Bearing fruit’s not pot luck, says ALAN TITCHMARSH

Bearing fruit’s not pot luck, says ALAN TITCHMARSH

Potted fruit is ideal for places where there is no soil, such as balconies and patios, and since the plants are portable you can shift them around while you design a new garden or take them with you when you move. It could not be more convenient. 



But growing fruit in pots does have its problems – be prepared for an awful lot of regular watering each summer. The plants only need dry out once for their developing crop of fruit to drop prematurely. They need frequent liquid feeding throughout the growing season too.

But if you have a good track record of looking after hanging baskets of annual flowers give it a go. Potted fruit needs the same degree of attention to detail. 

Now is a good time to start and you can buy a huge range of fruit by mail order from seed catalogues and specialist nurseries since they are sold with bare roots during the dormant season between now and mid-March.

Your best bet for containers are gooseberries and red and white currants, which can be trained flat against walls or fences as cordons to save space, or the most compact varieties of blackcurrants, which need to be grown as free-standing bushes.

Cordon apples grown on dwarfing rootstocks also do well in pots, while patio peaches or nectarines (which are genetically dwarf plants bearing full-sized fruit) are perfect. 

Plums and pears will not give a very worthwhile crop in containers though and do not bother with cane fruit such as raspberries and blackberries.

When bare-root fruit trees and bushes arrive they need to be planted straightaway to prevent roots drying out. Pots of 15-18 inches are fine for bush fruit but dwarf trees need bigger tubs or half barrels – and make sure they have drainage holes in the bottom.

Put a couple of inches of gravel or broken clay pots into the base, cover with a thin layer of John Innes No 3 potting compost and stand your plant in place, spreading the roots out before filling the container with compost. 

Make sure the plant ends up at the right depth. You should see a soil ring around the neck showing the depth it was growing at the nursery. Water it in, add a cane or a stake for support if needed and stand it in a sheltered sunny spot.

Tie cordon-trained plants to walls or trellis for extra help. If you prefer to buy pot-grown fruit from a garden centre you can do so now, then repot it in larger containers straightaway or wait until next spring. You can even repot during the growing season while they are carrying flowers or fruit but it is far better to do so while plants are dormant. 

It is also worth standing smaller pots of annual flowers around the base of potted fruit in spring and summer. It reduces stress on fruiting plants by keeping their roots cool, the flowers will attract bees to pollinate and the whole thing looks better on your patio. So it is a win-win situation. 

Published at Sat, 30 Sep 2017 09:55:00 +0000

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