How to grow figs in cold climates-The New York Times

2021-12-13 19:12:27 By : Ms. vicky xu

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It looks like the best fig year ever, and as the season progresses, my potted tree may bear 20 fruits. But the end of the frost is coming, and many figs are still hanging there, too small, hard and green, and destined to never mature.

Why can't I do it right?

Lee Reich's latest book "Growing Figs in Cold Climates: A Complete Guide" tells about the fig frustration of northeastern gardeners like me. In it, he proposed various strategies to defeat the fig, a subtropical plant that originated in a very different climate in the Middle East, but can be induced to grow and even bear fruit in colder areas through the correct strategy.

You may have read or seen some of the traditional lengths used by fig growers, such as wrapping a tree with burlap stuffed with leaves, to provide adequate protection outside the Brooklyn brownstone, maybe, but not too far.

Other gardeners prune after falling leaves in autumn, then dig half around the root ball of the fig, bend the plant down to the other side, and cover with soil or leaves and a tarp. To maximize insulation, some people dig a trench next to the fig, then lower the tree into the trench and cover it.

This requires a lot of work-"and it may look ugly in winter landscapes," said Mr. Reich, who has gained experience from attempts a few years ago.

We should all be lucky (or smart?) to have a simple greenhouse, like Mr. Reich’s greenhouse on his 2.25 acres of land in New Paltz, New York, which is a 20 x 20 foot polyethylene covered structure , He keeps heating to a minimum, so the temperature will not drop below 37 degrees.

His four figs are planted in the mud of the greenhouse and trained to become espaliers. However, it is more than just a statue. The greenhouse also grows a variety of foods, including horse cuts, lettuce, kale, and even celery in winter, flower seedlings in spring and cucumbers in summer.

But the simple way to grow figs in cold winter places is in pots. The premise is that you have a suitable place to hide it when it freezes, as Mr. Reich did in his barely heated basement, where there are 15 potted trees.

For a long time, Mr. Reich not only grows figs, but also plants such as wolfberry and papaya, including "rare fruits worthy of attention". This is a forward-thinking book he published in 1991, which has influenced gardeners to consider more widely Color palette. Even with more common choices such as blueberries, Mr. Reich broke the limit. For example, he harvested 190 quarts from the tall plants grown in "Our Bird-proof Blueberry Temple", which is a one-inch mesh on the side. The outdoor structure is covered with a net when mature, too.

Among the tree fruits, figs are different. It is possible that the most commonly grown temperate regions, such as apples and pears, will bear fruit on older woods, woods of the previous year and earlier. Some fig varieties can also do this, offering so-called breba crops on last year’s stems earlier. But those varieties that are most suitable for growing in cold climates, including familiar varieties such as brown turkey and Chicago Hardy, produce the main crop—sometimes the only crop—on the new shoots.

Reducing fig trees to container planting ratios by pruning does not eliminate the possibility of harvesting. Instead, Mr. Reich emphasized that successfully growing figs in cold regions requires some combination of two practices: proper pruning and adequate protection.

When Mr. Reich was studying for the Graduate School of Horticulture and Soil Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his first fig was placed in a 12-inch diameter clay pot in his apartment.

"I didn't know much about how to successfully grow plants or figs," he recalled. "As you might guess, I never got a fig."

If it can be moved to a winter storage location, a larger pot is better. But regardless of size, drainage holes are essential because this is a sunny place for plants to spend the outdoor growing season.

Although the fig is happy to pierce its roots into the soil, straight garden soil is not practical in a container because it is too heavy and interferes with drainage. Mr. Reich, a former soil scientist, customized his own formula: equal parts of peat, perlite, compost and garden soil. For every five-gallon recipe, he adds a quarter cup of limestone and half a cup of soybean meal (providing supplementary nitrogen). Mix well, then sift before use.

Shortcut: According to label instructions, use standard bagged potting mix and occasionally use water-soluble fertilizers.

Pay attention to watering is the key. Mr. Reich suggested using pots that are small enough to lift or at least tilt, learn to measure weight after thoroughly watering, and then measure weight when the soil starts to dry out. The difference in weight should remind you when you need to reapply.

"If you use a well-draining potting mix, you don't have to worry about overwatering," said Mr. Reich, whose transmitter of his automatic drip irrigation system is positioned to provide short watering to all of him twice a day. Potted figs.

For overwintering, figs require almost no water-enough to prevent drying out, perhaps once at the end of winter. And there is no need for light, because figs will be leafless.

He said that the ideal situation you are trying to simulate is a winter in the Mediterranean, between freezing and more than 40 degrees. "But figs can tolerate 10 degrees, and of course they can tolerate 20 degrees," he said. Figs in large pots have more root insulation and are therefore more resistant to cold.

"However, don't rush to put the flower pots in the winter storage room," Mr. Reich suggested. His plants entered the cellar around mid-December, and once they gradually hardened outside, they became colder and colder starting in October. Don't rush them to wake them up with too much warmth or water; it's best not to bring them back outdoors, "until the temperature is stable in their 20s."

My insulated but unheated barn is colder than Mr. Reich's cellar, but I never die of figs, nor do I wake up too early and get electrocuted; that's not my problem. Obviously, I need to increase the pruning, Mr. Reich said-whether it is above or below the soil surface.

Most fig pruning is done while the plant is dormant, from late fall to early spring. Sometimes deciding when is a purely practical decision. If the doorway of the storage point is too narrow or the plant is too heavy, you may need to trim it before storing it, or even take it out to reduce weight, and cover the unearthed root ball with a plastic bag.

Since the main season crops produced on new shoots are the focus of our cold climate gardeners, the pruning plan encourages a set of well-spaced shoots rather than plants that are too low. A fig that has been chopped to the ground—whether by the cold or a gardener waving a pair of scissors—usually sprouts from its roots. But there may not be time for the figs to fully recover and then bear fruit on fresh growth.

It turns out that I need to prune my figs to promote more fruit buds in the season. "This means cutting some of the strongest stems back about two feet above ground level," Mr. Reich said. "And keep cutting off most of the other slender stems."

Another suggestion: Prune the roots every two years to make room for renewal of the potting medium so that the plant does not deplete its resources. When the figs are taken out of the storage, pour them out of the pot, place them on a tarp, and do some pruning. Using a root ball that is 18 inches wide, Mr. Reich may cut off the surrounding one, two and a half inches of roots before replanting.

Inspired by his greenhouse espaliers, Mr. Reich has been experimenting with an outdoor fig that is trimmed to a horizontal cordon or stepped espalier: a fruit tree planted very low to take advantage of the earth's insulating power.

"It's easy to cover up," Mr. Reich said. "And not to bend it every time you fall, but to keep it down."

Before covering the seedlings in the first winter, he chopped them down close to the ground. From the branches that grew in the spring of the following year, he left one as a trunk level training.

If space permits, you can keep a pair facing opposite directions, or even four to form an X pattern—all potentially eye-catching ornamental garden elements, which can also be used as a frame for the fruiting stems of each season. To train the retained sprouts, tie them to low stakes or weigh them with ropes fixed to two bricks.

New shoots sprout from the old wood of the cordon in spring. Mr. Reich allowed one vertical branch to grow along the trunk every eight inches or so, and each branch might bear fruit. Because these branches grow from old wood with horizontal trunks, they begin to grow earlier than plants that are more severely felled, and may grow to 10 feet or more in a season.

This means that the maturation of the main crops also begins earlier-for fig growers in cold climates, this is all about success.

Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A Way to Garden and the book of the same name.

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