Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a huge yard to grow delicious and nutritious fruit. In fact, even if you only have a small backyard or a little bit of balcony space, you can still enjoy growing and eating fresh fruit within an arm’s reach.
Those who grow dwarf varieties of fruit comment on very high fruit yield — as compared to traditional trees — and extremely delicious fruit.
What is a dwarf fruit tree?
Most of the fruit trees sold in nurseries today are actually semi-dwarf varieties. Some semi-dwarf trees can grow up to 10-15 feet high while some dwarf trees may reach 8-10 feet in height. If you are looking for a small fruit tree, be sure you check the mature size before purchasing. Many people will purchase dwarf trees and just keep them 4-6 feet high by regular pruning, for easy maintenance.
What is a miniature fruit tree?
Miniature fruit trees are even smaller than dwarf and usually don’t exceed 8 feet in height — more likely around 6 feet. This makes them perfect for pruning with just a stool or a ladder. Because of their small size, you can plant many plants close together for a higher yield.
Although you can put dwarf fruit directly in the ground, many people choose to use containers.
Container growing, or patio fruit tree growing as it is commonly referred to, has become a hugely popular pursuit by those with small space and even by those with ample space who are looking to be more sustainable, reduce maintenance or perhaps just beautify an outdoor room.
The great thing about dwarf fruit bushes and trees is that they produce full-size fruit, even though they take up less than one-fourth the space that their full-size counterparts do. There are many advantages to growing fruit in containers:
- When you use a container you can easily control the soil quality.
- Container fruit bushes and trees are easy to care for.
- Containers make a nice addition to a deck, patio, sunroom or a three-season room.
- You can easily move containers around to take advantage of the best location or to protect from inclement weather.
Here are just a few of the many dwarf fruit trees and bushes that do particularly well in containers:
Blueberries: Dwarf blueberries are among the most popular of container fruits to be grown in the home garden. These compact, high-yield bushes look great on patios and decks and provide year-round interest with their pretty flowers and changing foliage color. Remember: Blueberries like acidic soil and plenty of drainage.
The Top Hat is one of the most favorite of the tiny fruit bushes and matures at just 18 inches tall and the same width. It can even be trained as a bonsai specimen. Hardy in USDA planting zones 3-7, Top Hat can produce 2 to 5 pounds of fresh blueberries annually. If you live in an even colder climate, try the Northsky blueberry that can tolerate temps down to minus 45 degrees F. This little bush also reaches a maximum height of 18 inches with a 24-inch spread.
Apples, pears, plums, figs and cherries: Dwarf varieties of these trees can be grown in a large container. Keep in mind that even if you purchase a self-fertile tree, it helps to have another tree of the same kind, different variety close by for pollination.
Strawberries: Dwarf strawberries are about as much fun to grow as they are to eat. Strawberries are perennial, meaning you will have more plants with each year that passes. A highly popular compact strawberry plant is known as Compact. It makes an attractive container plant and seldom gets any bigger than 6 feet. This bush is perfect for those living in USDA  zones 7 through 9 and produces tasty sweet berries. Many people use the berries to make Strawberry Tree Jam. Of course, you can also grow traditional strawberries in all sorts of containers, including hanging baskets, tiered gardens or window boxes.
Citrus: Even if you don’t live in a temperate climate, you can enjoy the fresh taste of home grown citrus. When you grow small citrus trees, you can put the container on wheels and move it indoors to a sunny room for the colder season. Miniature orange, lemon, lime and tangerine are a delicious and nutritious addition to your patio orchard.
Choosing containers, soil and upkeep
It is important that you take the time to determine the best container for the job. Fruit trees and bushes, like other plants, need high-quality soil and plenty of drainage. Generally speaking, any container that will hold soil and drains well can be employed. For more information on choosing containers, soil and on maintenance, visit our earlier article here: Grow Fruit Trees Almost Anywhere .
Do you grow dwarf fruit trees and bushes? What tips do you have? Share them in the comments section below.