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Grow berries and fruits in containers
Berries and fruit are a delicious and nutritious addition to any outdoor space. Container gardening provides the flexibility to grow a variety of plants, including berry bushes and fruit trees, in limited outdoor spaces. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, growing berry bushes and fruit trees in containers is a great way to enjoy fresh and delicious berries right from your own patio or balcony. These plants are also perennial and can live for several years.
In this article, you can read more about growing different types of fruit and berries in containers and the tips and tricks to succeed and get a good harvest.
What to consider when choosing your berry or fruit plant
When deciding which berry bush or fruit tree that will suit you, here are several key factors to consider:
Hardiness: Container-grown plants are generally more vulnerable to cold temperatures than those grown in the ground. The hardiness of plants vary depending on the specific variety you are growing and your local climate. Research the hardiness of the plant and choose one that's hardy in your climate. You will otherwise need to plan for protection of your container-grown plants in a sheltered location or covering them with frost protection blankets or burlap during the winter. You may need to overwinter them in greenhouses, garages, or basements.
Space and Plant Size Considerations: Berry bushes and fruit trees come in a wide range of sizes, so it's important to consider the mature size of the plant when selecting one for your container garden. Make sure you have adequate space to accommodate the plant once it has grown to its full size.
Location and Light Exposure: To achieve a bountiful harvest and a healthy plant, it's crucial to choose a crop that is well-suited to your location and light exposure. Ensure that you select a plant that can thrive in the conditions where you plan to grow it.
Personal Preferences: Consider your own personal preferences and what type of berry bush or fruit tree will best suit your needs. Some people prefer types that produce fruit quickly, while others prefer those that produce fruit over a longer period of time. Some are easier to care for than others, so consider your level of experience and willingness to dedicate time and effort to your container garden.
When growing berries and fruit in containers, there are several important factors to get a bountiful harvest:
Container Size: Choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the roots of the plant and allow it to grow properly. The container size will vary depending on the type of berry bush you are growing, so make sure to research the specific requirements of the variety you are planting. - And don't forget drainage holes!
Soil: Use a high-quality potting mix, suitable for outdoor containers and has the correct pH for the type of plant you are growing. - Blueberries, for example, need acidic soil with a pH between 4.0 and 5.5, while strawberries prefer a neutral pH of around 6.0 to 7.0.
Repotting: Renew your container's soil annually by removing the top layer of compost and replacing it with a mixture of potting soil and mulch. Repot your plants every three years, either into a larger container or the same pot after carefully pruning a third of the roots and old soil.
Water: Berry bushes and fruit trees in containers will need frequent watering, especially during hot, dry weather. Make sure to check the soil regularly to ensure it is not too dry or too wet.
Sunlight: Most fruit bearing plants need full sun for at least six hours per day to grow and produce fruit. Choose a location that receives plenty of sunlight and make sure that you've chosen a plant that is suitable for your location.
Pruning: Some varieties will need regular pruning to maintain their shape and encourage healthy growth. Make sure to research the specific pruning requirements of the variety you are growing.
Fertilizer: Container-grown berry bushes and fruit trees will need regular fertilizing to provide the nutrients they need to grow and produce fruit.
Protection from Pests: Berry bushes and fruit trees can be susceptible to pests such as aphids, mites, and birds, among others. Regularly inspect the plants for signs of damage and take appropriate measures to protect them, such as cleaning the plants, or using insecticidal soap, netting, or bird deterrents.
Suitable Fruits and Berries for Container Growing
Not all fruits and berries can be successfully grown in containers. To ensure a healthy plant and a bountiful harvest, here are some recommended options:
- Note that growing a plant in a container will prevent it from reaching its full size. The hardiness zone determines its ability to grow outdoors in the ground, the plant will be more vulnerable in a container. However, with proper overwintering techniques you can still grow plants that are not hardy to your climate.
Highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum - USDA 5 to 8, Mature size: 2 to 12 feet, Sun: Full sun to part shade
These blueberries are a popular choice for container growing, as they are hardy, easy to care for, are relatively small and compact, and produce a high yield of delicious berries each year. Prune as needed during late winter. Begin pruning earliest the third year after planting. Special requirements: Best grown in acidic soil (pH of 4.8 to 5.2)
Raspberry, Rubus idaeus - USDA 4 to 8, Mature size 2 to 9 feet, Sun: Full sun, can handle part shade
Raspberries come in both summer-bearing and everbearing varieties, making them suitable for growing in a variety of climates. There are also a number of smaller sized cultivars that is perfect for growing in containers. They are also known for producing a high yield of sweet, juicy berries that are perfect for eating fresh, cooking, or preserving. Prune out fruiting canes, and any non-fruiting canes that exhibit weakness or disease, as soon as fruiting is over. Special requirements:
Strawberry, Fragaria sp. - USDA 4 to 9, Mature size 6 to 12 inches, Sun: Full sun
Strawberries is one of the most popular berries to grow, as it offers a convenient and compact solution for growing fresh, sweet strawberries. However, it's important to note that strawberries require significant attention and care, as they are considered high maintenance plants. - Modern cultivars comes in three different options: June-bearing, everbearing, or day-neutral. June-bearing strawberries bloom and produce fruit for 2-3 weeks during early summer, while everbearing types have two crops a year, one in early summer and another smaller one in late summre/fall. Day-neutral strawberries don't rely on day length and produce fruit whenever temperatures are between 35-85°F. Special requirements: Strawberries are susceptible to a number of diseases and pests. Choose disease-resistant cultivars to enhance your gardening experience and reduce effort. Fertilizing with too much nitrogen can promote foliar growth instead of flowers and fruits.
Blackberries, Rubus (Blackberry-group) - USDA 3,4,5 or 6 to 9 or 10 (depending on cultivar), Size: Varies a lot between cultivars, Sun: Full sun, can handle part shade.
Blackberries are hardy plants that are easy to grow, even for novice gardeners. They produce a lot of berries from mid- to end of summer, perfect for use in smoothies, jam, and baked goods. They are divided into 3 different groups: trailing, semi-erect, and erect. Although blackberries are known for their vigorous growth and thorny canes, there are also thornless and smaller-sized cultivars to choose from. Keeping them in containers will also help restrict their size and growth. New plants will not produce berries until the second year. Some cultivars of blackberries are classified as evergreen. Special requirements: Is not very drought tolerant and might need a trellis for support.
Black, Red and White Currant and Gooseberry, Ribes sp. - USDA 3 to 8, Size: 2 to 6 feet, Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Currants are low-maintenance and produce a high yield of flavorful berries, packed with vitamins, making them an excellent option for those who want to maximize their yield while minimizing the amount of time and effort required. Currants mostly bear their fruit on old wood. They also have edible leaves, often used in tea. Pruning: Remove dead branches and low-growing shoots. Trim all side shoots down to 1-3 buds from the base. Cut back the tips of branches by a quarter, making your cut just above an outward-facing bud. Special requirements:
Black elderberry, Sambucus nigra - USDA 5 to 8, Size: 4 to 20 feet, Sun: Full sun to part shade
Black elder, or Common elder, Sambucus nigra, comes in a variety of size, color and shape and are easy to grow. They produce beautiful foliage, delicate clusters of white or pink-colored flowers in the spring and the flowers are followed by clusters of dark, purplish-black berries in the summer. With both the fruit and flowers being used for making syrups, jellies, wines, and pies they offer both edible and ornamental purposes in your garden. Special requirements: They grow very large and will need a lot of space. They're also highly susceptible to aphids.
Honeyberry, Lonicera caerulea var. edulis - USDA 2 to 7, Size: 4 to 6 feet, Sun: Full sun to part shade
Honeyberry is prized for its sweet, juicy, and slightly tart blueberry-like fruit that are high in antioxidants and vitamins. In addition to its delicious fruit, honeyberry also has ornamental value with its attractive foliage and delicate white flowers in the spring and early summer. Honeyberries are hardy and adaptable, and they are easy to care for and maintain. Prune if needed immediately after harvest of fruits. Special requirements: Some cultivars are self fertile but others need compatible plants to maximize the yield of fruit.
Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides - USDA 3 to 8, Size: 4 to 12 feet, Sun: Full sun
The Sea buckthorn grows well in full sun and well-drained soil. It is also drought-tolerant and can thrive in challenging coastal conditions and poor soils, making it a great option for balconies and patios near the sea. The sea Buckthorn are prized for its bright yellow-orange berries, which are high in Vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients, and can be used in cooking. Special requirements: Sea buckthorn are dioecious, so female plants will not produce any fruit without a nearby male plant which can provide it with pollen.
Hardy kiwi, Actinidia arguta - USDA 3 to 8, Size: 8 to 30 feet, Sun: Full sun to part shade
The Hardy kiwi a deciduous climbing plant that produces small, edible fruit that resembles a kiwifruit and is well adapted to colder climates. Unlike traditional kiwi fruits, which require a warm climate and can not be grown north of Zone 8, Hardy kiwi can be grown in regions with cold winters and short growing seasons. This makes it a great choice for gardeners in cooler climates who want to grow their own fruit. Annual pruning is necessary for Hardy Kiwi, which involves cutting back each stem to 8-10 buds in winter and trimming excessive shoots in summer. Special requirements: Hardy kiwi will grow very large and may need support such as a trellis, or other, to climb on. They are also dioecious, so female plants will not produce any fruit without a nearby male plant which can provide it with pollen.
Common fig, Ficus carica - USDA 6 to 10, Size 3 to 20 feet,
Fig trees are well-suited for container gardens because they are compact, yet highly productive. They produce large, lush leaves and sweet, juicy figs, making it an attractive and edible addition to any balcony, or patio, garden. Fig trees are relatively low-maintenance and can be grown with minimal effort, making them an ideal choice for busy gardeners or those with limited space. They can be grown both as trees and shrubs and some cultivars are more hardy than others. Pruning should be done when the tree has lost all its leaves. Cut back, dead, weak or crossing branches to one or two buds. Special requirements: Figs can thrive in protected areas in USDA Zones 5-7 when positioned in the right location, such as near a south-facing wall.
Matrimony vine (Goji Berry), Lycium barbarum - USDA 4 to 9, Size 3 to 12 feet, Sun: Full sun
Goji berry plants are low maintenance and easy to care for. They require little pruning and are drought-tolerant once established. The berries produced on the plants are packed with antioxidants and are a great source of vitamins and minerals. They can be eaten raw, dried, or used to make juice, tea, or other products. It is recommended to prune the plant after its first growing season for better fruit yield, creating a denser and bushier plant with improved light and air circulation. Goji berry plants can also be trained to grow as a single trunk or tied to a support structure like a stake or trellis for easier fruit harvesting. Special requirements: Overfertilizing or if planted in soil that is too fertile can decrease blooming and decrease the amount of fruit produced on your plant.