Answer: Young fig trees need protection in areas where the temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. Older established trees, with woody bark, may freeze back but the main tree will generally survive if the tree is healthy. Below 20 degrees, figs require wrapping, burying or other protection.
Allow your fig tree to drop its leaves in the fall. If unripe figs are still on the stems, removing those figs will help prevent diseases - they will not ripen over the winter. Clean all dropped leaves and figs from around the tree to make sure that the area is free from insects and disease that might overwinter in the dropped debris.
Pile lots of hay, leaves, dirt and whatever around the base of the tree -the real trick is to make sure that the roots Do Not Freeze. Then wrap the tops up in some burlap or other material (we get reports on all kinds of inventive things: carpet, canvas, old sails... always amazing). If you have white plastic (ONLY white, not dark or clear both of which increase heat & humidity and cause damage), you can wrap a bit of that over it all to keep the wrapping dry but you don't want to do that until the days are no longer warm because it can also perk your little figs in the heat. some folks just pop a large tomato-cage type structure over smaller fig trees, fill it with packed hay and then cover. Anything to keep the cold wind off.
Before wrapping small figs and for larger fig trees in marginal areas, we spray the exposed fig stems with a product named "Wilt Pruf" which is an antidessicant. It is the drying effect of wind and cold that kills the fig stems and this product seems to help prevent damage. Dormant oil sprays also seem to have this effect - and are effective at killing overwintering pests at the same time. (Dormant oil sprays are considered an organic pest preventive.)
The traditional method of protecting fig trees has been to "bury" the tree. To do this, you cut through the roots of the tree on one side. A trench is dug out from the tree on the opposite side and the tree is bent and pushed over into the trench. Dirt, hay and/or leaves are piled up over the tree (which may have to be tied down). In the spring the covering is removed, the tree is righted, the roots replanted and the trench filled.
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