Growing fruit trees in containers is the ideal way for people who live in flats to create portable gardens. Container gardening is very popular and, with the many varieties of dwarf fruit trees available, it is the perfect solution for those with little or no patio or garden space who want the gardening experience, but in a smaller and more controlled setting.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Dwarf fruit trees
- Potting soil
- Potting stakes
Choose fruit trees that are best suited to the climate in your area. Dwarf fruit trees are ideal for container gardening and advantages of selecting these miniature trees include ease of pruning the branches when the trees are dormant and ease of harvesting the fruit without the need of a ladder. They also tend to produce fruit earlier than standard fruit trees. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating while others require that you have a second tree, so check with the nursery as to what type of tree you're selecting. The nurseryman should also be able to tell you the type of rootstock used, which determines the size of the tree.
Select containers. Containers for the trees can be in varying sizes and can be made from different materials such as clay, wood or plastic. If portability of the trees is a factor, use a lightweight container, especially for larger trees. The larger the container, the more soil and water will be needed, making a clay pot or wooden pot that much heavier. Dwarf fruit trees can range from 60 cm to 2.1 m (2 feet to 7 feet) tall. If you live on the second floor and are creating a container garden on a balcony, consider the weight of the containers and how much stress may be placed on the beams supporting the balcony. Choose a container that is several centimetres larger than the original container, to provide for new growth. Be sure the container has good drainage holes.
Add a layer of gravel or small rocks to the bottom of the container to help with the draining process. Use a good mixture of fertiliser and nutrient rich soil that will drain well and place the tree inside the container, spreading the roots into the soil. Cover the roots with soil, water, and continue adding soil until the container is well packed.
Plant bare-root fruit trees, or those purchased at a nursery that may have the root section wrapped in cloth, as soon as possible to allow the roots to adjust to their new surroundings. If these trees are not immediately planted, keep the roots wrapped and moist so the roots do not dry out. Depending on the size of the tree, a container ranging from 45 to 60 cm (18 inches to 24 inches) in width should be large enough for the first planting.
Plant new fruit trees in the early spring when the ground is not frozen and there's no chance for frost. Keep the trees where they will receive the most sunlight, but protected against wind. They can tolerate some shade, but sunlight is necessary for growth and production.
Water well, but always plant in well-draining soil. Too much water or water that stands inside the container will cause root rot; this is why it's important to have good drainage holes and gravel lining the bottom of the container. Wind can also be a factor in drying out the roots. Place the containers against a wall, if possible, to limit the amount of wind on the fruit trees. Depending on the type of fruit tree planted, it may be necessary to provide a potting stake to secure the tree base to until it becomes established.
Protect trees from the elements. During the cold winter months, if possible, bring the trees inside to keep the roots from freezing. Water to keep the roots moist. During the summer months, check the trees to be sure they're receiving enough water, especially during very hot times of the year. Most likely you will need to water the trees more often during these times as you do not want the roots to dry out.
Feed the trees at least once every 6 months or use time-release feeding pellets.
Repot the trees every 1 to 2 years to enable the root system to expand, keeping the tree healthy and producing. Prune the tree's top and roots every 1 to 2 years during the dormant period to control the size and shape of the trees and again, if necessary, in the spring to remove unhealthy or damaged branches. If possible, incorporate the pruning and repotting process at the same time. Periodically check for pests and parasites such as ants, aphids and caterpillars and apply the proper repellent or insecticide appropriate for fruit trees to ward off the bugs.
Tips and warnings
- Bearing fruit may occur the first year but may take until the second year for the tree to fully establish itself.