'Italian Fig'

hammerl(z5-6 Amherst NY)August 8, 2006

On impulse and family nostalgia, I bought what was labeled just as "Italian Fig" at our local botanical garden plant sale. I have no idea what kind it is and would like to find out. It seems to be doing well, topping off at over three feet tall (it was just over a foot when I bought it in May), and seems to be developing some figs finally.

We are zone 5a, where figs do not like to overwinter in the great outdoors, although I have heard rumors that in the city here there are houses in old Italian neighborhoods that do harbor fig trees outside.

My Italian grandfather used to lay his fig tree down and bury it over the winter (my mother noted it looked like a grave), but I was thinking it might be easier for now to just overwinter it in the house as it is in a pot. Any thoughts?

Finally, should I let it go dormant and drop leaves before I bring it in (assuming I do)? Do I then keep it out of the sun until it starts to releaf?

Thank you in advance, I am new to growing figs and don't want to kill it. :)

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gene_washdc(zone 5a)

Here in zone 7 I keep my potted figs in an unheated, but attached shed, and water them about once a month. I've heard stories about people who've kept figs going year round, either outside in warm climates, or inside in cold climates. But personally I'd never try to keep one going inside. There's too much fuss with lamps, heating, and humidity and such for me. Gives me a break too, and whets the anticipation for spring when the first fig leaves unfurl.

I think Herman or Georg in NJ have some experience with burying figs over winter. Maybe they'll chime in with suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 6:03PM
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pezzuti9(z5 PA)

I am in the same zone you live in and I grow my fig trees in 20 gallon plastic tubs. I wait until light first frosts have knocked all the leaves from the trees I have then I tie up the branches as tight as I can get them without
breaking them. I then place sleeping blankets that I purchase at garage sales for a buck or two over the trees.
After I give them a good drink of water and one bottle of soda pop to each plant I push them into a dark corner of my garage, which is unheated but attached to my home.
Also be aware of the field mouse problem you might encounter.
It happened to me last year. They ate about a 2-inch wide area circling around the entire lower trunk area. I though I lost all 6 trees but I cut branches from each tree and peeled off long strips of the bark from those branches. I them scrape the bark off above and below the damaged area using a sharp razor blade. Be careful not to go deep and remove the green layer just below the bark. I then used duck tape to attach the cut strips from the branches unto the trees straddling the damaged areas. I wrapped the whole area with the duct tape. It worked great and the fig trees are producing like mad.

Taking precautions for this winter I am going to place cotton balls soaked with, Oil of Oregano around the base of each tree and wrap up the trunk to the first branch with heavy duty aluminum foil. This should work. In 8 years this was the first time I had the field mice problem.

Two days ago I just pick the grand daddy of LSU Gold figs for my area. It was very large and so delicious. I wish I knew how to place a photo on here. I have to look into that.

Good luck with your tree.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 9:11PM
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janellojr(ZONE 5)

I started a fig from cutting which is 3 ft tall (from top of container) with little figs all over it. I am in Chicago area . will they get big enough to eat by first hard frost

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 12:08AM
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Lou, what does soda pop do for fig plants?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 12:18PM
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Good Question?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 1:00PM
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Here in zone 7 (Staten Island, NY) we prune the figs back after a freeze (they are in the ground.. mine is about 8' high now), wrap them up in blankets, place white plastic bags on top..tie them up too. and wish them a happy winter.. They come back. Even if you forget to wrap a fig adn the entire top dies back, the roots will usually survive.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 7:40PM
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^Same here in the Syracuse, NY suburbs. Just leave the fig tree in the ground and let it come back from the roots. I have 4 large fig trees and 7 small fig trees. One in a pot, the rest in the ground.

They grow fast, it only took two and half months for my large fig trees to grow this big -pictures were taken almost a month ago

By covering it with straw and a plastic tarp last fall, I saved the bottom two feet on this one, so it had a head start this year.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 1:10AM
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girlfromthegarden(z5 Indy metro)

Chris, what kinds of figs are you growing that hang in there through an upstate NY winter, and are you buffered at all by nearby lakes, to achieve a zone 6 so far north? I'm amazed (and envious) of the healthy fig bushes you've got there, what side (compass orientation) of your house are you growing those on? south? It also looks like you've got some up against the foundation, and then a group of them out farther into the yard where they get full sun (if I'm interpretting positions from your two pictures correctly). How did you use the straw and tarp for winter coverage? I've got one fig inground this season (a Hardy Chicago), that I'll need to winterize, and would try more inground if I thought I could keep them mostly safe from freezing here in zone 5 (up against the house on the south and east corner). Did the ones which had winter die-back produce much fruit after they grew back?


    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 1:33PM
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Thanks Sherry, I’ve been growing fig trees for over 15 years, so they had a lot of time to get this big and nice looking. I continue divide them and spread them around my yard as they grow bigger, that’s why I have so many.

what kinds of figs are you growing that hang in there through an upstate NY winter

Sorry, I don't know the names of my fig trees, I have ones that produce purple figs and ones that produce white figs. The very large one that I protected last winter is a purple producing fig. My purples produce more fruit than the other kind. They all came from my grandparents house. My grandparents came to the suburbs of Syracuse from Italy almost 70 years ago and grew figs into huge trees for over 30 years. I guess my fig trees are what others call “Italian figs”.

are you buffered at all by nearby lakes, to achieve a zone 6 so far north?

Yes, I have three lakes nearby. Lake Ontario is less than 40 miles to the northwest. Onondaga Lake is less than 5 miles away to the southwest and Oneida Lake, the largest inland lake in New York State is less than 10 miles away to the northeast.

Also, I’m in the middle of the suburbs, with suburban development in all directions for miles around. The outlying areas can get much colder in the winter.

For my Hardiness zone information, I’ve always gone by the arbor day website. I put in my zip code, 13212 and it came out to be a zone 6.

what side (compass orientation) of your house are you growing those on?

Most of my fig trees are on the WSW side of my house, which is the direction that the backyard faces. I also have one on the north, and two on the southside of my house.

It also looks like you've got some up against the foundation, and then a group of them out farther into the yard where they get full sun

Yes, four fig trees are next to the house, two in the picture above and two on the southside of the house. Six are located out in the open, four of those are almost in full shade and two are in half day of shade. The second picture of the large fig tree that I protected is located in a half day of sun.

As you can see from this picture, two large Silver Maple trees shade my yard for most of the day. (you can see another fig tree inside the fenced-in area. All my other fig trees (excluding the ones next to my house shown in the other picture) are outside the fenced-in area. Looking SW

Haven’t managed to kill one yet. Even after 10 years of two next to my shed where they got little sun and the large Silver Maple tree roots took all the energy away from the plants. They remained very small all that time, this year I finally moved them to the southside of my house and are starting to really take off.

How did you use the straw and tarp for winter coverage?

It’s very simple. I first put down poison to kill the rodents that like to gnaw on the fig branches during the winter. Second, I put down straw over the fig tree. Just loosen the straw a little when you spread it. I didn’t have enough straw to cover all of it, only about two feet high. Third, I used a clear plastic tarp and covered the whole fig tree with it. I heard clear plastic is bad (dark plastic or tinted is better they say), but clear plastic worked for me. Lastly, I used large rocks to hold down the tarp from blowing away. Just line rocks all around the outside part of the tarp.

The top part of the fig tree that wasn’t covered with straw and was exposed died. The lower part of the branches that were covered with straw survived. Therefore, make sure that the straw covers all the parts that you want to save.

Did the ones which had winter die-back produce much fruit after they grew back?

The simple answer is No. They might produce fruit, but they never ripen or get too big before a freeze comes in October. There are exceptions though. Last year I did get a few small figs from my largest fig tree in my vegetable garden. It wasn’t protect the winter before.

I don’t expect to get figs every year, they are just a bonus for me. Mostly, I grow them for the foliage.

This year, I have the most potential for fruit I’ve ever had. Even my smaller fig trees have small figs growing on them. If my backyard had more sun, I imagine the fruit would ripen faster.

To give you a better idea of the fruit on my fig trees, I’ll get some pictures of them soon.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Just took this picture of fruit growing on one of my fig trees today. Hope this gives you an idea of how big they can get this time of year in zone 6.

I have about 7 or 8 branches that look like this.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 10:43PM
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Hi,your leaf looks like mine. I have a chicago Hardy which i believe is some sort of italian type fig.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 4:20AM
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