LeVin
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Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

Hello gardeners, I am looking for someone experienced with fig trees to give me some tips on overwintering small seedlings. I've made an impulse buy and have two Chicago Hardy fig seedlings on-route to me.

I've looked up wintering fig trees indoors, but most tips seemed to be about more mature trees, and I wasn't sure if I could follow those advice on smaller seedlings. I would assume that they would need to be potted and held indoors, but are there any tips I should be paying attention to so that they survive and stay healthy? Should they be in the sunniest spots, or should they be in more darker environment? Should they be watered regularly? etc.

Also, come springtime, assuming the seedlings have survived, should I be planting them outside right away, or do I want to keep them potted and more protected for another year? I am located in northern NJ, USDA zone 7a. I am fairly well protected from wind, but I need to clear some more trees to let more light into my backyard.

Thanks for reading, and any advice offered would be greatly appreciated.

Any general gardening tips would be appreciated as well. We've planted tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, etc in the garden before, but this is the first time we're dealing with fruiting trees. I am wondering if I got bit more trigger-happy and eager than I should have for a new grower as I've got a Japanese plum and peach tree planted already, and have two apples and two paw paws coming to me this fall as well. Very excited, and yet slightly worried that I might not be successful with all my experiments.

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applestar
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

I was hoping someone else with more experience would comment. But I'll give it a shot --

First I think it's likely you are getting rooted cuttings rather than seedlings. What size pots are they growing in?

Since generally published USDA zone range for Chicago Hardy is (4)5-9(10), and since these are likely to have very small root systems if they are small enough for you to think they are seedlings, I think I would overwinter them inside in coolest location (like floor level) or just below a window sill of the coolest location in the house that doesn't freeze (ideally upper-40's to 50's, low to mid 60's at most), and keep actively growing with lights. Don't overwater or fertilize until active growth resumes in late winter early spring. Don't worry if all the older leaves fall off.

Alternatively, if you are brave, you can leave them out until past frost and let them drop leaves and go dormant, then keep them somewhere that stays in the upper 30's to 40's -- in which case you don't need to supply light and they can stay nearly but not quite dry. Somewhere, there's a thread in which I asked when figs start leafing out in spring. You'll want to bring yours out of dormancy just before or around then.

BUT PLEASE NOTE -- I haven't done this before, these are my best guess course of action.
I'll be following your progress because I want to get Chicago Hardy fig (or other cultivar than can handle Zone 6b winters) also. What I have right now is container suitable Petit Negra which needs to come inside this week.
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LeVin
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

Right, rooted cuttings, of course. Don't think fig seeds are common in the US.

The seller described them as 6~10 inches tall, pair grown in 1 gallon pot, so fairly small. I've contacted the seller for advice as well since he's located locally, but I'll have to wait on his getting back to me.

So, do you believe letting them get some chills with sunlight will be better for them rather than full heat and light over the winter? I do have a room in the basement that's unheated, but the window is NW-facing. Alternatively, there is SE-facing window where most of our indoor houseplants are located, but its directly over heater.

Thanks for your answers, and I'll try my best to keep them alive and well.

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applestar
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

During the cold months, I cluster my plants around SE and SW facing windows so they get some sun AND provide supplemental light to various degrees, but some less light needy plants spend the winter in unsupplemented light conditions with what sunlight comes through the windows (these are cooler winter temp range tropicals and are watered less and in slow/halted growth). Others that are in active growth during the winter are on wire rack shelves fitted with fluorescent lights in front of a NW picture window with no direct sunlight at all during the dead of the winter, but they do get some *feeble* sunlight once the sun starts to rise further north of true West.

I believe deciduous trees need the rest period so cooler temp and less water is better. In my experience, borderline winter hardy plants have more problems when temp is too high during the winter while indoors. I have thermometers in most of the plant locations to closely monitor the temp -- slight change in position can mean different thermal levels. And dry indoor air can really stress them out, so I block the forced air heat vents under the windows and I always spray the plants with filtered water until dripping in the morning to simulate morning dew.

Unless you feel that "out of sight out of mind" neglect could befall your figs, I think the basement would be the best location WITH artificial light 2-4" above the canopy for 14-16 hrs during the day. It's best to check on them daily at least until you have a good handle on their environment and their needs, after which you could skip a dy or two.

Unless you have other plants to support as well, I would use a clamp on 10" aluminum reflector utility light with 6500K 23-26W CFL per plant or 24" 2 tube fluorescent fixture for both. I set/adjust the timer to coincide with sunrise, then the loghts stay on until 10-11PM, though some of the lights are manually turned on and off.
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!potatoes!
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

i'd probably go for keeping them dormant, outside, insulated as well as possible.

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applestar
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

Hmm... I suppose I might try if I had extras and if I could be confident that the insulation will maintain temps above mid-20's, let's say.... But unless we have the super weird winter like we had two years ago, winter lows can get down to negative single digits around my area in Zone 6b and negative teens in 6a.

In my unheated uninsulated, attached garage, temp has fallen down to low 20's during a week long consecutive daily highs of teens/single digits and lows of +/- single digits (that was the worst -- I lost a lot of overwintering plants, bulbs, corms, etc. that year).

My best guess would be to dig a well drained pit that doesn't hold water, lined with scrap wood near the house foundation or under a deck/porch kind of location and fill with leaves/straw, cover with old carpet, tarp, etc. (i.e. a mini version of the classic coffinned fig tree method). But I would have to be really brave.... :|

I think once the Chicago Hardy has grown a season in the ground and established roots, it should survive the winter as advertised. My understanding is that it won't need any of the extreme winter protection methods like the less winter hardy cultivars.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

LeVin
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

Image

Well, here they are. Just got them today. I gave the roots good soaking then planted them in the pots. The seller recommends just letting them go dormant in the basement in darkness once the leaves drop. However, the family is bit adverse to the idea of bringing in full pots to our finished basement, so they'll have to go to the garage. It is attached to the house, but unheated. I'll insulate the pot with paper and wraps and stuff them with leaves as well and keep a close eye on the temperature during the winter. We'll see in the spring.

imafan26
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

I wish I could help you with that. I do have brown turkey and black mission figs some in the ground and others in pots. They are usually grown from cutting and not from seed. Cuttings from a fruit bearing tree will yield fruit the same year.

It doesn't get colder than the high forties in winter. Figs will drop leaves this time of year. Apple probably gave you the best advice about letting them go fully dormant and overwintering in the dark. I would just add that you should becareful to protect them from hungry rodents while they are in indoors.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

LeVin
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Re: Seeking advice on Overwintering Fig Tree Seedlings

Just here to report that I've been leaving the pots in the sun during the day, then bringing them back in to the garage during the night when the temp hits the 30s. It'll stay permanently in the garage for the winter soon enough though.

Image

Did make an interesting find while clearing and cleaning the back yard. Seems my neighbor has planted a Mission fig tree right against the fence sometime this year. Didn't realize it until I had cleared away some of the brushes that had gone wild along the fences. I'll see how this fig tree bears the winter and pick my planting location and time accordingly.

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