Growing Fruit in Containers

If you were under the impression that growing fruit trees and berries on decks, patios or in tiny townhouse gardens was just wishful thinking, then it’s time to make those pipe dreams a reality. Truth be told, there are a myriad of gardeners (including myself) who grow apples, cherries, blueberries and even exotics such as Strawberry Guava in containers quite successfully. The trick is to choose the right cultivars or species and here are some of your best options;

Lingonberry 'Koralle'

Pomegranate and Golden Bay Laurel by front door.

Apples

I have been growing the Columnade Apples ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ and ‘Golden Sentinel’ in containers for about ten years now, with the fruit resembling ‘McIntosh’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ respectively. Both trees are about 5-6’ tall by 2’ wide now and nicely screen the end of my west-facing backyard patio. Two different varieties are needed to provide cross-pollination in order to get a decent yield, which are inevitably transformed into delicious pies by my wife. A new prairie-hardy Columnade variety (zone 2) from the University of Saskatchewan, ‘Treasured Red’, will also be available this year. Another option is to grow what is called a Mini-Apple, which is essentially one that is grafted onto an M9 rootstock which matures at 6-8’ tall but needs permanent staking or support. Also, if you are only going to grow one of these, it is essential to choose a self-fertile cultivar such as ‘Spartan’.


My 'Golden Sentinel' and 'Scarlet Sentinel' Apples in bloom, Ripening 'Scarlet Sentinel' Apple

'Golden Prolific' Nectarine in flower

Peaches & Nectarines

The genetic dwarf peach ‘Empress’ and nectarine ‘Golden Prolific’ have been with us for quite some time now. Both are self-fertile, although I find they bloom quite early when few bees are about, so I hand-pollinate with a cotton swab. Mine is growing in a 15-gallon pot and is about 3’ x 3’ now with the magenta-pink flowers making a beautiful addition to the early spring display. One issue specific to Peaches and Nectarines on the coast is their susceptibility to Peach Leaf Curl, a fungus brought on by exposure to excessive rain. I avoid this altogether by growing my Nectarine just under an overhang on the west side, where it stays dry but still gets adequate sun.



Nectarine 'Golden Prolific' with developing fruit, Hand-pollinating Nectarine, Peach Leaf Curl


Cherries