Think you don’t have room for a productive fruit tree? Think again, thanks to the work of horticulturalists over the last few decades. Gone are the days when you realistically had to have room for an orchard to get a decent crop.
The combination of self-fertilising varieties (meaning you need only one tree, not two) and dwarfing rootstocks has led to the ability to grow fruit trees in pots successfully.
Of course, to give yourself the best chance of success, there are some simple rules to follow. Here are five top tips:
Make sure the tree is on a dwarfing rootstock - M27, M9, M26, MM106 for apples; Quince C for pears; cherries on Gisela 5 or G5; Pixy for plums, gages and damsons; peaches, nectarines and apricots, Saint Julien A or Torinel.
Different nurseries use different methods to end up with a dwarf tree. Sometimes it’s just and extremely dwarfing rootstock, sometimes a more vigorous one combined with root and branch pruning, plus grafting techniques. Compare all potential trees carefully.
Pot size is crucial. If left in a small pot, the tree will be short of water and nutrients and the first thing it will do to survive is drop any flowers or fruit. Make the container as big as possible - a half barrel is a good starting point.
Pruning is vital. Many dwarf trees are sold pruned into distinct forms, such as espalier, stepover, fans, bushes, spindlebush or cordons. You will receive detailed instructions on how to prune to encourage fruit - keep it up for maximum success.
When the tree is in its final pot, keep it well watered in dry weather and remember, the soil will become exhausted. Weed, mulch and feed from late winter to autumn to keep the plant in first-class condition.