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While gardening is quickly becoming a popular pastime for the modern urban/suburban dweller, much of the focus is on vegetables as the vegetation, with fruits being largely left out of the mix. When we think of growing in small spaces, we think of lettuce leaves and fresh herbs (both of which are great things), and we think of tomatoes, bell peppers, and peas twisting their way up the patio railing. But, we don’t tend to think about growing fruit.
Even so, fruit is a beautiful thing. It’s the dessert the earth provides, that burst of sweetness or tartness that so many of us yearn for. It’s a vessel for vitamins and minerals, a healthy treat to enjoy on its own or with veggies or in pastries or as smoothies …Oh, how the list grows! Why on our green planet would we not be growing fruits — other than only vegetables — in our garden?
Maybe some of us just don’t realize that fruit can be grown in small spots, too. Well, it can. Lots of it can. Lots.
1. Small Fruit Trees
If it seems like the trees were made specially, it’s because many of them were. Don’t worry, it wasn’t in any Franken-plant GMO way, but rather they were grafted and naturally cultivated into small trees that yielded big fruits. Figs are a great choice, start easily from a cutting, and can be maintained as a six-foot bush. Pomegranates and mulberries work much the same. Otherwise, there are dwarf varieties of apples and pears, which work just fine in containers (or espalier next to a wall or fence), as well as plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines (but, these will require some earth to thrive).
2. Citrus Trees
Citrus trees are perhaps these easiest of all trees to grow in containers, and they even have dwarfed varieties of these as well. The general rule is that the smaller the actually fruit, the better it’ll work in a container. So, fruits like Meyer lemons, Satsuma mandarins, and kumquats are the best bet for pots, but most citrus can be pruned to remain fairly small or even grafted onto dwarfing root stock. In other words, citrus is definitely a possibility for the house, patio, or even garden (in the right environment). Lemonade and much more is now on the menu.
3. Vining Fruits
With people finding the most efficient uses of space these days, vertical gardening has started making a lot of sense, and growing perennial vines is a fantastic way to utilize wall and ceiling space. Common fruits that grow as perennial vines are grapes, kiwis, and passion fruits. Grapes and kiwis have varieties that will grow in even genuinely cold climates (think Canada), but passion fruits are more of a frost-free type of plant. Whatever the case, these fruits blend very well into backyard gardens (and perhaps wine), either as living walls or for producing summertime shade under the pergola.
Most people don’t really consider growing a pineapple, but it’s not a difficult thing to do. While tropical, they grow readily indoors, around a sunny window, and they don’t mind being rooted into pots. However, a pineapple does take a long time (often two years) to yield its one fruit. Unless you are in Costa Rica or Thailand, It’s probably better suited for growers interested in taking on a fun project as opposed to producing a real abundance of pineapples. Still, they are curious plant to have in the collection.
Berries are aces. They have such unique flavors and textures, beloved, by most, and they generally pack a serious set of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for our health. And, all the favorites — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, even raspberries — can be grown in containers. Even better, these are plants that usually provide a good yield, some of them strictly seasonally, while others, such as ever-bearer strawberries, will provide multiple times a year. They are great for smoothies, jams, snacks, fruit leathers, freezing, dehydrating and so on.
Honeydews, cantaloupes, watermelons and more can all be grown in containers. While it’s true that they are spreading vines, they can be planted near fences, trellised walls, or wire cages. Unlike the rest of the fruit on this list, these are annual plants, so they’ll have to be sown every year, but the lucky part about that is, when growing your own, melon seeds are free and plentiful. Simply save them until you are ready to plant again. For that matter, it’s easy enough to grow melons from the seeds of ones bought at the farmer’s market. Soon, they’ll be more than most people can eat. So, share them and make some friends.
Grow some fruit, too! By no means should we stop the forward march towards home vegetable production, but without a doubt, a load of fruit should be on our cultivating wish lists. It’ll open up a world of sweet pies, sorbets, and smoothies that’ll keep patio gardeners smiling.
Lead image source: Takver/Flickr