There are lots of different types of fruit you can grow in pots, says Jean Vernon
I grow a lot of fruit in pots in my garden, even trees. The secret is to use BIG pots and make the very best of the planting area
For example I’ve got an Apricot tree (from Thompson & Morgan), which is yet to flower or fruit, it’s growing in a huge plastic planter, but I’ve underplanted it with strawberries. The plants are raised up off the ground so I can check them easily and tend to their needs. At the moment they are in full flower and I can watch pollinators visit the flowers to collect nectar and pollen, knowing that the result will be lovely sweet strawberries.
In an adjacent pot I’ve got a pink blueberry plant (from Lubera), also yet to flower and fruit. My garden soil is alkaline so plants such as blueberries won’t thrive here, but in a pot I can use a quality ericaceous compost and acid-loving plants will romp away. Nearby there’s a huge mature blueberry plant dripping in flowers that I am watching attentively and anticipating a good harvest.
One of my very favourite summer fruits happens to be one of the easiest to grow, the raspberry. It’s fine growing in large tubs, or you can now buy patio raspberries bred for pot growing and more compact and self contained. I’ve got a Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ that’s about to flower and last year gave a really respectable crop of berries from a fairly young plant. It clumps up well and this year has about half a dozen fruiting stems. In a large pot you can grow a handful of raspberry canes for a bigger and better harvest, or why not grow them in rows in large rectangular tubs and use them as a living screen on your balcony or along an edge of your patio.
You can also grow currants and gooseberries in pots too for a small summer harvest.
Fruit trees in pots
You can grow tree fruit in pots but be sure to choose varieties that are designed for the purpose. Ballerina and cordon apple trees are ideal for containers, their vertical growth suits a patio, and terrace or even a balcony and the pretty blossom, followed by tasty fruits are a real treat. Look out for patio pears and cherries from fruit specialists such as Lubera (www.Lubera.co.uk) and Pomona Fruits (www.pomonaFruits.co.uk).
I like to under plant my fruit trees with low growing herbs such as thyme, or strawberries including the delicious alpine strawberries, so that I get a double crop of something and more flowers to attract the pollinators too.
To get fruit you need pollinators so it’s important to ensure that there are plenty of flowers around to attract bees of every type and other pollinators including hoverflies and butterflies.
Many fruit flowers such as blueberries, gooseberries and raspberries are rich in nectar and a magnet for pollinators especially bees.
Some fruits such as apples need a partner tree that flowers at the same time to ensure good cross pollination and a healthy crop of fruit.
If you net fruit against the birds be sure to enable pollinating insects to reach the flowers and check the nets regularly in case you have trapped foraging creatures that will need to be released.
Just spend a little time researching varieties suitable for container cultivation and ensure that you use large pots, quality compost, and a feed high in potash and that every pot has adequate drainage. Plastic pots are better than clay as they don’t dry out as quickly in hot and windy weather.
Make sure you keep the compost moist and never let it dry out completely especially when you have fruit developing on your plants.
And then make the very most of every morsel of fruit. Even just a few ripe berries will transform a salad, or a bowl of cereal.