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Shelter for your fig tree is right around the corner
Now is the time to think about how you want to winterize your fig tree
When I was a child growing up in New Jersey, I spent much time my family’s vegetable garden since it was like a shelter from the rest of the world. There, we grew string beans, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, rhubarb and even had a blueberry bush. Most of the time spent in the garden was discovering insects to learn which ones were healthy for the thriving ecosystem of the garden and which were the pests. The garden was just something we tended to during the growing season and then it was gone. We didn’t have fig trees and instead we went to visit my grandparents in South Alabama to pick the Celeste and Brown Turkey figs off of the trees while trying to reach the fruit before the birds got to them. I usually believed that the only place to grow figs was in the South. That’s when my mother and I discovered figs for sale at a local nursery and figured that they probably grow in USDA zone 7a.
There were struggles along the way, especially learning that the winter seasons were harsh for Brown Turkey fig trees. I tried several methods for protecting the fig trees with insulated wraps and finally decided that all they needed was sheltering from the elements. My favorite shelter looks like a greenhouse and certainly gets as hot as one in the winter, except it’s not one and gets cold inside during the winter. This product was called a Shelter Logic greenhouse shelter that I bought from a local Tractor Supply store. I installed this shelter at my family’s beach house in Old Saybrook, CT which is also in USDA zone 7a. The winters there are unpredictable since it’s right along Long Island Sound, which young fig trees are the most vulnerable especially when they are subjected to a killing freeze. One year, I simply wrapped the fig tree in burlap and plastic. It didn’t last very long since with that unpredictable weather in the winter, it can get very windy at times. Along came the fate of winter and the strong winds blew the wrap off of the tree, exposing it to the elements. The top branches didn’t survive that year, but I didn’t give up. One year when I felt that everything was in the clear, I unwrapped the tree when the warm weather was creeping in at the start of April and a week later, a killing freeze came along and nearly killed the tree. The next year, I invested in the Shelter Logic greenhouse and the tree thrived. Even though it’s not a traditional greenhouse, the structure kept the ground from freezing and the wild rabbits out as well.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey I decided to experiment with other forms of shelter for the fig trees. I wrapped the trees with frost cloth and even created pyramid-shaped shelters using greenhouse plastic. Greenhouse plastic is specially designed with a rough surface that collects moisture on the inside and the plastic is UV protected so that it can last for up to 2 years under the sunlight. It takes quite a bit of research online to find all of the materials although you may find clear polyethylene plastic cover film with UV protection at Amazon.
If you live in USDA zone 7a, now is the time to start planning winter storage for your fig trees. If you want to choose a quick route at protecting your tree, I suggest getting a Shelter Logic greenhouse. This shelter has UV protection, metal tube interior frames, anchors that keep the wind from blowing it over and a sturdy tarp-woven plastic cloth. The doorway and the two large vents (at either end) have heavy-duty zippers to create a tight seal. It requires some assembly and can be helpful if you have another person to help you, although I managed to do it alone.