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Let’s Grow a Fig Tree

by Max Phelps

Yards to Paradise

 

Typically, we think of figs as being grown in the Mediterranean area or the Middle East, and they certainly are grown there in abundance. But, you might be surprised to learn you can grow some varieties of figs as trees down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and as bushes that come back from the roots down to -5 or zone 6b. Moving plants indoors or covering them thoroughly can get hardy ones through the winter even in zone 5. Let’s consider growing some of these tropical looking plants that bear such delicious fruits—fruits you never see in the supermarkets unless they are dried.

Figs like plenty of heat and sun, so you will be able to harvest a lot more figs if you give them that. Full sun, against the south side of the house, and protected a bit from winds helps. In our area, growing figs should be on your to-do list for sure.

Why grow figs? They are easy to grow, they are sweet, and what child doesn’t like sweet? Most grownups will like them too. They ripen an early crop June through August, depending on cultivar and location; then a larger late crop on current year’s wood. Even if the plant freezes and sprouts back from the roots, there is usually some late fruits to be found on fig bushes. Figs have lots of fiber, but still taste good, plus have natural lactobacillus. You should be pleased if your child raids the fig tree like it’s a bag of candy—they’re healthful.

How would you go about obtaining and growing a fig tree? Sometimes you can find a few at a ‘big box’ store, and definitely you can find them for sale from online or mail-order nurseries. Most are self-fertile, so you don’t have to plant two or more kinds—unless you want more, of course.

I’ve failed to have figs make it through winter in zone 6 in small containers outdoors. The most success seems to come from taking small plants into an indoor unheated room during winter, then moving to a bigger container each year for two or three seasons. Then plant the larger plant in the ground in a warm sunny location, where it will then grow for many years. Sometimes dying back to the ground, sometimes not.

A couple websites that offer fig plants for sale are ediblelandscaping.com and raintreenursery.com and you can find more info with a simple search.

For marginal growing areas, try the hardier varieties. Here are some hardy ones: “Chicago Hardy”, “Celeste”, “Brown Turkey”, “Negronne”, “Olympia”, “Malta Black”. Like so many other fruits not natively grown in the United States, there is much to be discovered and experienced. I encourage you to acquire at least one fig plant and find out about this delicious fruit you may not be acquainted with.

If your only exposure to figs are “fig newton” bars, you’re missing out on one of the world’s great fruit treats!

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