15 March 2008

What on earth is this you ask?

cut back fig with xmas tree, originally uploaded by larrapin67.

Ok, I admit I had never grown figs in a zone where it had to be cut back. Where I grew up in Alabama, the figs grew to the size of small trees and never had to be cut back for winter. Huge fig trees were a part of childhood and the house I grew up in had two huge figs on either side of the back door with their big raspy leaves and a shower of fruit every summer.

When I moved to the mountains of Western NC, I rarely saw figs except in pots. Now that Northwestern Arkansas is home, I see a few figs, but couldn't help but notice they were fig "bushes" rather than trees. I even thought at first that there must be a different variety of figs grown up here.

But alas, that's just what a fig looks like when the winters kill it to the ground every year and it grows back every year if you mulch it deeply. If it's planted in a hot enough spot, and if the frosts come neither too late or too early (unlike 2007, when the frosts did just that) then you will have some figs.

This picture is our cut back fig bush covered with leaves and the remains of the Christmas tree. All are meant to protect the roots so it will grow back in the springtime. I don't know why I left those fig-sticks rather than cutting if off to the ground. I guess the bama gal in me is in denial about this cutting back thing still...

This is Brown Turkey fig, the most cold hardy fig. But apparently my bit of Italian blood is showing b/c I've ordered some less hardy dwarf Italian figs and have already purchased big pots for our hottest patio to grow them in. I'm planning on putting them in the well-pump house for the winter, since we can't let that freeze anyway.

I've read how the Italian communities of NY and the northeast do all sorts of bundling and potting tricks to keep their figs safe over the winter. I understand why. It feels wonderfully luxurious to pick a fig off the tree (let's still call it a tree) and eat it right there in the yard. And so what that we only got to do that two or three times in 2007. (Which neatly polished off the total of about seven figs that survived the frosts.) OK, so not one fig made it inside the house. It was still worth it.


Melanie said...

Leigh, you are right, the Italian communities here do bundle and burlap their figs. Mostly though I just see them tie burlap all around the trees and it seems to work.

jodi said...

I'm told by those who know that once you've eaten a fig fresh off a tree (or relatively close to that experience), dried figs are never again the same. You're saying the same thing...I enjoyed this post especially since figs aren't gonna live in my climate any time soon. :-)

Leigh said...

Melanie -- when I read about the lengths Italian folks go to in order to have their figs, I knew I wasn't alone! I want to try bundling to see if it helps the tree get a faster start in springtime.

Jodi -- so good to hear from you. No, no figs in the ground in Canada I guess! But I ordered a couple of dwarf figs for patio pots and can't wait to try them (Wayside Gardens I think...).

Thanks to both of you for stopping by!

A wildlife gardener said...

What a interesting story...and well worth the effort, to eat your own figs...yum! yum!

Leigh said...

Thanks for stopping by! I'll let ya'll know how it turns out this year.

Pam/Digging said...

Yum, figs.

By the way, Leigh, are you still planning to come to Austin for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling next week? I haven't heard back from you about meal reservations. We're still hoping to meet you. Please let me know if you'll be joining us.

Thanks! --Pam