In today’s mobile society container gardening can be the answer for passionate green thumbs who do not have their own permanent piece of ground or only a very small one. Container gardening makes sense for a number of reasons:
New gardeners can start small and add to their garden as experience increases their expertise.
Many containers are movable, so tenants can actually take their gardens along if they move.
Container gardens are time saving. By the nature of the plants that are typically grown in containers, most tasks such as planting, pruning, and pest control are greatly simplified.
Weeding is essentially eliminated.
Containers and the plants in them can be very decorative and; placed where you can highlight that beauty; add an accent to your outdoor living space.
Containers can be raised and placed so that gardeners with mobility restrictions or arthritis that makes bending difficult can reach them easily and continue to enjoy the exercise that comes with gardening.
Container gardens can range in size from strawberries in a window box or a grouping of flower pots, to a blueberry bush in a large half whiskey barrel, all the way up to a dwarf peach tree in a metal livestock water tank. In certain respects, fruit grown in containers have the same requirements as fruit grown directly in the ground:
- adequate sunlight
- proper nutrients
- sufficient moisture and proper soil drainage
- amenable climate with adequate chilling to satisfy dormancy needs of the plant
- protection from excessive tissue-damaging cold or frost damage to early flowering blossoms
- proper growing season to mature a crop to full flavor
However, the means used to provide some of these necessities to container-grown fruit may be different than for in-ground plants.
Although the growing medium used for container plants is often referred to as “potting soil,” it is typically actually a soilless mixture that is specifically created to hold moisture while providing drainage. It is best to use one of these preparations rather than using soil directly from the garden, as all the biological processes that take place in a vibrant healthy soil do not take place properly in the confines of a container.
Container grown fruit plants are subject to drying out very quickly, so will require more frequent watering. With frequent watering comes leaching of nutrients. Regular dilute applications of balanced fertilizers every 2 weeks or so during the growing season will help provide a steady supply of nutrients for the plants’ needs.
Although we can not alter climatic conditions, moving container-grown fruit to protected locations allows for some protection from unsuitable weather. Container growing also gives one the option of locating the plant where the requisite 6 or more hours of sunlight occurs, even if that spot is on a patio or doorstep where there may be no soil to plant in.
Fruit plants best adapted to container-growing include strawberries; dwarf varieties of blueberries, apples, and peaches; as well as rhubarb or a single grape vine. So dig in, experiment and enjoy no matter where or how you grow your fruitful garden.
©2013. Adapted from the Backyard Berry Book: A hands-on guide to growing berries, brambles, and vine fruit in the home garden and the Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden by Stella Otto.