Picking apples fresh from the tree for juice, making lemon curd with your own lemons and harvesting cherries for a pie or smoothie are just a few examples of what you could do if you created a mini orchard in your garden. You don't need lots of space and many varieties of fruit trees grow very well in containers. So here are three tips to get you started:
Choose Your Trees Carefully
When space is limited, as it is in most residential gardens, opt for dwarf fruit trees. These trees won't sprawl out more than a couple of metres and won't grow taller than two or three metres. Dwarf trees have been cultivated to grow well in containers and produce heavy crops of fruit. Self-fertile varieties are best, as you won't need more than one tree of each variety in order for your trees to bear fruit. This allows you to grow a wider variety of fruit in your mini orchard, and as long as your trees are at least a couple of years old, they will produce fruit in the same year you buy them.
Start With A Healthy Growing Environment
Similar to full-size fruit trees, dwarf varieties require high-quality fertiliser and sunshine to produce fruit. When planting in containers, you need to ensure the containers are suitable for the trees. Deep containers allow room for growth, but some dwarf fruit trees, including orange and lemon trees, have a shallow root system that spreads out rather than down. As a general rule, only use containers that hold no less than 15 litres of soil and have a width that matches their depth.
Once you have the right containers, you'll want to fill them with suitable potting soil and take steps to ensure they don't become waterlogged. Fruit trees need a growing medium that's rich in potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous. You can buy potting soil that's specifically for fruit trees, and the nursery will help you choose a good soil if you let them know what trees you plan on growing. To prevent waterlogging, raise the pots a few inches off the ground with pot feet.
Select Hardy Varieties
If you're new to growing fruit trees, you may want to stick to hardy varieties until you've got some experience under your belt. Again, your local nursery can help you pick hardy varieties of the fruit trees you're interested in, but here are a few examples worth looking out for:
- Grimes Golden Apple - With an attractive golden yellow skin, these apples are crisp and deliciously sweet
- Valencia Orange - These sweet, seedless oranges are perfect for making fresh juice
- Fresno Peach - A late fruiting variety that produces large, juicy peaches.
As you can see, it doesn't take much effort to get your mini orchard set up. Look at your available space and decide how many fruit trees you want to start with. If you want to buy several trees, a wholesale nursery that sells to the public will likely be your most cost-effective option.