Container Orchard

Friday, August 28th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums come in bright fall colors to give you instant color in flower beds and containers.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
    • Rough black spots of apples and their leaves are due to the ‘scab’ fungus. Nothing can be done now, but remember to spray trees next spring with lime sulfur just before the blossoms open.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer bloomer in our climate. The tree form makes a small tree for full sun or part shade.
    • Peruvian lilies, or alstromeria, make wonderful cut flowers. Set out plants now for armloads of flowers next year.

Grow a container fruit orchard

There are various reasons for wanting to grow fruit trees in containers. For some folks, the only place protected from deer is on the deck. Others may enjoy watching a fruit tree up close on the patio, or want to grow a citrus tree that needs winter protection. Whatever your reason, there are dwarf fruit trees that can be grown in containers even in the most limited spaces.

The types of fruit trees that can be grown in containers are apples on M-27 rootstock or genetic dwarf apples; genetic dwarf peaches and nectarines; all figs; cherries on Zaiger dwarf rootstock; and dwarf citrus.

First you will need to choose containers for your little orchard. Though many types of wood or ceramic containers can be used, a heavy plastic, like the terra cotta-colored plastic pots, are easiest to work with for repotting. Most trees, either bare root or canned, can be planted into a 16 inch pot. After one full growing season, repot in early spring into a 20-inch pot, and the next spring into a 24-inch pot, its final destination. Use any good bagged potting soil that drains well.

Watering and fertilizing are the most important maintenance tasks. Plants should never be allowed to wilt, but don’t overwater them. Fruit trees generally need water about twice a week, but they will need more if they become root-bound.

Fertilize apples, figs and citrus once a month during the growing season using an organic fertilizer or a 5-10-10 fertilizer. You don’t need a lot of nitrogen, since you don’t want fast growth in a container tree. Peaches, nectarines and cherries should be fed twice a month.

After three to five years, growth may slow down, or trees may need constant watering. These trees will need root pruning in late winter. Lay the container on its side and roll it to loosen the root ball. Pull the tree out of the pot. With a shovel, slice two inches off the sides of the rootball all the way around. Place the tree back into the pot, add fresh potting soil, and tamp it down firmly. Water thoroughly.

Fig trees and citrus are not as hardy as other fruits. In the winter, move them to a protected area where they will not freeze during cold weather. Citrus can live in the house by a south window during the coldest weather.

Fig trees can be sheltered in the garage. Move them after they drop their leaves and go dormant. They will not need any light or much water while in dormancy. Water sparingly once every three of four weeks during winter storage. If you must leave them outdoors, spray with Cloud Cover™ in early November to protect them from drying out in freezing weather.

Enjoy delicious home-grown fruits fresh from your patio!