After the disappointment of last year’s Hardy Chicago Fig not being so hardy after all, I replaced it with two more bush-shaped fig plants rather than the tree-shaped version I had last year. I was disappointed again earlier this summer, when only one breba fig appeared, and then broke off its stem before it ripened. But! A few days ago, I took a close look at the bushes, and saw a couple dozen tiny figs forming! The bush shaped plants have 4-5 stems rather than the one stem from the standard-pruned fig that died over the winter. This seems to be much better for fig production!
My plan is to let these figs ripen, and then bring the whole contraption inside in mid-fall. It should retain all its leaves and make a nice, if huge, houseplant, and also have a good start for next year’s season.
Right now, the garden is in an in-between state. Some things have taken off fast – the tomatoes, ground cherries, even the chichiquelite huckleberries are getting really big. Other things are taking their time – the black currant bushes are healthy, but haven’t grown much. A eggplant I started from seed and was pulled up by some bird or squirrel is dwarfed by its nursery-bought neighbors.
Among everything else, the tomatillo is enormous – it’s at least four feet tall, and it could easily be taller than me in a month.
After my hardy Chicago fig turned out to be not so hardy, I bought two new bushier figs to put in the planter. I didn’t expect much out of these this year, but there is one tiny fig starting to grow on one of them.
After five hours of pulling weeds from the yard, we were rewarded with two ripe figs from the tree we planted in April! They’re not very big, but they were delicious!
And it also looks like the tree is getting its second crop – this time about 15 more little figs have formed! I’m hoping they’ll ripen before the first frost.
Last week, I was really surprised to find some tiny figs on the tree I just planted in April! When it came in the mail, it was a leafless stick with one spindly, weak looking root. Today, it has about doubled in size, has a ton of big leaves, and now three 1/2 figs, and it looks like a few more tiny ones! The figs I’ve been watching have roughly doubled in size in the past week.
Hardy Chicago figs will ripen to a reddish brown color – I’m guessing it will be another month or so before they’re ready. I must have missed the breba crop this year (I didn’t expect any figs, so this is great!) From what I’ve read, te breba crop forms underneath the leaf base, and the main crop forms above it on the current year’s growth. I debated removing the figs for this first year, but the tree is growing vigorously, and I’ve got it in 2 cubic feet of very rich soil – I’m going to let them ripen!
Fig Tree with lemon verbena and lablab beans below, surrounded by my pepper boxes.
So I decided against planting the Hardy Chicago Fig tree directly in the ground. I have a great sunny, protected spot for it on the the south wall of our house, but I’m already too mentally invested in the success of this tree, so I built a planter for it that I can move inside in the winter months. I followed the same basic plan as my potato box from last week, only using 8″ wide cedar boards. The finished planter is 2′ tall, 2′ wide and 2′ deep – big enough for the first five or so years with the fig tree. I added an untreated birch base to the planter, and aluminum wheeled casters underneath so I can move it easily when I need to. All in all, the planter was pretty expensive to build (about $30 for the wood, $5 for the screws and $16 for the casters,) but the alternative of a pot that large would have been around $100.
The fig planter (don't mind those bags of manure...)
Around the tree, I added some shallow rooted plants that need about the same amount of water: purple alyssum and lemon verbena. I love lemon verbena – the plant I grew last year got really huge and trailed luxuriously, so I’m hoping these will do the same to soften the edge of the planter.
Fig tree with lemon verbena and alyssum
I know I’m pushing the boundaries of zone hardiness, but I just had to try to grow a fig tree. None of the varieties I found were listed as hardy to Zone 6, where Columbus is located, but a variety called Hardy Chicago seemed a likely winner. This variety was propegated from a tree growing near Chicago, naturally, which is quite a bit colder than Columbus. On a few messageboards I found, growers said it consistently came back and fruited, even if it froze to the ground in the winter.
This one is going to take some coddling, but I think figs are completely worth it! I’ve saved the best spot in the yard for this tree: right against the south wall of the house in full sunlight. The southern exposure and proximity to the house should guard the tree against extreme cold, and I have a couple options in how I plant it. I could plant it in a large pot for about four years, until it’s well established, and bring it indoors during the winter. Or, I could let it stand up to the elements and give it some protection outside by bending down the branches in November and covering it with leaves, mulch and a tarp. Not sure what I’ll try yet.
Hardy Chicago Fig