If you want to grow fruit trees or berries but don't think your garden is suitable, Claire Bickle shares how easy it is to grow fruiting plants in pots, perfect for rentals or those with small spaces.
There a few good reasons why you may want to grow your edibles including fruiting trees and plants in pots:
- Limited space: You may live in a unit, townhouse or duplex where there just isn’t room for a garden. Or you may just want to keep the size of the tree in check.
- Poor soil: If your soil profile is poor quality or next to non-existent and it’s too back-breaking to work over.
- Renting: You may be renting and want to take your plants with you when you move.
- Limited sunlight: You can move your fruiting plants around to follow the sun throughout the seasons if your garden is shaded by buildings and trees.
- Pest Control: Measures such as netting are easy to do when the plants are grown in a confined space near the house i.e. netting to keep possums off.
- Create a microclimate: When growing fruiting species that are slightly out of their climate zone, being able to move them to locations where you can replicate their favoured cultural requirements and soil requirements (shade, cool, heat, humidity, soil pH and so forth).
- Invasive growth control: With berries such as youngberries, loganberries and blackberries that can sucker, pots will restrict their root systems within a pot.
- Or just maybe it’s for aesthetics or practical reasons such creating a movable screen.
1. What to grow?
To be honest you can grow just about every fruiting plant/tree in a pot, but some will do better than others and you’ll find that larger fruiting tree species may not really be all that productive when confined to a pot.
Strawberries will happily grow in smaller pots, troughs and even hanging baskets. Keep an eye out for slugs, birds and possums.
Blueberries must have an acidic soil pH, so make sure you use a camellia and azalea potting mix, which already has an acidic pH.
Growing to about 1m, these ornamental annual fruiting shrubs produce fruit that can be made into the most delicious jam/jelly.
Delicious round orange fruit encased in their own little lanterns. Do watch out for the beetle and its larvae that make a mess of these plants.
Raspberries, Youngberries, Loganberries and Blackberries
These berries will require some form of trellising placed within their pots. Keeping these berry fruit in pots will also prevent them from suckering all over the garden. And make it easy to net to keep birds and possums from stealing the fruit.
Use a potting mix for bromeliads. And be aware that pineapples can take up to two years to fruit.
These lovely small yellow fruit about the size of an avocado have a faint flavour of rockmelon to them. They can be grown in pots and big hanging baskets.
All of your favourite citrus varieties can be purchased on a dwarfing rootstock called ‘Flying dragon’. ‘Imperial’ mandarin, ‘Tahitian’ lime, ‘Washington Navel’ orange and so forth. There are also naturally dwarf growing citrus such as the ‘Lots of Lemons’, ‘Sublime’ and Cumquats and Calamondins.
Other great choices
Pomegranate, fig, dwarf mulberry and ‘Shatoot Red’ mulberry, tamarillo, olive, cherry guava, wampee, dwarf ‘Ducasse’ banana, dwarf low chill stone fruit and native finger lime.
2. Container choice
The size of your pot needed will depend on the size of the tree/plant to start with and what their end height will be.
Terracotta pots will dry out more quickly compared to plastic and glazed pots. You may wish to keep your fruiting plant in a plastic pot and just slot it into the more decorative planter. This way you get the best of both worlds, water retaining plastic and the aesthetics of terracotta or glaze.
Don’t over pot. With fruiting trees, it is best to start with a smaller pot and as the tree grows, pot them up. It’s not recommended to plant for example a small pot or bagged fruit tree into a large 500mm pot straight away, as the potting mix will hold too much moisture for the small undeveloped root system to draw up and root rot can occur.
Make sure the pots have adequate drainage holes. Do not sit your pots in a saucer where water can pool. Use pot feet to keep pots off the ground and to ensure free draining from the drainage holes.
3. Potting mix
Always choose a potting mix that has the Australian Standard and Australian Premium ticks on the side of the bag. You really do get what you pay for.
Good quality potting mixes will have slow release fertiliser in them, re-wetting agents, water crystals and more. Re-pot when needed.
A combination of slow release with trace elements, organic manure pelletised fertiliser and liquid applications will ensure the best crops are produced. Slow release fertilisers will feed your trees/plants for months and all throughout the year.
Liquid fertiliser applications and manure pelletised fertilisers are best done during the growing season when they will be most utilised.
Liquid seaweed is also important, not as a fertiliser but as a plant health tonic that will strengthen the plants cell walls, making them more disease resistant, tolerant of drought and temperature fluctuations.
5. Mulching pots and re-wetting agents
Mulching pots will stop the evaporation of moisture from the potting mix.
You can use a variety mulches, from lucerne, sugarcane, pebbles, cypress mulch to even nutshells. Make sure they are unsalted nutshells.
Most fruiting plants require a full sun position meaning 5-6 direct sunlight per day. Some fruiting species, such as blueberries and tamarillos, will be grateful for some protection from the hot summer sun. Choose locations that are also out of any strong prevailing winds. Be aware that some fruiting plants may require pruning after fruiting or whilst dormant. Follow the directions given on cultural requirements. And that some, such as strawberries, are only short lived and may need replacing each year or so.
7. Pest and disease watch
The more often you inspect your trees and plants the quicker you are going to notice any issues in the form of insect attack and or the appearance of disease. This then means you can act immediately to remedy the issue. Always choose a certified organic pesticide and disease control product.
For possums, netting is really the only thing that stops possums marauding your bountiful produce.
Now you just need to prepare for your fruitful harvests!