Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Ways To Store Your Fig Trees For The Winter And Why I Prefer The Zombie Method

When it comes to fig trees and northern climates you have three options when it comes to storing your fig trees for the winter:

Container Growing
Grow fig tree in container and bring inside when winter comes

Tree Wrapping
Grow Fig tree in ground when winter comes wrap the fig tree with burlap and other insulating materials.

Burial Method a.k.a Zombie Method
Grow Fig tree in ground when winter comes Bury the fig tree under ground (I call this the zombie method because you bury them in winter and they 'rise' in the spring)

Now I have 8 fig trees in containers and 4 trees that I keep outside. The container figs are pretty simple to store for the winter. After the first frost comes and burns the leaves off the fig tree they are then ready to be stored in either a garage or a dark basement.

For the other 4 fig trees I use the burial method. These outdoor figs are grown in the ground from April until November. Once the cold weather comes and burns the leaves off the trees I take a spade shovel and dig a foot from the base of the trunk all around the tree. Once I've severed enough roots and the root ball becomes free I lean the tree to one side and begin severing the bottom roots. I repeat this step on the opposite side until the tree is able to be lifted root ball and all from the location it has been growing. Don't worry fig trees can take heavy pruning of their root systems. As long as you don't damage the central core of the root ball the fig won't feel a thing.

Once you have the tree free you can perform some light pruning in order to make the tree more compact and make it ready for burying it underground. I like to bury the fig tree in my raised beds as the soil is easy to dig and work with. I dig down about a foot and a half or more depending on how large the fig tree is. You want to make sure that the trees root-ball and trunk will be covered by at least 12 inches of soil so the freezing temps stay at bay while it's buried.

Here are some photos of me digging up my zombie fig trees that I buried this past November. They are all healthy and the buds were greening even though they've been buried for 5 months. Figs are hardy and can take being buried as long as they are covered with enough soil.


  1. I was inspired to start raising figs when a coworker told me about her Italian relatives who buried figs to help the survive the Brooklyn winters. Awesome!

  2. Does this work as far north as the Syracuse, NY, area?

  3. Sam, this method works as far as Canada! Just not in permafrost or in the tundra :)

  4. Thanks for providing these detailed instructions on maintaining figs through the winter. I've been taking my potted fig indoors to my cold basement for the winter in the last couple of years, and have had good success in managing it through the zone 5 winters in Toronto. I needed to follow your advice on watering though, as I've managed to lose many of my little figs before they made it to ripeness.

  5. I have a fig tree that we bury every year....tomorrow is convienent but some of the leaves are still on it? Is it okay to bury with leaves still on the tree?