The previous article shared some great reasons to cultivate a backyard orchard in containers, and today it’s time to follow up with ideas to help you get started with growing fruit trees in pots.
Oranges, apples, limes, blueberries, bananas, and pomegranates are among the most popular choices for growing fruit trees in containers. Then there are my personal favorite potted fruits; fig trees, which are easy to grow, productive, and hardy in many areas. Read on for general cultivation tips and ideas specific to growing fruit trees in containers.
- Ideal Varieties – For cultivating potted fruit trees it’s best to look for dwarf varieties or choices such as figs that are naturally easy to maintain in a compact size. Many fruits are perfectly comfortable growing in a container, and will still yield a decent sized harvest of tasty fruit for your enjoyment.
- Planting Stock – There are plenty of Internet suppliers offering an assortment of fruits to stock your container orchard, as well as local retailers that you can turn to. But don’t overlook friendly gardeners in your neighborhood that may be willing to divide or share their own plants to help you get started.
- Choosing Containers – When cultivating fruit trees it pays to use the largest sized containers that you can get your hands on. But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune on expensive pots. Get creative and recycle, search out bargains at yard sales, or take advantage of off-season sales at the garden centers.
- Potting Soil Mixes – Make life easier for yourself and the fruit trees by using a potting soil mix that is lightweight and promotes even drainage, but doesn’t dry out too rapidly. This will encourage better growth and plant health at the same time that it eases the strain of moving the containers around and reduces the frequency of watering.
- Feeding Potted Fruits – Compared to fruit trees planted in the ground, you’ll need to provide fertilizers on a regular basis to satisfy hungry container grown trees. A variety of commercial organic fertilizers, compost, foliar sprays, and liquid soil amendments can be used, but be sure to taper off your feedings as the growing season winds down and the fall season approaches.
- Irrigation – This is a big responsibility and one that needs to be considered when planning your container fruit tree orchard in order to ensure that you have the time and water resources necessary to care for it. Fruit trees growing in containers are thirsty and need to be watered on a daily basis during the summer months and while you are away on vacation.
- Pest Control – Your best option here is to do your homework in order to identify fruit types and specific varieties that are naturally resistant to the insects and diseases that are found in your growing region. Insect traps, bird netting, and other organic controls are all easier to manage in the smaller scale of the potted orchard than they would be out in the field.
- Winter Care – If you live in a cold winter climate it’s a good idea to move dormant trees to a sheltered spot for the winter. They need very little winter care and will do fine in a garage where they can survive without any sunlight and just a small amount of moisture. On the other hand, tropical fruits will need to find a spot inside the home where they can stay until things warm back up outdoors.
Other Considerations for Growing Fruit Trees in Containers
Stakes and trellises are your friends and some type of support is often needed to keep your container fruit trees growing straight and upright. Pruning is used not only to manage fruit production but also to keep the plants in balance and at a size that is suitable for the pots that they are growing in. In addition to pruning the top growth, root pruning may occasionally be helpful.
As mentioned earlier larger containers are best for fruit trees but don’t start small fruit trees out in a huge container, it’s better to pot them up to a bigger container as they mature and increase in size. Rotate your containers a half turn every so often, just as you would a house plant to promote more even growth.
Potted fruits won’t provide as much production as field grown trees, but they will deliver the same satisfaction and sense of accomplishment as you lovingly tend to their needs and watch them grow from tiny specimens into small but mature trees yielding luscious, ripe fruits!
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