensure that the soil around the tree is well-draining and not overly saturated with water. This can help to prevent the roots from freezing and becoming damaged. Additionally, mulch can be added to the soil to help keep the roots insulated and protected from the cold.
When to winterize your fig tree
You should winterize your fig tree when you see extreme temperatures in the 10-day forecast. Timing is everything. Of course, you want to get the protection on the tree before the extreme cold sets in, but you also don't want to wrap your fig tree too soon or too late.
When temperatures are still quite warm and the ground isn't frozen, it's very likely the wrong time to wrap. I wait until I see some extreme temperatures in the forecast predicting a low around 15F. That's after Thanksgiving and usually around Christmas time here in the Philadelphia area.
If it's too warm, the moisture inside the wrapping can cause mold. It's not uncommon to see an entirely molded tree when growers wrap it too soon and keep it wrapped too late. Around here I also unwrap in March. March is usually the time when a temperature below 20F is uncommon and I know it's safe to unwrap.
A lot of winter fig tree protection topics were also mentioned in an interview with Canadian fig grower, Steven Biggs:
Can I wrap my fig tree with a tarp? What about burlap?
When wrapping your fig tree, tarps are your best asset. Burlap is also a nice addition to add a little bit of extra insulation.
Here are the tools needed to wrap your fig tree properly:
Keep in mind that there are so many materials available. This comes down to preference, but I'm giving you all of the options so that you can choose the materials that are best for you.
Pruning shears or a pruning saw - you may want to prune your tree before wrapping. This can reduce the size of the tree and make wrapping an easier and more manageable task
Jute twine or bungee cords - this is how you'll bring the branches & trunks closer together
Leaves, straw, woodchips (any kind of mulch), or shredded cardboard - about one lawn bag full for each tree
A roll of burlap, housing insulation, moving blankets, bubble wrap, pipe insulation, or fleece row cover
Bamboo or metal stakes long enough to frame each tree - 3 per tree
Post-pounder tool, mallet, or hammer
Approximately 12 feet of chicken wire for each tree
A 10 mil tarp, tar paper, roofing felt, or a concrete blanket - this is a waterproof and insulative outside layer of the wrapping
Heavy-duty plastic bucket or trash can for the top of the wrapping
Step stool or ladder