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Chicago Hardy Fig yield in a big pot

 
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My area is a bit chilly for figs.  My plan is to get some big nursery pots (10 gallons or bigger) and plant Chicago Hardy figs in them.  I'll bury them outside in the landscape to wow visitors during the summer and then once they go dormant I'll pop them out of the ground and wheel them into a sunroom that should be as warm as a Chicago winter.  Then I'll move them out in the spring again.  I've been led to believe that they grow fast and are easy to prune.  I'd have to keep them small enough to get through a doorway (32" I believe) and then stand up in a room with a 10' ceiling.

So, is it worth it?  What kind of fig yield could I expect from each fig tree?  

Is this plan workable?

Thanks!
 
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It is so worth it.
Mines self prune, so if there is a bit of dieback that is fine
 
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Don't know about that particular variety but in general they do grow fast. Can prune them any way desired & they keep growing. Ten gallons seems too small but I have no experience with them in containers. Roots of mature fig trees reach 35-50 feet. A bushy 10' tree planted outdoors will provide enough for a family of 4 & all the neighbors too. So perhaps figure one tree per person if grown in 10 gallon containers???

Any fruiting fig tree is worth it!!!
 
Mike Jay
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Awesome!  I'll go for it for sure now.  Sounds like I should get the biggest pots I can...

So are they likely to die back to the stump if it gets down to 0F in the sunroom?
 
Mike Barkley
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I have yet to have one survive winter in TN & it doesn't normally get quite that cold here. Those were very young & warmer variety (TX Everbearing & Brown Turkey) trees though. More mature fig trees here lose all their above ground growth during severe winters but regrow in the spring. I have heard & read Chicago Hardy is a more cold tolerant variety. Might be good to baby them the first winter but it seems you have a good chance with the sun room. Once they get a good strong root system they are almost indestructible.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Mike, they are supposed to be able to live outside in Chicago, probably with some extra protection.  I figure my sunroom probably is similar to Chicago climate-wise.  But the pots may make things worse.  I guess we'll see...
 
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Just make sure you are able to move the full pot!  

Many folks do this and call it the figgy shuffle, but after the plants get bigger . . . and you have 50 of them . . . you will realize figs are addictive!  :>)
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks!  I forgot I didn't really get an answer to my original question...

What kind of yield might I be able to expect from a few big pots of figs?
 
Mike Barkley
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For a non ever bearing variety (determinate in tomato terms) I'd estimate 5 gallons per potted tree each year. From an ever bearing in ground tree in TX I harvested 20-30 gallons each year & left at least that many more on the plant for birds. They make a lot of food!

Thanks for the reminder about Chicago Hardy. Will try to find one of those this year. Looked at the price of a pack of fig newtons recently. Almost cried.
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:Looked at the price of a pack of fig newtons recently. Almost cried.


I looked at a pack of them too, and also almost cried, I used to like them
Ingredients:
UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), FIGS, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, GLYCERIN, WHEY (FROM MILK), SALT, SOY LECITHIN, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CALCIUM LACTATE, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SULFUR DIOXIDE (SULFITES) ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS, MALIC ACID, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

Figs PLUS sugar, HFCS and corn syrup? I need a fig tree, I can make cookies with less sugars than that. Figs don't need sugar.
Figs were cultivated in the US for years as a sweetener, before cane sugar got big. I'm voting go back to the figs!!

For years I have claimed I'm the lady who bakes the cookies for the dark side (come to the dark side, we have cookies!) Maybe I need a new line about being the lady who bakes cookies for the bright side! :D
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Mike, they are supposed to be able to live outside in Chicago, probably with some extra protection.  I figure my sunroom probably is similar to Chicago climate-wise.  But the pots may make things worse.  I guess we'll see...



If your sunroom is as warm as a Chicago winter, that's not saying much, for your sunroom. The temps here have been bouncing around in the -9° to 19° range,  an awful lot, this month.
 
S Bengi
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With a zone 6 winter temp in the sunroom.
You will get winter dieback to a few inches.
But being in the sun room you will see the plant leave out in May/June.
This is when I would move it back to the garden.
And then you will be able to start harvesting in August until 1st frost.
The plant will grow 6ft+ and will be muli-trunk with 20 fruit per week.
 
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The fig newton box keeps shrinking too. I planted a couple more. I’ve got three Hardy Chicago in the ground and a Marsellis in a pot in an unheated greenhouse. I’m in western MO.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks everyone!  I was away from the computer for a couple days.  5 gallons per tree?  I'd say that's definitely worth it.  Once I have a few I can take cuttings and try to put them outside in protectable spots in the ground to really experiment.

I feel your pain Carla.  We've been down to the -20s outside here so -9 would be a modest improvement.

Thanks S!  That sounds very manageable.
 
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Hello, if you get some hardy variety of fig-tree, you can try to plant it outside, after 2-3 years.. But you must cover it for a winter. They say, that fig tree can survive a frost -25 °C (-13 F) if covered. The branches die and sometimes a trunk too, but roots survive realy heavy frost.
 
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Chicago hardy figs survive in Chicago, with lots of protection. Typically, after it loses its leaves, the plant is dug up enough to lay it prone on the ground, where it is covered. So don’t expect it to happily survive your indoor Chicago winter without similar protection.
 
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Will the Chicago figs thrive in zone 7a, potentially with some wind protection from a house wall or a blanket around the trunk?  Our recent polar vortex temporarily pushed temps down to 0F (-8F with wind chill).
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Jan and Myrth, I'll have to think about my sunroom scheme a bit more.  During the cold snap last week it go down to 0F in there.  I think that's like Chicago BUT in Chicago the roots would be in the ground.  Maybe they wouldn't like it in a cold pot above the ground...
 
Myrth Gardener
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Chicago is USDA Zone 5b/6a. The fig can survive that with protection. Indeed, protection is recommended anywhere north of USDA Zone 7, from what I have read about them. It is my understanding that container grown figs need to be stored in a frost free space during the winter, such as a cellar.
 
Ken W Wilson
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I’m surprised your sun room gets that cold. Maybe it needs some thermal mass, like maybe some black barrels of water. Is it drafty? Not insulated?
 
Mike Jay
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It's attached to a garage that isn't attached to the house.  And it has single pane storm windows in it.  And it faces west.  But the cathedral ceiling is insulated.  It's on a slab too...
 
Ken W Wilson
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I think 100-200 gallons of water would help a lot. Barrels and water are cheap. It might freeze though. I don’t know. I think there is a greenhouse forum here. There would probably be someone there experienced with your weather. You are quite a bit colder there than where Im at.
 
Mike Jay
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Hi Ken, yes, there's a greenhouse section!  Here's a LINK.  

I have a partially completed greenhouse that is insulated better than this sunroom and the barrels in there are frozen solid.  So I think any water in the sunroom would be frozen solid from Dec 15 -  Feb 15 (give or take).

BUT, I realized I have another option.  I have a barn that is dug into a hill.  No animals in there, just junk storage.  The basement is dirt and there is easy access to get pots in and out.  So I will go out there this week and see how cold the dirt is in the back of the barn where it's deepest underground.  Hopefully I can just put the pots back in there sitting on "warm" dirt for the winter.

If that works, I'll have to see what other things I can grow in big pots outside and store over winter.
 
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We have one Chicago mother plant that we wrap here in NJ. If we have a cold winter it will die all the way back to he ground. Any figs that come from new growth won't  have enough time to ripen before winter . That is why we try our best to keep old growth alive. We wrap it in burlap and loose wrap it with roofing paper. It keeps the burlap from getting wet and freezing. The looseness let's it breathe and avoid rot. All cuttings taken during the season are over wintered in the cellar in 5 gallon buckets. We produce cuttings using air layering lower branches. Learn something new each year.
 
Myrth Gardener
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Mike, your earth bermed barn sounds potentially great for overwintering potted plants. Did you get a chance to get a reading on soil temps in there?
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks for the reminder Myrth, I did get some temps.  On a relatively cold day a week ago (below zero overnight), the air temp in the north side (bermed side) near the ground was 18F and the dirt was in the low 20s.  So I think I have a decent place.  There's a bit of light in there and some humidity.  It has about a 7' ceiling and I could dig deeper if needed.  Seems perfect to me!
 
Myrth Gardener
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That sounds like a very good place. Digging down a bit would help to keep the roots warmer.
 
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Wow, I am either doing something really wrong, or just have weird weather or something. I welcome suggestions

I'm more or less zone 7b with some wild fluctuations, and after playing with many varieties of figs for about 5 years, they don't hardly bear at all.  Some in pots, some in the ground, I bring them in, seldom/never freezes inside,  and figs only make a half hearted effort. Maybe I'm not regular enough with water, maybe my 5 gallon pots are too small,

My neighbors get good results wrapping their plants  , mine outside die to the ground in winter, put out fresh branches in spring, then put on lots of fruit that frosts before it ripens.

But I have found the trips in and out of the greenhouse are just too much bother, for the small return and 10 gallon pots are more than I want to fuss with If I could get 5 gallons of figs that would make the fuss worthwhile, but i'm lucky to get a couple handfuls.

Thinking about some sort of micro climate to speed the summer growth and maybe lessen dieback (wrapping is too much like work.too) I love figs, but at this point I'm more interested in blueberries and grapes, they seem to actually be paying back with less trouble.
 
Mike Jay
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Bob, what variety of figs are you working with?  I'm planning on trying Chicago Hardy figs for my attempt.  I believe they're the most cold hardy fig variety available.
 
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Myrth Montana wrote:That sounds like a very good place. Digging down a bit would help to keep the roots warmer.



I think that might be getting borderline too cold.  Mike, you may want to throw a tarp or something over them to try and slow down the heat loss from the ground to the air.  Maybe even build a little enclosure over them and line it with the reflective metalized bubblewrap like insulation (tekfoil).  Below is a picture from a guy named Joe in RI which gets his figs through the winter outside.  I store mine at about 40F all winter and they're very happy with that.  I think most will take 20F air temp well, but 20F soil temp....not sure how well they'd take that.

jrdewhirst-in-RI-winter-fig-protection.jpg
[Thumbnail for jrdewhirst-in-RI-winter-fig-protection.jpg]
 
Mike Jay
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I have some bubble reflective insulation that I could use for that.  I guess I'll first get some figs, then protect half of them and leave the others open to the cold of the barn and see if it matters.  I'm guessing if I could cover the pots with something it would be particularly helpful (straw, etc).
 
bob day
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I have several different varieties, chicago hardy, celeste,  a spanish fig with a red center, and turkey figs, olus one I salvaged from a neighbor's yard and propagated lots of cuttings, most likely another chicago

I haven't had any trouble propagating them, and they grow well enough in season,  but outside protecting that above ground foliage through the winter is critical to get fruit,

 
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