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Creating microclimate for fig tree

 
pollinator
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Location: Chicago
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We are growing a "Chicago Hardy" fig in Chicago, and while it survives from year to year, the fruit does not ripen before frost sets in.  It is 4 years old now, and we have gotten just one ripe fig ever.

Over winter we have been wrapping the branches in leaves and burlap, bending them low to the ground and covering with a doghouse-type roof we built for it.  Despite this protection, branches die back (granted, last winter it was below zero farenheit for a week, which is harsher than usual).

I am resigned to the fact that we will never be able to rely on overwintered fruitbuds surviving, and the only fig harvest will be those that reach maturity within one growing season.

Our yard is shaded on the south by 1 1/2 story house, on the east by 3-story brick building, and on the west by 6-foot fence in neighbor's yard.  Fig is next to the fence on west side and far enough north not get shaded by the house except in dead of winter.  Most of year is gets sun from mid-morning to late afternoon on the branches, though ground is shaded by the fence earlier. Property is completely flat.

I am wondering if creating a warm "microclimate" around the fig tree might make enough difference to get ripe figs.  Would some kind of heat-retaining element like a rockslab or metal structure placed between the tree and the fence to keep the tree warmer help?  Or dark rocks around the base of the tree?

Below is picture of the fig tree, with about a dozen green figs now in mid-October, and a picture of the whole backyard, in which you can see fig at center left next to fence.
fig-tree.jpg
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fig tree
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back yard
back yard
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Every year it will grow back faster and at least a least a few might ripen?

Where are you? I’m in western Missouri. My oldest hardy Chicago grows about 8’ tall each year. Last year, I got about thirty figs. We had a cool rainy year and it’s late this year.

They are really slow to green up in the spring.  I’ve been thinking about watering them with warm water to wake them up early.

I have good sized  (maybe 30-40lb) sandstones around it. I think it probably helps.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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I used to keep a potted tree at work over the winter. It kept it’s leaves all year. I put it on my deck after the weather warmed up. I got almost as many figs from this small, potted fig as the bigger outdoor fig. I think it was about 15” pot.

My old dog loved figs, so I had to move it.
 
Mk Neal
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I'm actually in the city of Chicago, which I think is about the limit of where the fig will grow.  Good to hear that you get as much from the potted and the outdoor.  I might just get a second on to try bring inside for winter and compare.
 
pollinator
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we have what is probably a chicago hardy living in an unheated hoophouse in the mountains in north carolina. we still usually get winter dieback, and have never gotten the 'early' crop of figs. the tendency of the plant in late summer is to continue setting fruit but barely ripening them as long as possible. we've found that by cutting growing tips, it stops setting new fruit and starts focusing on ripening. we get way more figs now before the eventual freeze-out. something like that could help push things along in your case. i think i cut in late august or early september this year.

of course the other part of our equation here is season extension. could you rig up something to try to protect through the first frosts to get more ripening before a hard freeze?

and maybe lots of big black rocks would help? that's only if you actually get enough sun in to heat them for a long enough time.
 
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Location: Midwest USA
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I’ve been thinking about this same problem.  We are in Kansas City and have a Chicago Hardy that is 3 years old.  We got about 15 figs off it but still only 1/4 of the fruit; we haven’t had our first freeze yet so we may yet get more.

That’s a great tip to cut the growing tips off to encourage ripening, I’m definitely going to try that.

I really want to avoid trying to wrap it over winter.  Too much work, and not attractive at all.

An idea I had was to put a cold frame on it a few weeks before last freeze in the spring to see if I can get it an earlier start on the year.

I love the tree it is one of my favorites.  It is right by our back porch so we keep a close eye on it and it puts off a great smell many months out of the year.  Would really like to get more fruit from it.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Jeremy, I am 90 miles south of KC. I just noticed this afternoon that about 20 of mine are ripening rather suddenly. I wonder if the weather change triggered it. Ants are bad this year. I’ll have to find a solution to that next year.
 
pollinator
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Why not grow it in a pot and keep it in a warm spot over winter? Seems to me like a valuable space being a bit wasted on trees unsuitable for the climate.

I live in an ideal climate for figs and the difference between my potted figs left in full sun and the one that’s been in full shade is vast; the ones in full Spring sun are growing fast whilst the one in full shade hasn’t grown at all yet.

I understand the desire to throw what belongs in a warmer climate though. In my case it’s mango trees!
 
pollinator
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Ants are bad this year. I’ll have to find a solution to that next year.



Ken, I have the best success with a small clump of rocks of concrete chunks near the figs as lizard habitat. Which can also be snake habitat if larger so I normally have a pile under 1' diameter.

I'd also recommend calcium addition to promote maturation. I use it on the ground and calcium carbonate in a foliar spray. I'm going to prune the tips as well this is good advice.

 
Jeremy R. Campbell
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Based on the advice of cutting off the growing tips of my fig, I incorporated that into another project I had planned that would allow me to put those tips to good use.  My hope is to propagate my tree, with a system I could use for other propagation as well.

I’ve used 2 unglazed terra-cotta pots with sand as the potting medium.  The smaller pot is plugged and holds a water reservoir to keep the sand wet.  The hope is to root the tips and facilitate plant propagation.

I’ll follow up if the scheme works.
I-used-silicone-to-plug-the-hole-in-the-small-pot-so-it-retains-water.jpeg
I used silicone to plug the hole in the small pot so it retains water
I used silicone to plug the hole in the small pot so it retains water
Insert-cuttings-currently-figs-until-the-my-root..jpeg
Insert cuttings, currently figs, until the my root.
Insert cuttings, currently figs, until the my root.
 
pollinator
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What an awesome way to start cuttings! We use vermicultue and perlite due to the weight of pots. During the summer-fall we keep the trees outdoors, come winter we move them indoors. I really would enjoy a greenhouse. I miss the warm weather fruits of Phoenix. Just ain't the same in Western NC. that's alright
 
Mk Neal
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Hearing how easy it is to root fig twigs from others on this thread, I decided to just cut the branches with unripe fruit and put them in a vase.  They have actually been slowly ripening over winter,  I ate a couple.  In spring I'll try potting the twigs for an indoor fig also.
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Posts: 61
Location: Europe - CZ, Pannonian / continental zone
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Building a brick wall just behind the fig bush would help. It accumulates a sun heat during the day and then irradiate it during the night.. Maybe using an heating wire during the coldest months of the year would help the branches not to freeze. A fig tree has two crops of fruits per season. The first one sprouts on over-wintered old wood in a early spring and ripe in a June. The second one sprouts on the new green shoots - these figs ripe in autumn (October), but not every year in our climate (only when the autumn is warm). It seems that only the first crop is feasible in your climate, so saving the branches not to freeze is crucial..
 
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