Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrap that Fig

Holidays are good reminders for certain garden activities…. In Bucks County we think of planting tomatoes about Mother’s Day, seeding new lawns on Labor Day, planting garlic on Columbus Day. To this list I’d add… wrap you fig on Thanksgiving.

What? You don’t have a fig tree? Well ask around. You’d be surprised how many Bucks County gardeners cultivate figs. These exotic, tasty fruit ripen in late summer and are a real treat. The plants are almost pest free and require very little care beyond a bit or pruning and winter protection. I joined the fig club a few years ago when a Bucks County Master Gardener gave me a root sucker to plant. I am not certain of the variety but it is probably Brown Turkey which is reported to be hardy to 10 degrees F.

Winter protection really starts with site selection. Place figs in a sunny protected area, preferably against a southern exposed building wall. This alone will go a long way towards improving winter survival of above ground canes. Although I mentioned fig tree, the plants growth habit is more like a multi-stemmed shrub. Fruit is borne on current seasons’ growth.

So, back to wrapping. Is it necessary? Maybe not. The person I got my plant from lives in central Bucks County and provides no protection. For insurance, consider tying all of the existing canes together in a bundle and wrapping them with burlap or any other sturdy cloth-like material and them re-wrapping with a more wind protective material. I’ve used the cheap tarps commonly sold in hardware stores. Some folks wrap loosely and fill the center with insulating material such as straw.It's a two person job.

Finally, mound soil over the crown of the plant. Even if the top growth freezes out, you’re likely to get re-growth from below ground if the crown is protected in this manner. Since fruit is born on current sesons growth you’ll still get a crop, although not as much as when old wood overwinters.

I discovered this the hard way on my first fig growing attempt. I assumed the worst after an unexpected, early December temperature plunge to single digits left my plant unprotected. After tilling the planted area in the spring, I discovered that there was life after all, below ground.

For a fact sheet on growing figs in northrern climates, check out what the folks from Cornell University on Long Island have to say at this site.

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