On the principle that life is short, I stuck my fig tree in the ground this week in Saratoga Springs, NY. Saratoga is a theoretical 5a. Theoretical, but in reality, I am sure that my fenced city yard represents a microclimate a least half a zone warmer, if not a full zone. Plus, thanks to all the world’s coal-burning power plants, we’re warming up here and now consider negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit a shocking reading on the thermometer outside the laundry room, even in January. Plus, we get consistent snow cover all winter that insulates the joint.
In any case, I am indifferent to the survival of the tree. I got tired of lugging its big pot in and out of the house in exchange for four great figs a year. Here is the problem with a fig tree in a pot: It develops figs in spring, but only the last ones, which reach ripeness outside in the actual sunshine, taste like anything.
Then it develops a second crop as the temperatures plummet. These tend to drop off before ripeness.
So, while I’d rather eat fresh figs than almost anything in the world, risking four figs a year on the off-chance of having hundreds doesn’t seem like a stupid bet.
Here’s what I mean: Despite the heavy wood chip mulch I will give it, the tree will almost certainly die off to the roots, in which case, if the roots survive, it will return as a broad, multi-trunked shrub. I think such a shrub would be extremely attractive in front of my ‘Alchymist’ rose, which is awkwardly throwing its canes ten feet across the yard into the branches of a lilac, rather than doing anything remotely shrublike. There is a chance that the shoots of the fig will produce lots of fruit before fall. That’s what I’m counting on.
Of course, my fig may not be a variety that even stands a chance out of doors in the snow belt. I bought it unnamed. If it doesn’t work, maybe I’ll order a variety called a ‘Chicago Hardy’ and see if it’s Saratoga Hardy.