Am I a Fig Failure?

catlady4444(7)April 7, 2010

This is my second spring, & will be my third growing season with figs. Last spring my Sal's had died down to the ground, but my buried pots of cuttings were fine.

This spring, so far, all look dead: now 2 Sal's and 1 Celeste. Yes, it was a rough winter, but ....shouldn't I see signs of life by now? I followed directions to the letter for winter protection. I'm so frustrated....


7 A, near Annapolis, Maryland

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I tried 2 years of in ground figs. Gave up. Mine died too. I even bought pink insulation and wrapped with burlap, plastic nice and tight.

Good news is all of my 6 potted figs are doing great. I plan to add 2 or 3 more figs.

I suggest you go the potted fig route.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:03AM
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Ann, I live in a much more severe zone than you. Instead of leaving trees out and wrapping them, I left 10 out last year; two (both between 5 feet tall and 9 feet) I buried in the garden in a shallow trench after lifting them. I dug a trench about 18 inches deep, put wood chip mulch in the bottom, laid the trees (branches tied close together with burlap, down along it. I put about 6 inches of mulch, then more burlap or weed-stop barrier, then more mulch to about 18 inches deep. Snow finally went early, about two weeks ago. I marked the location with wood stakes. I dug them out (a Desert King and a fig from N Carolina) very slowly and carefully, after removing a two inch crust of ice from the top, two weeks ago and stood them up. They are now healthy but not yet budding, but they are alive.
The others - 8 (about 3 to 4 foot trees) - I buried in a wood chip mulch pile with about 18 inches of mulch over them. I dug a thin crust of ice from over them three weeks ago, and they are now in a covered greenhouse and are budding strongly. No losses. I have a small heater and lots of buckets of water in there to provide, and hold heat if required. I have never known it to be so mild here. Most of my other fig trees are in the sun room and house and several are already showing main crop figs. Next year I will be burying mostly in mulch. You should try the same. I have photos but I am not sure how to upload them.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:43AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Cuddywhiffer, I have a question. I will NEVER have to dig up a fig and bury it because I live in a hot climate, but I'm curious. How far do the roots spread? Did you just cut into them or go all the way around them?

I am curious because I'm thinking of putting two in the ground next to the front door, south facing, and one will be fighting with a palm tree for root space. The other will have nothing to contend with.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:50AM
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Suzi, I leave the roots alone as much as I can and just loosen and lift enough to get the tree to lie flat. In the case of the two I buried in the garden, I loosened the soil on one side but couldn't get them to lie down for me, so I heaved up to loosen them more and got both fairly loose, at least enough to lie down flat. The roots only seemed to go off about two feet to the side, but I am sure I am not typical. In any case, the plants had only been growing there for 6 months. I plan on moving both of them to another location in a couple of weeks, before they do anything serious. The ones in my mulch pile were in 1 gal to 5 gal pots.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 10:13AM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

Ann, I'm a zone warmer than you and my lone in-ground tree has just started putting on jellybean-sized breba, and hasn't even really broken leaves yet (except on one small twig near the base)

So, I would say ... give it a couple of weeks more before chalking it all up to a loss.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 1:51PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Same here. I have just a smidge of growth and a few tiny figlets. You're colder than me, so give it a bit more time.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 8:05PM
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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

All 6 in ground trees I have survived the winter. They are Sal's, Brooklyn white, Dark Portuguese, Blue Celeste, Sumaki, Brooklyn dark, Rimaley. All were wrapped except for Brooklyn Dark. There was rabbit damage on the brooklyn dark since it wasn't wrapped.
My point is I'm in a colder area than Maryland. I'm not sure where you have it planted and what you do for them in winter.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 8:24PM
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I am in zone 7 and I don't think it was a rough winter at all. Yes a lot of snow but milder than the last few. I also think that it's too early to worry about new growth yet.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 10:46PM
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stepandfetch(NC 7B)


My first attempt at fig propagation ( I detailed it under that thread name): all twigs died (13), that was ok, I did many things wrong. Second attempt: 12 cuttings- all died, even with new knowledge gained, lots of TLC...

My first fig tree (celeste) died because I did not protect it from winter. Half of my second fig tree (Brown T) died... Third fig tree- I did not space it far enough from the second fig tree, and I will have to transplant it in a few days.. the deer munched most of the new leaves off because I did not protect it.

My girlfriend (who knows absolutely nothing about gardening) took one of my supposedly dead cuttings from the second time around and somehow miraculously brought it back to life with a little bit of water. The think looked very bad a month ago, but now it is shooting green again and roots are visible.

Personally I would not be surprised if I do not taste any figs this summer, by the way things are going.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 1:18PM
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To the title thread Am i A Fig Failure ? NO NO.
May i make a suggestion,if all else fails dont give up.
Grow one in container , water it, fertilize it once in a while, root prune every 2 to 3 years, use good ole potting soil you dont need nothing fancy, they have all worked for me, and in winter bring in basement, cellar, attached garage.
Im not a master gardener but keep it simple in a container if your not successful in ground and you will get figs in year 2 most of the time and more figs as the tree matures.
Trust me one does not have to be a rocket scientist to grow figs all to often i read about certain fertilizers, certain ways to root em, best soils etc, etc thats fine and dandy for the ones that seek the best of the best. Im always showing pictures of my trees as an example in containers what can be done so some folks who are newer to the fig world dont lose the faith but rather say i would like to try Because its not complicated.
When starting off keep it simple if you try growing in containers, trust me i get lost finding my car coming out of a grocery store but can grow a fig plant and enjoy the fruit.
Best Luck

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 4:25PM
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Take it easy on yourself. In my opinion in ground figs in your zone are all about microclimate. Pick a spot with a southern exposure thats protected from the north wind by preferably your house. I am north of you and never cover my figs because I have them in a good spot. I am growing numerous figs that are not supposed to be as cold hardy as celeste or BT. Hang in there.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 6:16PM
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Thank you everyone....I'm trying to be optimistic but the twigs snap like very dead wood....

My site seems reasonable to me, though not perfect: nice southern exposure, my neighbor's house to the north along with trees, etc. It's not right up against anything, but I hoped it would work.

I really don't have a suitable place for potted figs in the garage gets bitter cold, same for the shed. No partially heated room...they'd freeze for sure.

Originally I thought burying them was *way* too much effort to plan on it year after year, but...the thought of not growing figs has me thinking that's the way to go for me, if these things are dead or died down to the ground. I guess as long as I can physically do it, I'll do it for fresh figs.

Luckily I rooted one cutting of Sal's from the fall. But I fear Celeste may be gone.

Anyway, I really appreciate all the support---I'll let you know if I see anything green!


    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:57PM
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I am also in MD. my figs just starting to show swelling buds. it is too early to judge, if your figs survived or not. Most probably they will grow from the ground level. In my experience here first winter they usually die to the ground. Next winter few inches stay alive and by year 4 or 5 you have fig trees that have very little dieback. I say based on my sister's experience here. She has a garden full of figs. She doesn't winter protect.I also grow figs, but they are still young. I follow her pattern. My figs are 3-4 year old and they had some dieback, but more then half of each cane is alive. I don't winter protect. My zone is 6b. I have Celeste, Hardy Chicago, Verte, Violette de bordeaux and two others that I got from friends, don't know the names.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Olga, thank you so much for your feedback. I am happy to report that there are signs of life at the base of each. I have been dutifully wrapping, and...I guess I'll continue to do so? Or do you think that somehow delays the "toughening up" that occurs as time passes?

I have been distraught trying to figure out what to plant where the figs are, or whether or not I have room to bury them next winter. I guess I'll ride it out. Nothing compares to figs...

Thanks again everyone,


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 7:56AM
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