How to grow fruit in a small outdoor space
You’ll be surprised at the fruits you can grow and harvest in a small courtyard or balcony space. Fruit trees in pots are a great solution for small garden spaces.
The secret is in knowing which fruits are best suited to pots and being prepared to give them plenty of love and attention throughout the seasons.
The benefits of growing fruit in pots
You can’t move a full sized fruit tree around to better catch winter sun or shade in the heat of summer. A full sized fruit tree also demands regular pruning, usually at a height that calls for a ladder or extendable pruning shears. Harvesting fruit at a height can be an effort too. While it is satisfying to have expanses of fruit bearing branches in your back yard, it requires a lot of space, water and maintenance.
There are many varieties of dwarf and mini fruit trees available to suit pots in small garden spaces. As a size guide, Don Burke from Burke’s Backyard advises that a miniature nectarine or peach tree will reach around 1.5 to 2 metres in height and width. Miniature in tree size doesn’t mean the fruit will be small. Your courtyard harvest will see you picking full sized home grown fruit.
The beauty of growing fruit in courtyard sized pots is that pruning and harvesting is easy. It’s also easier to protect them from insects, birds and possums.
With careful planning from the beginning, you can start your mini orchard by investing in small portable planters on wheels, half wine barrels or large pots placed on platforms with wheels or castors so you can move your fruit trees or plants around to suit the season, the weather, and suit your space.
Fruits that can grow in small spaces
As horticulturalists continue to innovate, the types and varieties of dwarf and miniature fruit trees available continue to grow.
Here are just some of the fruits that can flourish in a courtyard or balcony setting.
Apples grow well in Victoria’s cooler conditions. There are many varieties of apples grafted on to dwarf rootstock available. Expect a maximum height of 2 metres. Your choice of varietal is really based on your taste preferences.
Keep in mind that cherry, plum and apple trees need another variety of the same fruit, to help pollinate the flower that produces the fruit, so you’ll need to plant more than one. Check with your local plant nursery for expert advice.
Dwarf apples like soil that is PH neutral or slightly alkaline. The most important considerations for growing a successful crop of apples in a pot is good drainage and a pot that is as large as your space will accommodate.
Expect your first crop after one year.
For more tips on growing dwarf apples, visit ABC > Gardening > Dwarf Apples.
Dwarf citrus – lemons, limes and oranges
Citrus is fabulous not only for its fruit, but the evergreen foliage makes for an attractive courtyard plant.
Expect a maximum height of 1.5 metres if grown in a pot. Your dwarf citrus tree will need to be moved around throughout the seasons to find a full sun position that offers around 5 hours of sunlight daily.
Your first crop should be adding a pop of colour and promise of juicy fruit by the second or third year of planting and care.
For more tips on growing dwarf citrus successfully, visit ABC > Gardening > Fact Sheet: A Mini Citrus Grove.
Strawberries are a delicious fruit well suited to growing in small spaces. A strawberry plant will grow to around 40 centimetres in height, planted 30 centimetres apart for dense planting. A deep, rich acidic soil is ideal for strawberries, so check in with your local plant nursery on the best potting mix to use.
If you plant your crop now in winter, you can expect a flourish of strawberries by the end of the year. A large pot and plenty of watering is the key to nurturing strawberry plants in a pot.
For more tips on growing strawberries successfully, visit ABC > Gardening > Fact Sheet: Growing Strawberries.
Dwarf stone fruits – Peaches, apricots, nectarines and cherries
Who doesn’t love a sweet, juicy stone fruit?! Dwarf peaches, apricots, nectarines and cherries can be planted in pots. You’ll always need to plant more than one to ensure cross pollination of flowers. Ask your local plant nursery specialist for advice.
Expect a dwarf stone fruit tree to reach a height of 2 metres or more and a width around the same as the height. For a small courtyard a dwarf stone fruit tree may be too large although you can prune to height. Check in with your local plant nursery on a smaller variety that might suit your space.
Basic care of fruit growing in pots
Plants grown in pots generally require more attention when it comes to watering and fertilising, than plants grown in garden beds. For example, plants grown in pots are more susceptible to drying out. Your potted fruit trees will be completely dependent on you for water and nutrients.
Here are some of the basic care considerations in growing a fruit tree in a pot:
- Choose the biggest pot you can for the space you have available
- Position your fruit trees so they get around 5 to 6 hours of sunshine each day
- Make sure the pot and the soil drain well
- Keep the soil well mulched to maximise the moisture kept in the soil
- Check soil for moisture and water regularly
- Use a premium grade potting mixture suited to the fruit tree
- Use a controlled release fertiliser and check with your local nursery on how often you’ll nee to fertilise
Check with your local plant nursery on how frequently you should be re-potting your fruit trees.
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