The Q&A Archives: Care and Harvesting of Fig Tree

Question: In July 2003 I purchased and planted a Monrovia Mission Fig Tree in the sunniest part of our property in North/East New Jersey. It was about 4 feet high with thin trunk. It yielded about a dozen delicious figs that year.

After consultation with you and others, in November 2003 I covered the tree with burlap, insulated the tree with straw, covered the burlap with tar paper, put a plastic cover on the top, and left opening at the sides of the top for ventilation.

In mid to late March 2004 I removed all of the above. All of the tree branches were dead, so I cut them off. From the top of the tree I started cutting the trunk until I saw some life----which was about 2 inches from the ground. I fertilized and during the summer the

Answer: Figs need a specific amount of sunlight and warmth in order to ripen. They will not ripen after they've been removed from the tree. Some fig trees ripen sooner than others; sometimes figs needing a longer summer will ripen and sometimes they won't. There's nothing you can do to speed the process up. Fig trees are a real challenge in New Jersery! Pruning the branches back to a manageable size and then covering the tree in the winter is an acceptable winterizing process. Some gardeners dig a trench adjacent to the tree, reduce the length of all the branches on one side, loosen the rootball so the tree can be laid on its side, then cover the tree with soil, straw, burlap, shredded leaves, etc. Then in the springtime, they remove the insulation material, stake the tree upright, prune the other side and fill in the trench. You might try this process and maybe your tree will get off to an earlier start, which may allow enough time for the fruit to ripen before fall weather sets in. Hope so!

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