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Can I bury my young fig trees in leaves for winter protection?

 
Posts: 16
Location: North Alabama
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Hi all,

Can those of you with fig or fruit tree experience please tell me if i can I bury my young fig trees in leaves for winter protection? If I do, will my trees die or be harmed? Should I stick with wrapping them in sheets of plastic instead?

Thanks
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I think leaves might pack too tightly and get moldy. Maybe if you made a big mound then covered with plastic. Do they really need protection in Al?  In Missouri, just mounding up some soil keeps the roots alive. I have Hardy Chicago.  This year I’m using a foot of bark mulch. I wrapped the 6’ trunk with towels and an old rug, then I wrapped trash bags around it. I have not managed to get much of the trunk to survive the winter, so I’m trying more protection this year. Even after freezing each year, it grows back 8’ tall and still produces some figs every year.

I try to root a few cuttings every year for insurance, but I haven’t needed them yet.
 
gardener
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Fig trees do best when simply mulched around the roots, the mulch should be full of air pockets. If you don't have something like straw to use, it is better to leave them as they are.

Sudden, very late freezes are the only thing that will cause branches to die, even then the tree will come back from the root ball.

Do not ever use plastic to wrap a tree, that will create an artificial deep freeze situation and you will kill the tree. (plastic will hold moisture in and that will create ice in a freeze which will penetrate the branch at the buds and that will kill the buds.)
If you are concerned with frost, an old sheet gently draped over the high branch tips will do best.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 2945
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Up here in New England I grow the Chicago Hardy fig cultivar. I just leave them and they die back to about 18inches or so. They are very pliable and so if throw something heavy on it, they will bend down to the ground and there will be no winter kill. Now if I was down south with a 20ft tree it would be less pliable and not as easy to just bend down to the grown.

If you just leave it as is the tree will be fine, at the very least that is what I do with mines in New England.
 
David Mayes
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Location: North Alabama
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Thanks for all the replies.  For the past few years my fig kept dying to the ground and coming back from the roots.  I should have had figs by now but there was no old growth for the figs to grow on thus my question.  I also planted a Chicago Hardy this year and wanted to give it a little protection due to it being it's first year in the ground.  I'll stick with staking around them and wrapping with sheets.

Thank you all so much for your help.
 
master gardener
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Location: Maine, zone 5
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David, I know people who put a cardboard box around their young figs, fill the box with leaves and then put a tarp over it and they say it works fine.  Here in Maine, when I've covered mine with leaves I get a lot of damage from chewed away cambium due to mice (I think).  For me the easiest thing is bending them to the ground and covering/pinning them down with bags of cedar mulch.  I don't get rodent damage when I do that.  Good luck!!!
 
pollinator
Posts: 330
Location: Southern Finland zone 5
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I think it depends on what kind of winter weather you're experiencing (dry and cold is generally not as bad as moist and cold) and the duration of the cold spells, too.

My efforts in trying to help less-than-hardy perennials survive the Finnish winter have mostly been a bit hit and miss. In my area we often have sudden weather changes depending on whether the wind is blowing from the Baltic sea or from continental Russia. In these conditions:

Plastic covers: not good at all.
Plastic cover with thick straw mulch: not good at all.
Leaves around the plants: not much difference.
Store bought winter covers: not much difference in most years, some years did help a little. Some years cause mold problems

The best trick in my experience is piling lots of snow around the sensitive plants. The problem with that approach now is that there's less snow here due to climate change and the snow tends to arrive late. Some hard frosts have already occured before there's enough snow to pile.

You probably don't have much snow either
 
pollinator
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In Kansas City the old Italians used to take a roll of carpet, prune to one leader maybe 4-5', and bend it to the ground with the roll of carpet wrapped around it. They would put a big pile of straw on the bottom where the tree met the ground and more straw over the carpet.

We had severe winters there well below 0F and they got piles of figs.

I don't do that, I have just planted hardier varieties, but those were serious heritage Italian figs they brought over.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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My trees are on the south side of a 6’ wood fence. They have a lot of protection from cold north and northwest winds. I think it helps some. I had planted the first tree right next to the south wall of my house. I read something about how invasive fig roots are and moved it. My house has a basement, and I was afraid  the drain tile around the bottom would get blocked.

I’ve thought of planting one on the west side of my house. It would be exposed to more cold wind,  but it would be right up against my brick and concrete porch like a fruit wall facing west. I don’t think there is a drain tile around the porch. There is also a concrete sidewalk in front of this location. Does anyone think this would be better than the south side of the fence?
 
pollinator
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I'm not sure if this is necessary in any way, but I bought a tiny hardy fig as essentially a grocery checkout impulse buy (it was 8 dollars!) and it seems to appreciate some amount of cover and protection in the ground so I stuck a big ring of soft branches for "mulch" just outside the dripline. Im pretty sure it won't need to be covered completely in my zone (9) and it's trucking along through light frost just fine. I don't think it liked drought, or heavy wind, or being shaded out. The branches help protect against wind (8 dollar trees here are quite short) and weeds, and I'm hoping they'll help enrich the soil and improve water retention a little as they break down.
 
Posts: 21
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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I created a thread about winter dieback and delayed spring growth, in case any of you have any thoughts to share https://permies.com/t/139425/Figs-Winter-dieback-delayed-Spring
 
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