Container Gardening: How to grow your own fruit
Think you need an orchard to grow your own fruit? We don't blame you - it's a common misconception. There are plenty of delicious varieties to grow in containers and it's easy as blueberry pie. Here's how to do it.
Can I grow fruit in a pot?
Ok, time to bust a BIG garden myth. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need a big garden to grow your own fruit. Nuh-uh. Many totally delicious fruit trees and bushes, including cherries, apples, apricots, strawberries and blackcurrants can all be raised in pots. So, whether you have a balcony, patio or teeny tiny outdoor space, the good news is, you can still reap the tasty rewards.
The best fruit to grow in containers
From ravishing raspberries to sweet, succulent gooseberries and the juiciest plums, there are so many types of fruit that can be grown in pots.
If you’re up for trying a fruit tree, you could go for:
Apples, Cherries, Pears, Apricots, Peaches, Nectarines, Figs, Olives, Plums or Damsons.
Or, if you’d rather have a bellyful of berries, here are some of our favourite pudding bushes:
Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackcurrants, Loganberries, Redcurrants, Gooseberries, Whitecurrants or Honeyberries.
Then, of course, there are always other mouthwatering marvels to try, such as container-grown rhubarb, or grapes, if you fancy tending your own vines.
When should I plant fruit in pots?
You can plant fruit trees, bushes and even grape vines in containers at pretty much any time of year. But spring is best, because the roots will grow more quickly, giving your plant the best start in life.
How many fruit trees do I need?
Choosing the right fruit trees or bushes to grow in containers can be confusing. Sometimes, you might need more than one of the same, or a similar variety to make sure that the flowers of your plant get pollinated and produce fruit.
If you’re short on space, you’ll be relieved to know that not all fruit needs a partner. It’s also common to buy self-fertile varieties which can do their thang alone. ‘Victoria’ plums and ‘Stella’ cherries are a good place to start.
How to plant a fruit tree or bush in a container
Chosen your fruit tree or bush? Here’s what to do next:
- Choose a suitable pot. Size-wise, you’ll need something large enough to fit the rootball of your plant. It’s best to go for something the same size as the nursery pot, or larger.
- Move the pot to the place you want your plant to live, so you don’t have to break a sweat once it’s brimming with compost. Sit it up on some feet or bricks to ensure good drainage.
- Add a layer of stones or bits of broken ceramic (aka crocks) to the bottom of the pot to stop the compost washing out and prevent frost damage.
- Add some loam-based, peat-free potting compost, filling the pot half to two-thirds of the way up, leaving room for your plant.
- Gently remove your tree from its nursery pot and place it in the new pot. Use some secateurs to trim the roots if they’re too long and straggly. If you’re planting a grafted fruit tree, the knobbly bit at the bottom of its trunk needs to be level with the top of the pot.
- Backfill the pot with compost and firm it in around your plant. The surface of the compost should be tad lower than the rim of the pot so that it doesn’t spill over the sides when watering.
- Use a watering can to give your fruity beauty a good soak. If the surface gets lower after watering, top it up with more compost.
Caring for fruit in pots
Once your pots are filled with fruit, there are a few easy things you can do to keep them looking (and fruiting) their very best.
- Catch some rays. Fruit trees and bushes are generally sun-seekers. Make sure pots are in a warm, bright spot to ensure your plants thrive.
- Hydration station. Plants in pots dry out quicker than those in the ground. Keep an eye on your fruit plants and water them when the top inch of compost is dry.
- Love me tender. A plants’ hardiness rating lets you know how well it copes with cold temperatures. Hardy plants can stay outdoors all winter. Tender fruit needs to be covered when the temperature drops.
- Change it up. Aim to repot your plant every other year to give it more room to grow. Once you hit the biggest pot you want, leave it be and refresh the compost each year, either by taking the plant out, shaking the roots and repotting it with fresh stuff or scooping off the top layer of compost and replacing it with new, crumbly goodness.
- Ready, set, prune. All trees and shrubs need a yearly trim. And fruit is no different. Different types of fruit need pruning in different ways, so look up the technique before unleashing your loppers.