Figs need to be protected before winter has set in because they are generally meant to be grown in warmer climates. So you need to get it ready and protected from the elements when the temperatures drop, and it goes into its dormancy period.
If you live in an area that drops very cold in winter, you need to do extra care when protecting your fig tree. If the temperature drops too low, you have a higher chance of it being damaged or killed.
The mature wood of the tree is hardy enough to withstand harsh temperatures. But that is not the case for newer growth, especially the tips. Even if the tree isn’t killed from a hard frost, it may still affect next year’s crop, if left unprotected. But following the steps within this article will prevent this from happening.
When should fig trees be protected for winter?
You know when its time to protect your fig tree for the winter when summer has finished and the leaves have fallen off. If your tree is situated near a sunny wall or has some amount of cover, this will help to protect it. But it still needs protection from the wet, windy and cold weather to keep it alive, and for it to bear fruit the following year.
Container grown figs
If your tree is grown in a container, you should move it from the outdoors to somewhere indoors. Somewhere like a shed, garage, or utility room is sufficient enough to keep it protected. It is better to keep it somewhere that is cool, and you should avoid placing it somewhere that gets too warm because it needs to go dormant.
Tidy up and remove any mature figs
Whether you have a container tree or one that is planted in the ground, you need to remove any excess leaves and fully grown figs that have failed to ripen but leave any smaller ones on the tree. The larger figs need to be removed because they will rot if left on the tree. Tidy up the branches, by cutting away anything that is dead or looks out of place.
Mulching and wrapping
Protect the base of the tree with mulch, and wrap the tree with layers of burlap (hessian) cloth. Include mulch or straw within the cloth as you wrap the tree up, but leave the top of the tree unwrapped. This will insulate the tree, but prevent it from sweating and rot. Tie up the tree but avoid damage to the branches.
You can also add a layer of plastic wrap around the layers of cloth, to help keep everything held in place. A cage or wooden stakes can also be placed around it before wrapping to help keep the structure of the tree, although this is not necessary if you wrap it carefully. If heavy winds are likely, adding extra structure care may be beneficial.
You don’t need to worry too much about watering it throughout the winter. You can get away with watering it once every three or four weeks, and don’t water it at all if the soil is moist.
When should you unwrap or take the container back outside?
You need to unwrap your tree or put your container outside in spring when the last frost has passed. This is the best time to cut back your tree. You need to remove anything that looks diseased, any dead or weaker branches, any growth that looks out of place, and the tips of the newer growth.
Spring and summer preparation
Feed it with a general-purpose fertilizer and mulch around the base (for moisture retention and weed suppression). Pruning, feeding, and mulching your tree will help to prepare it for the spring and summer growth.
When you notice around six leaves per branch, pinch out the growing tips. When the figs start to appear, you will need to give it fertilizer every couple of weeks and give it plenty of water throughout the summer until they ripen.
Fig trees are meant to be grown in warmer climates but still need to go dormant in winter, so appropriate care needs to be done to keep it alive and thrive the following spring and summer. Container grown figs should be taken indoors, into a cool room and outdoor figs should be wrapped up for winter protection.
The branches should be tided up, and the mature figs should be removed. The base of the tree should be mulched, and the branches wrapped in burlap, with the top of it left exposed. Extra insulation can be added within the wrap, and plastic wrap can be added to help keep everything in place. Extra support can also be added to protect the structure, for harsher winds.
When the frosty days have passed (in spring), you can then expose your fig tree back into the elements, and prepare it for the growing season. Pruning, mulching, fertilizing, and water will ensure that you have a healthy tree and ripe fruit in summer.