You can grow a mini-orchard of fruit in patio containers if you’re willing to water and feed regularly. Choose from soft fruits, such as currants and gooseberries, or tree fruits like apples, pears, and cherries, grown on dwarfing rootstocks. Renew the top layer of soil every year for the best crop.
Red, white, and black currants
These delicious fruits need moisture-retentive soil, and those in pots must be watered regularly during the growing season. Plant them in large containers filled with soil-based potting mix, combined with well-rotted organic matter—garden compost or manure is ideal. You can either grow them as bushes or train them on a trellis like a climber. Apply a general fertilizer for fruit crops in spring, and top up with tomato fertilizer every week from late spring until the fruits ripen. Cover the blooms with plastic sheeting if frosts are forecast. Site in a cool, partly shaded spot. For pruning, see gooseberries.
The sharp sweetness of gooseberries is perfect for summer desserts and pies. Planting and feeding requirements are the same as for currants, and if the crop is heavy, thin the fruits in late spring. Every winter, cut back the main stems by half to an outward-facing bud, and prune the sideshoots to one bud from the main stems (beware of the spines). Keep the plants well-watered and harvest ripe fruit in summer.
Peaches and cherries
The best fruit trees for pots are those grown on dwarfing rootstocks that still produce full-sized fruit. Cherries are grafted onto Colt or Gisela 5 rootstocks, and peaches on Pixy or St. Julien A. Good cherries include ‘Compact Stella’ and ‘Maynard Mini Stem’; for peaches try, ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Garden Lady’. Plant in large pots of soil-based potting mix, keep in a sheltered, sunny spot, and protect the blossom with plastic sheeting. Feed in spring with all purpose fertilizer, and apply tomato food every fortnight after flowering. No pruning is needed.
Apples and pears
Popular for pots, apples grown on the dwarf rootstocks M27, M9, or M26, which should be stated on the label, are widely available. The choice of pears is smaller, but look for those grown on Quince C or Quince A. All of these compact trees produce full-sized fruit. If you have space, grow several and enjoy a variety of different flavors from late summer and throughout the autumn.
Popular apple varieties include ‘Egremont Russet’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ‘Discovery’, golden yellow ‘Elstar’, and ‘Blenheim Orange’, with its crisp, nutty flavor. The pear varieties ‘Williams’ Bon Chretien’, ‘Doyenne du Comice’, and ‘Dwarf Lilliput’ are ideal for containers. If space is really limited, you can buy two different fruits grafted on to one rootstock, offering two flavors for the price of one. Planting and care is the same for apples and pears. Keep pots well-watered throughout the spring and summer.