Techniques for Growing and Overwintering Japanese Fig Tree Espalier in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Boyer Holdings LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Craig Boyer
Boyer Holdings LLC


  • Fruits: figs


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Energy: solar energy

    Proposal summary:

    Immigrants coming to the Northeast have long been enamored with growing fig trees brought from their native countries. Many have successfully harvested fruit from trees right in major cities like Philadelphia and New York.  Yet, for commercial fig production (and even nursery stock), the vast majority of fruit is still being shipped from California.  Currently, overwintering fig trees involves burying, wrapping, or storing 5- to 20-gallon pots in sheds or garages. 

    A method of growing fig fruit, using the Japanese Espalier technique, may be more suitable to commercial fig production in the Northeast. Using this method, the Japanese have successfully established low cordons that can be easily overwintered. With yearly pruning to spurs, this technique appears to maximize fruit production.  However, little information is available on the use of this method in a commercial setting or on which method is best for overwintering the cordons (e.g., low tunnels, hay, or burying the cordons). 

    This project proposes to explore the best methods for establishing these cordons, compare actual fruit harvests with traditionally pruned in-ground figs (bush form). We will also assess the results yielded by overwintering figs using low tunnels in an open fields, low tunnels inside of high tunnels, as well as comparing harvests when burying the fig cordons to leaving them unburied. 




    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will contribute to an understanding of whether figs are a viable fruiting crop for retail and wholesale markets for distribution in the NE.  The main objectives of the project are: 


    (1) Establish a fig orchard with low-cordon espalier using the Japanese Stepover method and (2) replicate the results of previous efforts in this area with improvements to determine if the above method is viable and scalable for fruit production.


    (1) Utilize high tunnels to extend the seasons on each end--both spring and fall and (2) use low tunnels with light mulching to further create a microclimate for cordons to survive the winter and consistently produce a fig crop.

    My hope is to get one step closer to inaugurating a wave of northeastern commercial fig orchards, bringing this ancient and elusive fruit to our climate so that it can be shared and treasured regardless of socioeconomic status. If successful with figs, other Mediterranean fruits may also be grown similarly, on a commercial scale. If we can redefine local as meaning within 50 miles--not 500 miles--I believe we can make the lives of both farmers and consumers more gratifying. 



    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.