Fig tree care in winter: Build a box!

Posted on: November 19, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Last week I posted this video showing how Diana Knapp from Hahn Nursery buries a fig tree for winter. She picked 400 figs last year; I didn’t pick any. That’s because for the past couple of seasons the above ground portion of my plant died in the cold, sprouting from the roots in spring. There wasn’t enough time in the season for my plant to mature figs.

John Iacovino of Murrsyville, Pa. simply uses a plywood box along with some leaves to keep his fig tree happy all winter.

John Iacovino of Murrsyville, Pa., sent me this email explaining how his tree is treated for the winter.

“Doug, first of all thanks for all of the gardening advice you have given us over the years. We had bountiful garlic and peppers crops this season. We also enjoy your Seed of the Month Club presentations.

In regard to protecting fig trees over the winter, for years I would watch and then be conscripted into helping
my wife cover our fig tree (about seven feet tall). It was a maddening multi-hour event involving two big ladders, twine and rebar.

Simple solution

So four years ago, I came up with a simple solution: I just build a box that could be taken down and put up easily.

I used sheets of 3/8″ plywood (1/4″ is too flimsy and 1/2″ too heavy). On two of the opposing sheets, I permanently attached 2×4’s. The remaining two plywood panels are attached to the 2×4’s.
I use exclusively SPAX brand 1-1/2″ pan head screws only available at Home Depot. They work much better than any other screws I have used.

On one side of the box, I use two pieces of 4×4′ plywood. This way we can just toss over barrels of dried leaves and fill the box three quarters to the top before having to put up a step ladder to top off the box with leaves. The finished box is 4x4x8′ high.We have never had an issue since using the box method, and this year we had a bumper crop of figs.

Burying the fig trees will definitely work as some of my friends use this approach. However, as the tres become larger this becomes quite a task. From your video, your fig trees don’t look too tall. I would still recommend building the 4x4x8′ box so it would work for the trees may years to come.”

Iacovino also told me the process takes about three hours from set up to filling the box with leaves.

It’s another great idea as a way to harvest figs next summer.

Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at

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