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October 27, 2012

1 - Figs can be grown with some degree of success by home gardeners in New Mexico.

Yard and Garden October 27, 2012

Q.

I am determined to grow figs! I fig tree planted in a huge pot (too large to bring inside). She wants to know if it is possible to keep it and grow it in the pot. It did freeze last year! I checked the list from Dr. Walser (retired NMSU Extension Urban Small Farm Specialist) and there are no recommended varieties on it for our area!

Judy O.

Silver City

A.

Although figs are not recommended for commercial production in New Mexico because the climate is too variable to allow consistent crops (necessary for the economics of farming), New Mexico home gardeners often grow figs for home use with varying degrees of success. They may get a crop most years in some parts of the state. In Southern New Mexico, at lower elevations, where the winters are somewhat milder than other parts of the state, there is a better chance of growing figs successfully than in other parts of the state. In Albuquerque, they freeze to the ground some years, but grow back quickly from the roots. If the gardener is growing a variety that produces on growth produced during the current growing season, they will have a crop the summer following a killing freeze. The 'Brown Turkey' cultivar is one such fig. Fig trees that bear on the current season's growth are the best fig to grow in most of New Mexico. If gardeners wish to try other varieties of figs, that can certainly do so, but they should be aware that crops may be infrequent, especially with varieties that bear on old wood. Such varieties will not produce figs for one or more years after freezing to the ground. At high elevations and in Northern New Mexico even the roots may freeze and the plant will die unless heavily mulched.

The chances for winter damaged are increased by growing the fig tree in a container that is left outside. If the container is in a warm microclimate where the temperatures are warmer than other areas of the landscape, the plant may survive even in the pot, but the risk for freezing and dying is greater. This is because roots of plants do not become as hardy as the above ground portions of the plants. Temperatures in the pot, kept above grade and exposed to low air temperatures, can get quite cold on cold nights. If the pot cannot be moved, straw bales around the pot may be enough insulation to protect the roots, but there is no way to assure that the plant will not freeze on very cold nights. Moving the plants to a warmer place is a better option. In your area, however, planting in the ground, especially in a warmer microclimate (south side of a structure), is probably the best option. Some winters a thick layer of straw mulch (covered with plastic held down at the edges to protect against wind) may be needed.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd.
SW, Los Lunas, NM 87031.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist emeritus with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating