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Grow Fruit in a Small Space

Even if you have no garden soil in which to plant, you can still grow a fruit tree. Almost all fruit trees on the market are grown on dwarfing rootstocks, and grow well in large containers as long as they're well watered and fed.

plant fruit tree in small space for summer bountyHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

When to Start: late winter
At Its Best: fall
Time to Complete: 1 hour

Materials Needed:

  • a large pot
  • broken clay pot pieces
  • potting soil
  • slow-release granular fertilizer
  • a dwarf fruit tree
  • pebbles or chips for mulch

Before Planting

Fruit trees grown in containers are almost totally dependent on the fertilizer and water you give them. To give your tree the best start and to help it establish, soak the root ball before planting because it's hard to wet dry roots thoroughly afterward. The best way to do this is to immerse the pot in a large bucket of water and leave it to soak for about an hour, or until the water stops bubbling. Then, lift the tree from the bucket and allow it to drain.

before planting fruit tree immerse it in waterHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Prepare to Plant

Choose a large pot with a wide base so that the tree isn't easily blown over, and stand it in a sunny, sheltered spot. Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes, or drill your own, and cover them with a layer of broken clay pot pieces to prevent soil from blocking them. Fill the base with compost, and add a sprinkling of slow-release fertilizer.

  • cover drainage holes with broken pieces of clayHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010
  • fill base with compost and slow release fertilizerHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Tease Out Roots

Place the tree in the pot, adding or removing compost, until the top of the root ball is about 2 inches below the rim. Then lift the plant, remove it from its original pot, and tease out the roots from the root ball. This encourages the roots to grow out into the soil, stabilizing the tree, and helping it to establish quickly. Place the tree in the container.

tease out roots from root ball of fruit treeHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Backfill, Stake and Mulch

Fill the gaps around the root ball with more soil and water well. Unless the tree already has a stake, insert one now to hold the tree upright and to help anchor it in the pot. If it has a stake, carefully push it down into the new soil below. To conserve moisture and suppress weeds, apply a mulch of small pebbles or chipped bark.

backfill, stake and mulch fruit treeHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Watering and Feeding

It's essential to keep the fruit tree well watered, filling the pot to the brim each time. To encourage the best crop, don't allow it to dry out when in flower or fruit, and feed using a tomato fertilizer every two weeks during spring and summer. Water the tree during mild dry spells in late fall and winter, even though it's dormant at those times of year.

it is important to keep fruit tree well wateredHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Top Tip: Size Matters

Fruit trees are commonly grown on dwarf rootstocks, which limit the size of the tree. To grow fruit in containers, choose apples grown on M26, M9 or, for really small containers, M27. Look for pears grown on Quince C, cherries on Gisela 5 and for plums and damsons, choose those grown on Pixy.

choose dwarf fruit trees designed for containersHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010
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