Figs in New England

A Connecticut gardener shares his method of overwintering fig trees.

By Aldo P. Biagiotti

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Keeping fig trees alive through winterI grow subtropical fig trees in Connecticut and enjoy an abundance of honey-flavored fruit each fall—without bringing the plants indoors for the winter. How? I bundle them up in a winter coat.

Each fall, after frost has blackened the figs’ leaves (usually mid-November), I bundle up the trees and tuck them in for the winter, using 6 feet of chicken-wire fence, six metal posts (6 feet long), a roll of roofing paper, a roll of 3-mil plastic, some burlap (3 feet wide), a ball of twine, a leaf rake, a big bucket, and some hay or straw.

Here's what I do:

1. I bind the main trunks of the fig trees together with twine so they resemble a folded umbrella, but not so tightly that it damages the sensitive bark of the tree.

2. Using a sledgehammer, I drive three metal posts into the ground around each tree, 2 to 3 feet from the center of the bunched-up trunks, and pound them in firmly to withstand winter winds.

3. For the first layer of insulation, I bind handfuls of straw or hay to the trunks with twine.

4. Next, I cut off a section of chicken wire fence (8 to 10 feet long), wrap it around the metal posts and tie the ends together with twine.

5. I then dump fallen leaves from my yard into the chicken-wire enclosure and tamp them down with the flat end of an iron rake.

6. When the leaves reach the top of the enclosure, I cap the tip of the trees with a plastic pail lined with straw, and then drape the whole thing with plastic and secure it with twine.

7. Finally, I wrap a layer of roofing paper around the outside base of the structure, and secure it with more twine. And I wrap the entire structure with burlap, again tying it down with twine. (The burlap adds some insulation and looks better than the plastic and roofing paper.)

 

 

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