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  • Fig growers in Zone 5 or lower?

    Hi, I'm in SE Iowa and looking to network with others in the Midwest growing figs to compare notes, varieties. We have the added challenge of extreme weather that can fluxuate dramatically daily.

  • #2
    Hi Singing Gardener,
    I'm in Maine, 5a. Just a newbie to figs, one year in, but I've put my time in researching and acquiring short-season varieties. The right ones can make all the difference.
    Another quick piece of advice when it comes to our zone: greenhouse!
    Jesse in western Maine, zone 4/5
    Wishlist- Figues Juane, Demos unk, Nantes Maroc, Thermalito

    Comment


    • #3
      Hello, and welcome, to you Singing Gardner. I live in ST Louis County, Missouri, that would be down the river from you. You bear a resemblance of a lady that works for the same company I do in St Charles, MO, but lives in Iowa.
      Art
      St Louis County, MO Z6B

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi Bevman, THanks for responding. I get that "you look like" a lot. I guess I have a 'standard' look. But I make up for it in personality.
        What do you grow? and for how long.

        Comment


        • Bevman
          Bevman commented
          Editing a comment
          I have two that I bought from Gurneys in April of 2014, called ever bearing but believe they are Brown Turkey. I tasted my first fresh fig in the fall of 2013 and I knew then I had to grow this. I begged the person who gave me the figs for a cutting and she tried she said but kept failing. I found out she thought cutting meant she needed to root it. She also told me the long history of her tree and how many relatives wanted one. That is when I used my years of gardening skills and taught her how to airlayer. I now have a copy of hers and so do several relatives. Hopefully I will get some figs from it this year. She has no idea what it is, her husbands grandfather brought the cutting over from Italy when he immigrated to America about 80to 90 years ago.

      • #5
        I've been growing Chicago Hardy for 7 years and just rolled them into the garage for the winter. I had such a good harvest a couple years ago that I got all kinds of other varieties last spring as well as taking cuttings from my big trees. Most of the 'small ones' (3"' to 5 gallon) went into the basement for the winter. I'm starting to bring them up into sunny windows and it doesn't take long for the to leaf out. I just need advise as to how to extend the season without a big green house. I do have a small high tunnel they will go into in March. If I can trust we won't have really cold nights.

        Comment


        • #6
          Hi Singing Gardener. I'm in zone 5a, in central NY state. I grow most of my figs in pots, and winter protect by keeping them in the garage also. I've experimented with inground trees and various methods of winter protection. (Wrote about it on other forums, and maybe I'll add pointers to those at some point, but just offering a quick posting now b/c it's time to sleep). I've also experimented with extending the season, though generally I think that finding varieties that will ripen in a shortened season is a more winning strategy. Luckily, there are lots of those kinds of varieties (will write more about that, or provide pointers to other posts in other fora, another time). But to address your question, the best strategy I've found for extending the season (at either end) involves what a lot of people refer to as the "fig shuffle". Shuffle your potted figs out into the sunshine when you get warm days in the springtime, but get them back into the garage for nights that are predicted to be cold. Similar thing at the end of the season (autumn). A variation on this involves covering them (which I also do... I use both variants). It's been pretty successful for the past two years.

          In-ground trees are a differrent story.

          Welcome to this forum.
          Mike -- central NY state, zone 5a -- pauca sed matura

          Comment


          • #7
            Welcome! My experience is limited, just my second year. I have the same kind of concerns you do. Although my zone was recently upgraded to 6a, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature becuase the past 2 years are zone 5b again. Have a great winter storage room in my basement under my front porch, and will be doing the fig shuffle when the weather warms up, in and out of the garage. Ultimate goal is to get a greenhouse, might have to wait till I retire though.
            Have you used your tunnel in past years successfully?
            Ed
            SW PA zone 6a

            Comment


            • #8
              What additional varieties did you purchase? Once they are leafed out the new growth is frost tender, so that's the concern when you get them going early and have them outside, hence the 'shuffle' or the hoop-house.
              Jesse in western Maine, zone 4/5
              Wishlist- Figues Juane, Demos unk, Nantes Maroc, Thermalito

              Comment


              • MichaelTucson
                MichaelTucson commented
                Editing a comment
                I agree Jesse -- the new growth is tender and that's the issue with die back. But I'd point out (in case not already obvious to others from what you said) that it is any new growth (i.e. green, unlignified growth). The point is that the green buds are tender long before they're "leafed out". This matches up with some of the varietal characteristics that make for good choices for growing in-ground in colder shorter season locales: late bud break, and fast cycle for setting and ripening fruit. (Shorter times for setting fruit and for ripening them... although in some cases a variety that produces lots of breba would qualify as "cold hardy" even if the main crop has a long ripening cycle. I'm sure there are other characteristics (that is not all of them that matter, but two big ones). And technically a tree could be "cold hardy" (able to survive cold conditions) even if it produces no ripe fruit in the shortened growing season -- but late bud break does correlate with cold hardiness.

                Of course, we throw all of this into disarray when we use pots and move them to another environment for winter. Some of the best varieties that seem to do very well here with potted culture (and winter protection) are not really so cold hardy. They do, however, seem to be varieties that will set and ripen fruit in a shorter cycle, versus a longer cycle. That makes shorter setting/ripening cycles among the main criteria for which varieties I'll choose. Of course, taste and appeal also matter!

                Mike

              • Singing Gardener
                Singing Gardener commented
                Editing a comment
                Hi, I got a good order from Edible Landscaping. I had had such a good harvest the year before I was excited to try more trees. In putting an order together I invited friends and gardeners to order with me. We ended up group order for people in my town and we ended up close to 50 trees. So you see I need to know my stuff because all these new growings are coming to me for guidance.

                I just ordered the Chicago Hardy and a few Celestes for the new growers but since I was taking them in for the winter anyway I decided to try a few other varieties. So I got a couple Celeste, 2 Conadria, one Petite Negri, one LSU Purple and 2 Marseilles. Plus I had made cuttings from my CH and people sent me some cuttings. I have a few of the URB, Celeste, Alma, and LSU. Now I have new cuttings from Wills and Desert King from Shirley.
                Its getting to be a big family. I'm thoroughly hooked! I want a fig forest!

            • #9
              Hi Singing Gardner

              I'm in zone 5 canada. It true it's a challenge growing figs out here. But it is possible to do it and get a great harvest. Try the Danny's Delight my small cutting bought last year gave me 4 great figs, my lattarula double production per year first year 2 figs last year 4 and those are so sweet. Mine are all in pots that a bring in a cold room in my basement. when the itch start like about now i choose one of my tree and take it out and put it under lights with my citrus trees.

              It shall be really fun to talk and echange tricks and growing tips with all of you.

              Have a great one

              Vincent
              Vincent Canada Québec zone5

              Comment


              • Singing Gardener
                Singing Gardener commented
                Editing a comment
                I haven't heard of that variety but in looking it up it looks very hardy! Thanks for the tip. Who has it?

            • #10
              you guys gotta try ascpete's method for getting inground trees to live in cold zones. he digs a huge hole to plant the roots under the frost line. if you do that, you will not only be in great shape, winter can't kill your trees.
              susie,
              burner of trees
              high plains, maybe zone 7.

              Comment


              • Singing Gardener
                Singing Gardener commented
                Editing a comment
                I haven't heard of that technique. Below frost line? Thats about 4' for zone 5.

            • #11
              I have a small high tunnwl and do shuffle them. I've been bringing the 5 gal and smaller up from the basement into the warmth of the house and setting them in the south wintdows. THey are leafing out and a couple Berba's have appeared. Now I'm wondering if I 'should' do this with the other 8 in the basement.

              Would it hurt them to get this early of a head start? I don;t really have a place to put them under lights. But I could add a bit more light with a lamp. I figure I'll be able to take them into the high tunnel in March for the most part. I just don't want to stress them. . . Any thoughts?

              Comment


              • #12
                I bury in-ground trees, in zone 5a, for the winter. Been doing it with my dad's fig trees since 1966. Dig a trench, dig around the root ball. Tip it over. Put a board on top (you want air around the top branches, not anything wet that will cause it to rot/decay). Fill on the top dirt. Not too deep! Reverse the process in the spring. It's a lot of work, but you get lots of figs from those trees if they're well located. But it's enough work that I do mostly potted culture now. Just the family heirloom tree gets that treatment. Lots of pics and videos of this technique are out there on youtube, some of the more elaborate ones linked from the F4F forum.

                One thing: you don't need to go down anywhere near 4' deep. Even the deepest part of the hole I dig isn't that deep.

                I've never tried a tunnel, but I know of some guys in northern NY that do that.
                Mike -- central NY state, zone 5a -- pauca sed matura

                Comment


                • #13
                  Originally posted by Singing Gardener View Post
                  I have a small high tunnwl and do shuffle them. I've been bringing the 5 gal and smaller up from the basement into the warmth of the house and setting them in the south wintdows. THey are leafing out and a couple Berba's have appeared. Now I'm wondering if I 'should' do this with the other 8 in the basement.

                  Would it hurt them to get this early of a head start? I don;t really have a place to put them under lights. But I could add a bit more light with a lamp. I figure I'll be able to take them into the high tunnel in March for the most part. I just don't want to stress them. . . Any thoughts?

                  I tried this a few times (using in doors). I've tried at both ends of the season... to extend the autumn (and get figs to finish ripening), and to jump-start the spring early. Overall, I'd say there are lots of problems with both of those approaches, and I don't do either any more. The only exceptions I make are for trees that are very young (i.e. if I rooted one late in the season, or have a late season airlayer with delicate roots or something else that I think won't make it through a dormant winter very well).

                  Some of the problems:

                  Extending the autumn:
                  • the figs ripened, but not very well. Such sub-optimal conditions made them not very good.
                  • Then, uh oh, what to do now? I've got green, unlignified growth still, all over the tips. Shock it by moving it to cold storage? (No good... that's what causes significant die-back). Keep them inside right through? (Not great... some evidence that they need dormancy for next year's health and crop, plus lots of problems with feeble growth). See jump-starting the spring.
                  • (I did get very lucky with a very mild spell in January when trying this, and was able to move them to the garage which had 40-45 degree temps for a while... a more gradual cool-down. But overall the experience left me vowing "never again"). (Still, those trees had limited crop the following year... I had extended the ripening season to get a few figs of marginal quality, at the cost of a productive crop the following year... not a good trade off).
                  Jump-starting the spring:
                  • the leaves grown indoors were weaker and more feeble. They all burned from the sun as it got more toward real springtime. Lost energy.
                  • in my environment, there were problems with humidity. Made them susceptible to parasites and disease. Existing FMV cultures expressed in an exaggerated fashion. (btw, I have forced hot air heat in the house... and no amount of misting can overcome that). Lots of mites and other bugs... they were difficult to contain.
                  • overall, the following summer's crop was not as good. Especially when compared against a less aggressive strategy. I mean just doing the shuffle, closer to the time when mother nature was ready for "real spring". (Around here I can count on frost through May, so late March and early April is about as aggressive as I've ever succeeded at pushing things for springtime).
                  Like I said, I vowed "never again". But that's just me, and just here. Could you make it work? Probably... just depends how much effort you're willing to expend in setting up an artificial climate-controlled environment. If you put in a greenhouse, there are lots of things you can do. But it's hard to make up for those shorter days unless you extend with full-spectrum lights. (I did that, but as I've said, that's just one of the issues). So I think I saw you say somewhere that you aren't planning a greenhouse. I found that just doing the shuffle was a much more successful strategy... I've gotten some great crops that way, and near as I can tell, at your latitude, if you can push an effective start to early/mid April, you should have plenty of growing season to get a good crop of figs.

                  Hope this helps.
                  Mike -- central NY state, zone 5a -- pauca sed matura

                  Comment


                  • MichaelTucson
                    MichaelTucson commented
                    Editing a comment
                    p.s. I do extend at both ends of the season by shuffling still. Also, I use sheets (some cloth, some plastic) in lieu of shuffling pots for the less extreme nights. (That'll work for a mild frost, but not for a really hard frost).

                  • Singing Gardener
                    Singing Gardener commented
                    Editing a comment
                    YEs thank you that was very helpful. Now I better understand the logic behind starting them early: pro's and con's. If the growth is weaker I can see that it would be counter productive.

                    I have a range of 1 year old babies from cuttings to 3 year old in 2 to 5 gal pots. Maybe I'll leave some of the bigger ones in the basement for a few more weeks. They are pretty strong.

                  • Singing Gardener
                    Singing Gardener commented
                    Editing a comment
                    THanks for the support and ideas. It helps me to understand WHY. I see the logic in bring them out too early to weak light would not benefit them. I save sheets and old blankets for the garden. Now my friends even give me their old sheets. . .

                • #14
                  Questions about propagation!

                  1. I have started a propagation Chamber in a clear plastic bin with a heating pad underneat. Its nice and warm in there. Too Warm. Some of the cuttings got white mold on them. Now i'm leaving the top off during the day. The mold was on the actual woody material not the soil. Any thoughts on how to counteract the mold? Can I rinse them in diluted vinegar or something to kill the mold but not hurt the cuttings. ? Would it be wise to repot them. I have them in a mix of compost and vermiculite with a bit of garden soil.

                  2. I have the babies growing from the cuttings I started last summer in the Chamber as well to wake them up. They are all in 3-4" deep pots. It seemed like a nice warm place form them to get started. I have some lights I can supplement the south window light once they are leafed out. Is this correct thinking? There are about 15 or so.

                  Thanks so much for taking the time to help me navigate this exciting adventure!

                  Comment


                  • #15
                    RE: question 1 - I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that in a rooting chamber with heat and humidity, you are better off with sterile media. Your garden soil and compost introduce a lot of mold spores that can kill your cuttings. And be sure your temp is in mid 70s - 80 range, not too hot.
                    Ed
                    SW PA zone 6a

                    Comment


                    • #16
                      I agree with Ed, garden soil, compost, unless you sterilize it, they will make quick problems in growing indoors with heat and humidity. Outdoors, these items are constantly being kept in check with the sun, wind, and moisture changes.
                      Also there are other hidden dangers in the mix, bug eggs. You keep them moist and warm and you will wake them early. Summer beetles and cicadas lay their eggs in the soil, when the hatch, they are the grubs you see, and they eat your roots.
                      Art
                      St Louis County, MO Z6B

                      Comment


                      • Singing Gardener
                        Singing Gardener commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Oh I hadn't thought of that. DO you think it will hurt them if I just dump the soil and re 'start' them in straight peralite? I could rinse the cuttings and reapply some rooting hormone.

                        DO you think a mild vinegar rinse would hurt the cuttings. I want to make sure the mold is rinsed off!

                    • #17
                      I think cleaning them and starting again would be a good idea. Vinegar is an acid, and will upset the PH on the surface, which may or may not be helpful. I have done my cuttings as demoed in this video from another forum I have membership at.
                      http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox....post1285154356
                      Art
                      St Louis County, MO Z6B

                      Comment


                      • Singing Gardener
                        Singing Gardener commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I redid all of them. A few of the poor babies had little transparent worms that had eaten the bark off the cuttings below the ground. So sad. They looked naked. I washed them all and soaked all the cuttings in Tea Tree antiseptic soapy water and re'planted' them in vermiculite. I'll let you know if they survive.

                    • #18
                      What do you do about the little white dots? are they mold?

                      Comment


                      • MichaelTucson
                        MichaelTucson commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Sometimes little white dots are mold (undesirable). But sometimes they're something called "root initials"... the beginning stage of new roots forming. So if in doubt, don't knock them off! With a few experiences, you'll get to recognize what the root initials look like... all new roots on a cutting start out that way (sometimes you don't notice them, if they've already turned into roots before you look).

                    • #19
                      I live west of Chicago. Very cold. I grow fig trees outside unground and have not lost one yet. I dig nice hole and normally plant on angle so I can bend down to ground to burry in winter. So to burry a angle planted fig tree scrape away the mulch and little dirt (whichever direction is leaning) then I lay down wood (I use parts of broken pallets sometime wood paneling) wood that is not too absorbent. So you tie up tree push down onto wood then put another piece of wood on top (wood fig wood like sandwich) then I put weights to hold down like brick or stones. Then I put mesh like you use in a garden under mulch so weeds don't come threw or you can use burlap or any breathable material over the wood and brick. Being I do this in fall after first frost normally hay bails are on sale after Halloween and Thanksgiving decoration I spread hay and leafs from trees in yard over it all and then a plastic tarp over all of it. This way tree stays warm enough to survive winter but gets cold enough to go dormant. In the spring I slowly slice holes in the sides to let fresh air in and will not mold and when time I just uncover completely. My one tree has gotten so big (and is too tall to bend down in the area its in) for past 3 years I just tie all the tips together and wrap it with fiberglass wall insulation and put a tarp over it and tie it up and build up mulch around the bottom of it all. Same as the laid down tree in spring I slice holes to let air out then uncover.
                      Zone 5 Chicago IL Wish list:
                      1) Rest peacfully Amico Bello Buddy 👼🏼.
                      2) This weeks ebay auctions.

                      Comment


                      • Singing Gardener
                        Singing Gardener commented
                        Editing a comment
                        A friend here packaged her Brown Turkey fig up for the winter with many layers and when she opened it found that the mice had loved that nice warm protected area to nest and eat. I don't know if the tree survived but it was very chewed on. So I've been hesitant to do as you suggest. Have you had trouble with the critters?

                      • MichaelTucson
                        MichaelTucson commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Singing Gardener: if you put a few mothballs around those spaces, that will (usually) keep the mice away. I usually put a few of them out around the potted trees that I put into winter storage in the garage as well. (Sometimes mice get into those too, but the mothballs seem to keep them away.

                    • #20
                      I do not have this problem look at my picture at base of tree. I make sure there is enough tarp on the ground that first I spoke down with tent spikes. Then big rocks over the spikes. Then I take mulch up around the entire bottom so they can not get in. I also go to local barber and ask for human hair cuttings that they throw out. I spronkle this threw out the insulation then all over the base with some moth balls and then cover it. Hair and moth ball work great for garden in summer too
                      Zone 5 Chicago IL Wish list:
                      1) Rest peacfully Amico Bello Buddy 👼🏼.
                      2) This weeks ebay auctions.

                      Comment


                      • #21
                        You can also dig it up and lay it in trench under dirt. I don't like this way tho because I feel it virus tree.
                        Zone 5 Chicago IL Wish list:
                        1) Rest peacfully Amico Bello Buddy 👼🏼.
                        2) This weeks ebay auctions.

                        Comment


                        • MichaelTucson
                          MichaelTucson commented
                          Editing a comment
                          We've been burying trees this way (described elsewhere) for 49 years here, and those trees show no signs of virus infection. For the viruses (in the FMV "@@@@tail" of viruses) to be introduced to a tree, they have to come from somewhere. There are probably lots of vectors (e.g. different insects that carry them from tree to tree). Check out the discussions on F4F (Figs4Fun) if you want to see a lot of info on FMV viruses and their transmission. (Also plenty of misinformation, unfortunately).

                        • Taverna78
                          Taverna78 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I no mean virus tree. Is typo. I mean say hurt tree.... My apologies

                      • #22
                        Singing Gardener - I've been meaning to reply to your post - welcome! I grew up in SW Iowa and still have family there. You are the first Iowan that I am aware of in any of the fig forums! First of all there's the climate but also the relatively lack of ethnicities that have figs as part of their culture. I knew nothing of figs when I lived there. However, I think I convinced my brother-in-law's sister, who has a small greenhouse, to try a Hardy Chicago so maybe she will have success like you have.
                        Steve
                        D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
                        WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

                        Comment


                        • Singing Gardener
                          Singing Gardener commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Its amazing how many people have relatives in Iowa. Where are yours? I've heard that a few people with High Tunnels are trying Figs but I haven't tracked them down yet.

                          You are right 90% of the people who I have given my figs to have never tasted a fresh fig before. They all would buy them from me if I had them to sell. I guess that's another thread. How many fig trees do you have to have to have enough to sell? I could eat them all by myself so far.

                        • Rewton
                          Rewton commented
                          Editing a comment
                          My relatives are pretty much all in Page County about a 75 min drive to Omaha and 100-120 min to Kansas City. I grew up about 5 miles from the MO state line. A lot of people come from Iowa and then move elsewhere. I would seriously consider moving back but my wife (from NY state) has no interest

                      • #23
                        Singing Gardener, you said you were looking for others in Iowa and I have been looking for others near St Louis, MO. I started searching this night "who grows figs in iowa" found lots of info but not totally on what I searched so here is what I found.
                        http://www.iowasource.com/home_garde...ruit_0405.html

                        http://www.ehow.com/info_8107259_fig...ve-zone-5.html

                        http://californiafigs.com/about_figs.php?page=5

                        http://statebystategardening.com/sta...humb_envelope/

                        http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/msga...03/030728.html

                        http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/fig-trees/

                        http://www.starkbros.com/blog/figs-on-wheels/

                        http://www.gardenguides.com/92948-fig-trees-zone-5.html

                        http://www.motherearthnews.com/homes...grow-figs.aspx

                        http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/f...10/10/figs.pdf

                        Art
                        St Louis County, MO Z6B

                        Comment


                        • Singing Gardener
                          Singing Gardener commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Great REsources. The first one is from my town and & know the authors and all of the people mentioned. Yet I have never seen this article, just missed it somehow. I'm growing a lot of the things mentioned. I have 3-4 Pawpaw trees, Aronia, Service Berry, Hazelnuts, Various fruit trees and other berry's. Those guys are all hardy as long as protected. I planted ELderberries and Hops and Grapes last summer. I think of my figs as my 'pet plants' that need special love and attention. I love my portable orchard of figs
                          THanks for taking the time to post these.
                          Blessings
                          Colleen

                      • #24
                        Hi I live in southwest Wisconsin and I've been doing a container fig trial for more than 20 years to establish which varieties will ripen during the length of the growing season here. Of the 55 varieties I'm currently trialling, about 12 varieties make sense to grow if ripe figs is your objective. My season is essentially May 15 to Oct 30...

                        Comment


                        • Kelby
                          Kelby commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Welcome! What varieties are working well for you?

                      • #25
                        Conadria is the standout. Kadota, LSU Celeste Improved, Celeste, Excel, Black Jack, Hardy Chicago, Atreano, Negronne, LSU Gold, Portland & Desert King breba crop. Petite Negri and Alma are excellent flavor but barely ripen.

                        Comment


                        • Singing Gardener
                          Singing Gardener commented
                          Editing a comment
                          THank you. Its great to know what works in shorter seasons. Tho I thinks our is a bit longer than yours. SE Iowa. I just got cuttings of Conaderia and LSU Celeste Improved at the MOSES conference i LaCross. It was the first time I actually met people that were growing gifs besides me other than people I've sold them to that is. . . I was inspired.

                        • Beyondista
                          Beyondista commented
                          Editing a comment
                          That was me you got those figs from at MOSES organic farmer conference.

                        • Singing Gardener
                          Singing Gardener commented
                          Editing a comment
                          THank you for your talk and inspiration. I figure if you can grow them then I should with my extra zone of warmth. I'd like to come visit you and get some plants sometime this summer. Kiwi and maybe Elderberry as well as more figs. Its great to find these things that have been propagated in cold zones.
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