Always fancied growing your own fruit but don’t have space for an orchard?
Well believe it or not, there are loads of fruit plants that can easily be grown in small gardens, and even in a container on your patio or balcony. Growing fruit in containers is perfect because they don’t take up much space and can easily be moved inside if they need protecting from the British climate over winter.
When choosing your tree or bush – make sure you take note of the label. Apple trees for example come in lots of different sizes, so you need to make sure you are buying a dwarf variety that won’t grow too large for your pot or garden.
The staff at your local garden centre should be able to help with this. Make sure you also choose varieties of tree and shrub that are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves, it’s much better if you’re short on space and will ensure you get a good crop of fruit to enjoy.
Make your pot the biggest you can fit in the space available, roughly the size of a barrel or half a dustbin. There are three advantages to bigger pots – they hold more food, more water and have more space for strong root growth.
If you’ve got a very large container, you can always under-plant the tree with strawberries to make the most of the space. Make sure there are several holes in the bottom of your container to ensure that excess water will drain away.
Then pop some ‘crocks’ in the bottom. These are solid objects that stop the compost blocking the drainage holes. You can use anything from gravel and broken pottery to blocks of polystyrene. Micro irrigation systems are also great for trees growing in pots as they prevent the soil from drying out.
Planting in containers
Fill your container with a loam-based potting compost. Remove the tree or shrub from its original pot and plant it in your container to the same depth – making sure it’s not too deep.
Give it a good watering – the compost may settle down; in which case it will need topping up. Then just put in a light spot and water when the compost is dry.
Planting in the ground
Dig a hole for planting the fruit bushes. This hole should just be about as deep as the root system, and three times the width.
Loosen the soil in the bottom and at the edges of your hole. Put your plant into its planting hole, and refill the hole with soil, firming it up afterwards by lightly treading it with your foot.
Water in well, and then you may need to stake your tree. Hold your tree by the trunk to feel where it needs support and then use two or three wooden stakes leaning in from a few inches away from the trunk and attach using canvas stripping.
Fruit is so easy to grow, and it always tastes sweeter when you have grown it yourself! There is a huge variety of fruit trees or bushes to suit every garden size and aspect, so you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your space.
To help you choose, here’s my pick of the top five fruits to try at home:
Redcurrant, whitecurrant, blackcurrant – all currant varieties are great soft fruit bushes to plant in your garden.
This is an easy, low-maintenance plant with masses of fruit that will grow without much care and attention from you. Blackcurrants are especially popular for autumnal pies and jams, as well as being naturally high in vitamin C.
Buy your blackcurrant bush from a garden centre and plant in a container in a sunny spot on your patio, making sure to water during dry periods of the growing season.
Strawberries are known for being easy to grow in borders, containers or even hanging baskets.
You can buy strawberry plants in various forms, and from late spring onwards can even be found for sale in pots ready to be planted straightaway.
During the growing season, feed with a high potash fertiliser for a plentiful crop.
Try to find a sheltered, sunny spot for your strawberry plant, and once the fruit begins to grow in early summer, pop some straw around the base of the plants to stop the heavy fruit from dropping low into the soil.
My father grew sweet raspberries and the taste today still brings back happy childhood memories.
Plant a couple of raspberry canes at the start of the year and you will be picking the juicy red berries all the way through the summer.
Again, raspberries are easy-going and can be planted in containers in a sunny, sheltered location.
You can plant raspberry canes during mild spells over winter, and they also come in ‘spine-free’ varieties so you don’t get cut on the thorns.
Often regarded as a super food, blueberries are as attractive as they are nutritious, and make wonderful container plants.
Blueberries are the perfect addition to pies or muffins or make a lovely healthy snack all on their own. Many people are surprised to hear that blueberries will grow in our British weather.
The only special requirement blueberry plants have is acidic soil. Unless you have naturally acidic soil, grow them in containers filled with ericaceous compost.
You can plant your blueberry plant at any time throughout the year, and you can expect plump deep purple berries from July through to September.
Be sure to keep the compost in your container moist, never allowing it to dry out completely, as blueberries prefer moist soil.
Try to water using collected rainwater rather than from the tap, as tap water contains a certain amount of lime, which your blueberry plant won’t like.
The apple is England’s national fruit, so it’s no surprise that apple trees thrive in our British gardens.
Not only are they universally popular and versatile, apples are also incredibly nutritious, so growing your own is a no-brainer. There is also so much more to an apple tree than just the fruit.
It has lovely leaves all year round, pink and white blossom in spring and rich, colourful fruit in autumn. They are perfect for nesting birds too. Grow a dwarf or ballerina variety in a pot if you are short of space.
These fruit bushes are well worth adding to your garden to have crops of delicious fruits through the year.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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