Here at SIW we have been discretely growing different fig varieties since 2008, looking for the ones that are reliable in our cold winters and wet summers. We selected early ripening, productive and above all tasty varieties to plant our fig orchard and are still trying more! Here are some of the best we have found so far:
Marseilles Black VS: The small dark fruit has a delicate skin and strawberry red center with a sweet figgy/berry flavor. It is closely related to a more well known fig variety named Hardy Chicago, as well as Gino's Black and many others that may be seedlings from a wild population of fig trees growing on Mount Etna, Sicily. They are all hardy, rain resistant, vigorous, super productive, ever-bearing, and make great container plants, what's not to love?
Ronde de Bordeaux (pictures to the right): A well known variety in France, it is among the very earliest to ripen main crop figs. The fruit is a rich "Bordeaux" color and strongly berry flavored, the leaves are also very ornamental. This tree grows large fast, plant it where it will get lots and lots of sun and have room to grow big.
These varieties are some of the very toughest and best suited for our area. They can ripen fruit after being frozen to the ground if planted in good soil where they get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, not many varieties can do that.
FOR SALE: Starter plants are available for a few weeks at the stand for only $15, they are ready to be put in the ground and the best time to plant is now until mid July.
The ideal location to plant a fig tree is sheltered from cold northern winds but exposed to the south for maximum sunshine. Planting near a wall or driveway that will radiate heat at night helps figs ripen sweeter and faster. Watch what Brent has to say...
Fig trees like soil that is slightly acidic (6.0-6.8) and drains well, they can survive in soil with a ph of 5.5-8 but do not tolerate soggy soil. Clay and sandy soils will benefit from a couple inches of compost, but not more because too much nitrogen will result in excessive growth and reduced fruit. Loosening clay soils and adding organic materials to sand will help the tree grow and establish faster but is not required as long as the drainage is good.
Plant 1-4 inches deeper than the container level. Planting deep (3"-4") will cause the tree to grow more trunks and form a bush shape, which is best suited for cold areas and easy picking. Thin the trunks down to 3-5 in the spring after the plants begin growing for a nice shape and to allow air and sunlight into the interior of the bush. Brent kindly demonstrates how to best plant your fig tree...
Water during hot and dry periods during the first year, in later years only during drought when the plants show wilting stress. Mulch heavily in winter to protect the roots and base of the trunk, pull the mulch back to expose the soil in April so the sun can warm it faster, put the mulch back in place during summer to conserve moisture.
Protect trees their first winter by gradually bending their tops over to the ground in the fall, pin them down and then cover with leaves or mulch. As they grow older and larger they will become more cold hardy, but also harder to protect. Some people go to heroic measures to shelter their mature trees: burying them, building sheds over-top, circling them with chicken wire and filling with leaves... A simple technique is to bend down some low branches and suckers and then cover them and the base of the trunk with dry leaves or mulch, as an insurance policy of sorts if the winter kills the rest of the top.
(This article is by Brent Morgan and he is more than happy to answer any questions you might have about planting fig trees and caring for them so please post your questions below and he'll get back to you asap.)