Edible figs can be grown in the Susquehanna Valley with some tips and extra winter protection. Location is key to growing figs outside year¬round. The south side of the house benefits the plant in two ways: by providing maximum sunlight all year and protecting the fig from harsh winter winds. Dig a deep hole, amend the soil with plenty of dehydrated manure. Make sure the hole is wide enough to accommodate the roots which you will spread out like octopus tentacles in the hole. Cover the roots with good soil and tamp, then water, water, water. Figs in Italy grow best at the base of volcanoes. They love lime. Spread a 1 to 2¬inch thick later of pulverized lime around the base of the fig tree.
To keep the trees alive during the winter, bundle them with hay, burlap, and tar paper in that order after the first frost has blackened and knocked off the leaves.
In the spring, prune back any dead stems or branches. To stimulate growth, add a fresh 1¬2 inch layer of pulverized lime around the base. Every two weeks fertilize with Miracle¬Gro. Once a month fertilize with a slower release fertilizer like 5¬10¬5. Keep well watered in summertime drought.
Birds love to eat fresh figs as much as we do. Bird netting is a must as the figs develop and begin to ripen.
Growing Dwarf Figs in Containers
If you don’t want to bother with winterizing figs outdoors, you can grow dwarf varieties like Brown Turkey and Celeste in containers to bring indoors before frost. Containers will need to be at least 24 inches in diameter and 15 inches deep. Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in your container. Plastic pots work best; they are lighter to move indoors. Layer the bottom of the tub with 2 inches of bark chips to promote drainage, add good soil. Spreading the roots set the fig tree plant about 6 inches from the bottom of the tub. Add soil. Tamp. Water. At the top, add a 2¬inch layer of lime. Set the tubs with the dwarf black figs on a sheet of black plastic, which absorbs sunlight and hastens growth. Place tubs in an area that obtains maximum sunlight during the day. You will have ripe figs around the middle of September.
Later in the fall, frost will knock the leaves off the dwarf fig trees. When this happens, cut the top growth back 6 feet or so. Move inside to a warm section of the basement or garage. Water the trees once a month.
By March, the dwarf fig trees will start budding. Wait until threat of frost has passed and place outside.