Three figs are better than none!

I’ve been trying for years to grow figs with mixed results. I’ve had them in containers which were brought in and out of the greenhouse annually, had plants in the garden that have been killed and now have a  ‘Chicago Hardy’ fig outside.

My wife Cindy and I visited Italy for our 25th anniversary in 2006 and also to see where her grandmother grew up. We were reunited with her cousin who we hadn’t seen in 26 years. He visited the U.S. when we were just 20 years old. He greeted us as if it was the next day when we arrived in Calabria. His fig trees were filled with warm purple figs that we feasted on overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. That’s when I started thinking about growing figs.

I had good luck with the plants that over wintered in my greenhouse. They put on figs early and we were eating them in July. But the plant became too big to more in and out, so it was left out. I didn’t protect it and lost it.


I only harvested three figs (so far) this season, but it's better than none. Photos by Doug Oster

I only harvested three figs (so far) this season, but it’s better than none. Photos by Doug Oster

Last fall I put in the ‘Chicago Hardy’ plant, wrapping it with landscape fabric and surrounding it with a tomato cage filled with straw. Here’s a video showing how I prepared the plant for winter.

I only harvested three figs (so far) this season, but it's better than none. Photos by Doug Oster

My wife loved these figs, even though there were only three of them.

When I unwrapped it in May, the plant had already set figs. That early fruit set is called the breva crop. When that happens it usually means figs are harvested in the early summer like with my greenhouse plant and then again at the end of the season.

After talking to my friend and fig expert Pat Morgan, I realized I had unwrapped it way too late. She uncovers her plants in March or April depending on the weather. I lost my breva crop as the figs just fell off.

As the summer progressed the tree started putting on small figs slowly. As winter loomed, I gently squeezed a couple and even though they hadn’t completely changed from green to purple, three were harvested.

I left them on the counter as a surprise for Cindy when she came home from work. Two were eaten before I knew it and she told me to enjoy the last one. I declined saying, “I’m growing them for you.” The last and biggest fig was gone in an instant.


Gardening with figs requires patience, I’m hoping it stays warm enough to enjoy a few more before they freeze. It won’t be long until I’m doing another video showing how I prepare the tree for winter. Next year I want to have enough figs for friends and family. It’s a reminder of a wonderful trip and the legacy this plant holds for our family.

Here’s how two experts grow their trees.