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  • Initial estimation of 2014-15 winter damage in zone 7a

    Today I finished uncovering my in-ground trees. They were all rooted Spring of 2013 or 2014 and planted in the ground Spring of 2014. Exceptions are Kathleen's Black and Sicilian Red which were rooted in 2012 and 2011, respectively, and were planted in the ground in 2013. They are all decent sized tree/shrubs with a height of 3-5 feet with one or two slightly bigger than that.

    The results are below. In addition to the various forms of protection described below, in most cases I used moth balls to deter mice. I had no mice damage, thankfully. I judged damage by the color of the wood and by the scratch test to look for green cambium underneath the outer layer of bark. Last year I discovered this is an inexact science as sometimes limbs are green on one side and dead on the other side and thus have to be removed. But nevertheless I think I have a rough idea of the damage and will update with more info later. Overall, I am impressed with how well my trees did since several nights we had a lows of around 3-5 deg. F (one or two with fierce wind) and one night a low of 0 deg F. The only disappointment/surprise was Zingarella-RW which was one of the largest trees but did not fare well in the cold for me. Bordissot Blanca is also quite cold sensitive but it was rooted in 2014 and hopefully it will adapt. I'll try to post a couple photos in subsequent updates.

    Levels of protection:
    1. Shredded leaf mulch piled in a 2-3 circle around trunk and about 6 inches up the trunk
    2. Shredded leaf mulch around trunk and top of tree covered with tarp only
    3. Fencing surrounding trunks 3-4 feet high and filled with leaves; usually 6-12 inches of limbs protrude outside of leaves; I placed black plastic sheeting over the top of the leaves to keep the rain out but this was only partially successful
    4. Shredded leaf mulch around the base; surrounded the trunks with a large fabric bag (designed for protecting shrubbery) and stuffed them with leaves; this was topped by a piece of black plastic
    5. Combination of 3 and wrapping of trunk(s) with burlap and tarp
    6. Shredded leaf mulch around base and wrapping of trunks with burlap followed by a tarp with opening at the top that is covered by a small bucket
    7. Shredded leaf mulch around base and wrapping of trunks with carpeting followed by a tarp with opening at the top that is covered by a small bucket

    Sal'sEL – protection: 2; status; at least ¾ of top growth is alive

    Takoma Violet - protection: 2; status; at least ¾ of top growth is alive

    MvsB – protection: 1; about 1/2 of top is alive; however this one as well as Malta Black and Sicilian Red were up against a fence so that microenvironment probably helped.

    Malta Black - protection: 1; about 1/3-1/2 of top growth is alive

    Sicilian Red - protection: 1; about 1/3-1/2 of top growth is alive

    Vasilika Sika (Belleclare) – protection: 3; about ¾ of top growth is alive (pretty much the wood that was covered by leaves is fine)

    Zingarella RW – protection: 3; only about 10% of top growth is alive

    Socorro Black – protection: 7; about 90% of top growth is alive

    Filacciano Bianco - protection: 7; about 90% of top growth is alive; it is hard to say whether the brebas are ok at this point

    Bordissot Blanca – protection: 6; this is an interesting case, it is a single trunk tree with four branches coming off of the trunk about 2-4 inches off the ground; in this case 2 trunks died and about 90% of the other two trunks are alive

    Battaglia Green – protection: 3; about 1/2 of top growth is alive

    Delonibus Black – protection: 3; about 2/3 of top growth is alive (interesting because it seems highly related to

    Zingarella RW but seems to have way less damage)

    Paradiso Gene – protection: 7; about 80-90% of top growth is alive

    Ronde de Bordeaux – protection: 4; about ¾ of top growth is alive

    Adriatic JH - protection: 4; about ¾ of top growth is alive

    Kathleen's Black – protection: 5; about ½ of top growth is alive
    Steve
    D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
    WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

  • #2
    Thanks for detailing all this, Steve. Glad to see such good success. Ironically, you did so much better in zone 7a than I did in zone 8b.
    I am assuming you did not have long mild periods in the 60-70 'F range in Maryland. This has proven to be my unduing year after year...warmth followed by the occasional sudden freeze. The lowest temp we had in Tallahassee was around 26 and yet a disaster for many of my figs.
    Frank Tallahasee 8B
    North Florida Figs

    Comment


    • Rewton
      Rewton commented
      Editing a comment
      It is interesting how sensitive figs are to warm spells followed by not all that cold temperatures (at least by zone 7 and lower standards). We did get a Nov. cold snap that hit before the figs were deeply dormant (and before all my protection was in place) but apparently didn't do too much damage. Sorry to hear you lost so many trees.

    • MichaelTucson
      MichaelTucson commented
      Editing a comment
      It's that tender, green, unlignified new growth that is so susceptible to damage. Sorry to hear it hits your trees Frank.

    • FMD
      FMD commented
      Editing a comment
      Oh well, one must accept the bad with the good! The good is the trees that were planted a mere 10 -15 yards from the open orchard near a line of tall pine trees all survived the winter.

  • #3
    Looking good here in southern British Columbia, Canada. I have not notice any trees die apart from
    neglect re cuttings grown in 20 oz cups that I forgot to water since last Oct. I had over 30 potted trees
    from 1 gal to over 20 gal that was unprotected and left outside with minor tip die backs. If weather remains
    as is till mid May, I should have a great breba and main crop harvest.

    I know eastern Canada was hit bad with a long stretch of extreme cold.

    Comment


    • Rewton
      Rewton commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, it sounds like you guys had a milder than normal winter this year - enjoy your harvest!

  • #4
    That's awesome that you had such great results. I've got quite a few weeks before I can even check mine.
    Art
    Western Pa -6a

    Comment


    • Rewton
      Rewton commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, hopefully, accu-weather is correct and I won't regret uncovering them! Good luck.

  • #5
    Here's my backyard on March 5...
    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
    Steve
    D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
    WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

    Comment


    • Gina
      Gina commented
      Editing a comment
      What's all that white stuff?

    • cis4elk
      cis4elk commented
      Editing a comment
      For some reason this reminds me of the winter maze scene from the shining.

    • rusty hooks
      rusty hooks commented
      Editing a comment
      Mikes papas shanty town...whatever works

  • #6
    Good report, hope you get lots of fruit!

    I had similar temps to you, just a degree or two colder, so I'm optimistic. Calling for 20F on Wednesday night, but hopefully this weekend I can uncover everything.
    https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
    SE PA
    Zone 6

    Comment


    • #7
      Steve,
      Thanks for sharing your winterization info and results...

      It seems that with better protection there is less die back
      Please keep us updated on the breba production.
      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

      Comment


      • #8
        I forgot to mention that all my container trees in the detached garage came through totally unscathed thanks to some supplemental heat (via electric radiator) on the coldest nights. It looks like the brebas are fine too.
        Steve
        D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
        WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

        Comment


        • #9
          Thanks for the detailed report. I tried something similar to #3 for my one in-ground tree that died back to the ground last year after wrapping it like #1. Instead of leaves I used partially composted shredded leaves.
          Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)

          Comment


          • #10
            Nice going Steve, as of today my in ground trees that are protected and those that are unprotected are still covered in snow . Great going on keeping them going. Spring is just around the corner!

            Comment


            • #11
              We have had three days in a row in the 80's so it finally feels like the growing season is here. However, the cold damage for in-ground figs turned out to be worse than what I thought based on looking for green wood after unwrapping. I think a lot of that wood was essentially dead then but had not had a chance to turn brown. I updated my table below based on actual new growth and/or persistant green wood (see the first post for a description of the protection). I am attaching photos of some of the least damaged in-ground trees.

              The good news is that all figs are showing at least one green bud with the exception of Socorro Black. SB was one of the trees that grew as a single trunk and I noticed that the single trunk trees were hit the hardest consistent with what experienced growers have claimed i.e. multi-trunk is better than single trunk in cold areas. It is disappointing because I protected SB as good as any tree in the yard. I think I can conclude that SB is a very cold sensitive fig. Sal'sEL was a single trunk tree and had two small suckers that showed green buds initially. Now I see one bud on the main trunk a couple inches from the ground greening up.

              Other notes:
              - Mt. Etna types and Malta Black that I only minimally protected have survived the cold as good as expected but are waking up more slowly than the better protected figs.
              - Based on these admittedly poorly controlled results the most cold hardy figs seem to be Mt. Etnas (as expected), Malta Black, Vasilika Sika (Belleclare), Adriatic JH and RdB. Bordisott Blanca deserves honorable mention given that it was rooted in the Spring of 2014 and put in the ground straight away.
              - The least cold sensitive are Socorro Black, Zingarella-RW and Delonibus Black.
              - Zingarella-RW and Delonibus Black seem to be candidates for being the same variety. They seem indistinguishable in every way. The latter was obtained from Tam in Silver Spring, MD and it supposedly originated from someone in Germantown, MD.

              Sal'sEL – protection: 2; status; ~ 10% of top growth is alive

              Takoma Violet - protection: 2; status; ~ 15% of top growth is alive

              MvsB – protection: 1; ~10% of top growth is alive; however this one as well as Malta Black and Sicilian Red were up against a fence so that microenvironment probably helped. However, all three of these figs are waking up more slowly than the others probably due to minimal protection.

              Malta Black - protection: 1; ~ 10% top growth is alive (or possibly more)

              Sicilian Red - protection: 1; ~ 10% of top growth is alive

              Vasilika Sika (Belleclare) – protection: 3; about 15-20% of top growth is alive

              Zingarella RW – protection: 3; only about 1% of top growth is alive (or none); 1 green bud from a sucker right around ground level is all so far

              Socorro Black – protection: 7; so far no life is apparent

              Filacciano Bianco - protection: 7; about 20% of top growth is alive

              Bordissot Blanca – protection: 6; about 15% of top growth is alive

              Battaglia Green – protection: 3; about 25% of top growth is alive

              Delonibus Black – protection: 3; only about 1% of top growth is alive (or none); 1 green bud from a sucker right around ground level is all so far

              Paradiso Gene – protection: 7; about 25% of top growth is alive

              Ronde de Bordeaux – protection: 4; about 25% of top growth is alive

              Adriatic JH - protection: 4; about 25% of top growth is alive

              Kathleen's Black – protection: 5; about 20% of top growth is alive (better than 5% which is what I got last year)
              You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 5 photos.
              Steve
              D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
              WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

              Comment


              • #12
                The order of the photos is: Battaglia Green, Kathleen's Black, Paradiso-Gene, Adriatic JH, and Ronde de Bordeaux.
                Steve
                D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
                WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

                Comment


                • #13
                  Steve,
                  Thanks for the updates... and Good Luck this season.

                  Your observations are some of the reasons why I've been planning and pruning to low Cordons and the Japanese pruning technique of establishing scaffold branches (cordons) and yearly fruiting branches. The cordons and fruiting branch stubs can be easily protected with a thick layer of mulch (8" - 12" in my zone) during winter allowing the fruiting branches to re-grow quickly and produce figs, especially in your warmer zone.
                  Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

                  Comment


                  • Rewton
                    Rewton commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yes, as you can see from my photos, the low branches that grew horizontally just off the ground are the ones that had the least damage and are putting out new growth the quickest. This has been a revelation for me.

                • #14
                  Steve, those all look dead to the ground. The limbs with growth look like ones growing only a few inches off the ground, those often do better due to being under snow etc. But, its not that the variety is any better, it just happens to have a limb by the ground.

                  All of my figs died to the ground last winter. I have most of the ones shown in your pictures (all but Paradiso). I am near Baltimore. If these winters keep up I will have to get out my fig covers again. I had ten years of no dieback and got spoiled.
                  Check out our new general fruit growing forum, http://growingfruit.org

                  Comment


                  • Rewton
                    Rewton commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Scott - good to see you joined the forum and are posting - welcome! I didn't recall that you had so many figs. I decided to define "dead to the ground" as no buds forming from any above-ground wood and that the new buds were coming from underground notes, usually on suckers. Delonius Black would qualify and I probably should correct my post to indicate 0% top growth alive. Regarding the figs that I provided photos of, what I find is that the wood closest to the ground buds out first and then later the other parts start to form buds.

                • #15
                  I noticed the same thing as you, Steve. Dieback turned out to be worse than initially thought once warmer temps arrived. Mine look about the same as yours in size, 6-12" stumps.
                  https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
                  SE PA
                  Zone 6

                  Comment


                  • #16
                    Might be time for a new era of fig wood protection technique. Cordon these things along the ground, whether out in the open or along houses and other structures, boulders, gardens, drives, sidewalks... Not much difficulty, it seems at this point, in protecting low cordons and low limbs via rows of mulch. Unless we're missing something. Can only speculate as to why this was not done extensively in the past.
                    Tony WV 6b
                    https://mountainfigs.net/

                    Comment


                    • AscPete
                      AscPete commented
                      Editing a comment
                      It wasn't done because growers simply followed the age old practices of entire tree burial or wrapping to get the older limbs through the cold winters. In warmer zones (south) the infrequent cold spells simply set back the harvests older trees.
                      All they really needed to do was to protect the main scaffold branches... figs are produced on new growth..

                    • mountainfigs
                      mountainfigs commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I wonder why the "age old practice" took root, so to speak, and when (and where). Why were low cordons rejected at that point? Surely people would have noticed that low limbs accidentally slightly buried came through the winter well. Rodent issues?

                  • #17
                    I honestly don't think that burying or covering fig trees is an 'age old' practice. In the vast majority of places figs are grown in the old world, they never had to do that. In the Middle Ages figs eventually got transplanted into more northern, colder areas of Europe where they were grown by the richer people, eventually using greenhouses. The typical Italian immigrant in NY or NJ who buried his fig tree or covered it was making the best of a situation of which he had no prior experience - no one 'back home' was burying fig trees in Sicily or wherever. Some growers tried different things, and word was passed around in the neighborhoods about what worked and what didn't. Those of you experimenting with burying cordons in mulch etc are just expanding the ways figs can be grown in hostile climates, expanding on what has been done in the past.
                    Ed
                    SW PA zone 6a

                    Comment


                    • mountainfigs
                      mountainfigs commented
                      Editing a comment
                      So, the glacial pace of progress? Could be.

                  • #18
                    It depends how you define "age old". In Baltimore city there is a long tradition in the Italian neighborhoods of covering/burying figs. But "long" means a hundred or so years.

                    Low cordons have their own set of problems. For me I have nothing too low because rabbits will eat otherwise, but not sure about figs. Its really not that hard to tent cover figs, I did it for several years. See picture for one of my covers, it was made from aluminum bubble wrap insulation rolls and a stapler.

                    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
                    Check out our new general fruit growing forum, http://growingfruit.org

                    Comment


                    • eboone
                      eboone commented
                      Editing a comment
                      By the way, welcome here Scott. Love your forum.

                    • scottfsmith
                      scottfsmith commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Good to be here, I always have enjoyed the fig-focused forums and this one has a nice format. If anyone has non-fig or blueberry things to discuss, our growing fruit forum is a good place.

                  • #19
                    My results have been similar for potted trees protected in an unheated shed. Most appear to have died to the ground after initially looking promising

                    Comment


                    • #20
                      This is a bit of an addendum to my list of in-ground fig winter damage. In the Spring of 2014 I gave one of my neighbors two rooted cuttings in 1 gallon containers: an LSU Scott's Black and an Improved Celeste (O'Rourke not; from Herman2). He planted them in the ground but they didn't grow a lot last summer due to deer damage etc. The trunks were probably about 3/4 inch in diameter when they went into dormancy. I told him about the need to protect the trees in Winter but (no surprise) they received absolutely no protection, not even mulch, and were out in the open. I looked at them today and the Scott's Black shows no signs of life; however, the Improved Celeste is sending up new shoots from the base! We got down to into the single digits on several nights last winter and had a zero degree low on one night. So that says a lot about how hardy Improved Celeste is; I'm impressed.
                      Steve
                      D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
                      WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

                      Comment

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