Issue: Octob1r 27, 2001

Fig tree winter protection

Question:

A friend asked me to look on the computer for any information regarding what to do for a fig tree in the winter. We live in zone 6. I'm not sure if this tree is in the ground or potted. Any information would be appreciated.

Answer:

I assume you are asking about edible figs, not ornamental figs and will provide an answer appropriate for the edible figs.

While figs will grow in New Mexico as far north as Albuquerque, that is pushing their limits. Albuquerque is in hardiness zone 7 as determined from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's hardiness zone map. I am not aware of figs growing further north in New Mexico. However, in a protected courtyard, it is possible that they will grow in colder climates. In zone 6 a protected location shielding the tree from the coldest weather and where the soil doesn't freeze would increase the chances of the tree's survival. It may freeze to the ground many winters, but if it is a variety that bears on the current season's growth, it will still produce figs. There are other varieties that produce on older growth. These will not produce figs if they freeze to the ground.

It is possible to wrap the tree with insulating material after the weather has turned cold and the fig tree has lost its leaves. This must be done with special care. If it warms inside the protection, the tree may begin growing and suffer severe damage in the next cold spell. This protective material must be removed while it is still cold to avoid the situation described above. The tree will begin to lose dormancy when the weather warms and be very subject to damage once the material is removed if the timing is not good. You must also be prepared to replace the covering quickly if late, extremely cold weather is expected.

A potted tree may be easier to grow. Once it is dormant, it can tolerate some freezing and doesn't need light. What must be avoided is extreme swings in temperature and excessive warming. The tree may be stored in a cold garage in which the temperatures range from below freezing to a little above freezing. It will need to be watered as the soil dries but will need little additional care until the weather warms.

Snails and slugs question

Question:

Are snails and slugs a problem throughout the U.S.A.? -Alden

Answer:

The answer depends on the context of your question. Snails and slugs are a problem in landscapes and gardens in much of the U.S. In the natural environment, they are not as great a problem. Here in New Mexico, they cause problems only where we irrigate and have imported them in the soil of our landscape and garden plants. I don't remember any problems with snails and slugs when I lived in Montana. Perhaps that was due to the cold winters, but the lack of any problems may have been because fewer imported plants from snail- and slug-infested areas were used in landscapes. So, I can answer from the context of New Mexico. They are a problem in our irrigated landscapes and gardens. In the desert, they are not a problem. Perhaps Extension Service people in other states could answer for their states.

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Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)