Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Leaves and Protecting the Figs

Today we had our first snow. It didn't last and it didn't stick, but it is getting colder. One weatherman is predicting very cold temperatures tonight and tomorrow night. I was slightly scared of the ground freezing before I had everything out of the garden and things put to bed. Preparations started over the weekend. I had my annual leaf gathering trip. I borrow a minivan from a friend and I go out to collect leaves from my neighbors with some help from my husband. In our state you have to put your yard waste into large paper bags so it can be composted. It makes it easy to find leaves. Though occasionally you find other things in the bottom of the bags like branches. I usually have to go through them to get out the unwanted additions.

I fill half of the bins in my pallet compost area. I use the leaves over the year to make my compost. Also any that I don't use turns into leaf mold, and while it isn't as good as compost, it is still good organic matter to add to the garden. This year the leaves were bone dry. They don't break down well when dry, so in the last bin I made sure they were well watered as I added them.

Another thing I do with the leaves is insulate the figs trees for the winter. Figs are not truly hardy here. They will always die back to the ground. But at least they are hardy enough not to die totally. However if I protect them well enough their branches will mostly live. To help my plight out you can see I've trellised the plants into a candelabra. That way the main trunk of the tree is low to the ground and easier to keep warm.

Sadly there were still a lot of figs on the trees. They didn't have time to ripen. The trees are still only three years old. I'm hoping next year the trees will be more vigorous and get their branches grown quickly. But for now I picked off all the figs and old leaves and put them in the compost.

Once I had them off, I cut off every other branch and trimmed that branch down a bit. Figs have their main crop on new wood every year. It is the best tasting of the crops, but also the latest. I'm hoping to have a breba crop, which is a crop on one year old wood. It is much earlier. I don't know if it is possible here or not. But it can't hurt to try. If it doesn't work in future years I can cut the branches down to stumps to grow new wood every year.

To insulate my tree I have some 3/4" insulation. I stake the bottom so it can't move out then I fill the middle with dry leaves. Then I tape up the top so water can't get in. To one I added another layer of a tarp and the leaves went higher. I'm still experimenting with what works. I have seen a couple of other fig trees out in the neighborhood, but they tend to just use plain clear plastic to wrap up their trees. I've found that not good enough to guarantee the trunk won't die so I'm being more aggressive than that. If the trunks live then the branches have a better chance of growing quickly and putting out fruit before the cold hits.

And it took a while for the horizontal trunks to reach the ends of their 8' long trellis. In fact the Paradisio hasn't quite gotten there yet on one side. The Brown Turkey seems more vigorous and got there by the middle of the summer. I got most of the ripe figs this year from that tree and only one from the Paradisio. If the Paradisio ends up not performing next year I'll probably replace it with some other fruit.


  1. So sad that all those figs didn't ripen. You have done a great job protecting the fig trees for winter. Maybe next spring will be warmer and they can begin growing earlier.

  2. I've had some minor signs of snow too already..... I keep hearing we are suppose to have a normal winter this year. That would be a reality check compared to the winters we've had the last few years.

  3. Have you ever tried ripening figs on the counter? I don't know if that works, but it's a shame to loose them.
    We got snow yesterday too, enough that it's still there in the shady lawn areas.

  4. How convenient to be able to pick up bagged leaves! I have a steady supply of leaves from my own property, but I have to rake them up. Plus, most of them are very tough Live Oak leaves and I have to run them through a leaf shredder to get them to compost in something less than a decade. They do make great compost though.

    Your fig trees produced more fruit than mine and mine seemed to have just as much difficulty ripening. If I had to go to the added work of protecting them during the winter I don't think I would bother.

  5. We have so many trees around us - which is good for compost and bad for raking! Behind our property is where our neighbors have been dumping their grass clippings and leaves for years. Dig a few inches back there and it's like compost heaven. I have a compost bin for kitchen waste but aside from that, I don't think we'll ever be short on compost.

  6. Oh! About the figs trees - last year I had tons of unripe fruit on my potted tree as well. It was nice to be able to bring them inside to allow the fruit to ripen, but then the trees got the shock of their life when it was time for them go dormant after I picked all of the fruit. It's never easy with figs but I keep trying.

  7. I had a lot of unripe figs left too. But I am happy I got more this year than I did last year when the ants got most of them. You certainly have a good setup for protecting the branches for wintering. I hope it does the job for you.