Growing Fruits in Small Spaces

Strawberries

Are you planning a garden this year? If so, you are in good company. Over 50 million American households will be growing some or all of their own fruits, vegetables, herbs, or berries. Plant nurseries, garden centers, farm supply and home improvement centers have all noticed an uptick on sales of seeds, plants, seedlings, Fruit Plants, fertilizers and gardening tools this month.

So many people have taken an interest in gardening that even people who live in apartments, condos and houses with small yards can satisfy their urge for a green thumb. You do not need large plots of land to be a gardener.  Patios, balconies and tiny back yards can be decorated with flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits – thanks to container gardening and new types or varieties of plants. Community gardens are another way to find the space needed to grow your own fruit and vegetables.

Benefits of growing your own produce include:

  • improved quality,
  • better taste,
  • guaranteed freshness,
  • bigger variety of choices,
  • control over the use of pesticides and chemicals, and
  • average cost savings of about $500 per year!

If you have the urge to try your hand at growing your own produce, consider starting out with some inexpensive container plants. Everyone has seen the TV commercials for kits that hang from the roof or a shepherd’s hook to produce fresh strawberries and cherry tomatoes. But container gardening can go much farther than that.

Suburban and urban households – even many retirement village and nursing home residents – can join in the fun of watching fruit plants and vegetables grow, and then harvest them at home. You can buy seed packets or young seedlings that were started commercially for harvesting in late summer and early fall, or try for years of production and harvesting by planting dwarf fruit trees.

Small spaces can use:

  • Window boxes
  • Trellises
  • Hanging baskets
  • Raised beds in a variety of sizes and shapes, and
  • Thousands of types and sizes of pots

to help grow a variety of fruits and vegetables on patios, balconies and in small yards.

Fruit trees designated as appropriate for your growing region will be disease resistant and tolerant of the climate in your area. Citrus trees do well in Florida, along the Gulf Coast and throughout California. Blueberries and cherries do well along the East Coast and mild climate zones. Apples come in dozens of varieties. Both apple trees and pear trees can be found in every state of the continental U.S. For container gardening, there are dwarf versions of dozens of types of fruit trees.

To start your successful container gardening, community garden or home vegetable garden project, find good internet resources to research want you hope to grow, and talk to local nurseries and orchards about the types of plants and trees that will work for your climate and site. There are many decisions to make early, including:

  • preparation of area: tilling, testing and adjusting the pH balance, and spacing
  • type of fruits and vegetables: bush plants versus pole or trailing plants
  • variety/rootstock combination: dwarf trees, hybrids, grafted twigs, crossbreeds, etc.
  • recommended planting techniques and timing,
  • pruning, thinning, training,
  • nutrition
  • disease and pest control

Check back later this summer for pictures of my own container plants!

Most profitable fruits to grow in your home garden

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I previously did some analysis on the profitability of vegetables in your garden and there have been requests as well as my own curiosity of how fruits would stack up against fruit trees/bushes.

To keep things simple I made the assumption of fruit trees/bushes are fully mature with maximum yields.  So please take into account that you will see some variance throughout the years.  I have also used the fair market retail value of fruit when purchased by the pound, obviously all of these could be purchased cheaper by the bushel…but many of us you live in urban areas it can be difficult to make these discounted large purchases nor consume 48 lbs. of apples before they go bad.

After a crunched the numbers I was a bit surprised and happy to see blueberries at the top of the list.  I have four blueberry plants already in the ground and two more waiting to be planted.  Though one asterisk for this plant is that is take 3-4 years to really start producing but you get several years of good production and by buying a variety of plants with different harvest times, so unlike many other fruits you do not get a huge supply of fruit all at the same time.

Overall fruit compared to vegetables provides a similar range of harvest value depending on the variety.   There are a couple of differences that should be taken in to consideration:

  1. Space: Fruit trees/plants range from a little over a square foot to over 60 square feet per planting
  2. Time to Maturity: It can take several years for some trees to become mature and start producing high yields.
  3. Size of Harvest: You could see hundreds of lbs. of produce within a couple weeks.  You will need to determine a means to actually use this (canning, pies, forcing on neighbors)
  4. Commitment: Unlike annual vegetables if you decide you really don’t care for the produce it can be time intensive and expensive to switch out an apple tree for a difference variety.
Fruit Harvest Value/
Square Foot
Blueberries  $         18.71
Pomegranate  $         13.38
Nectarine  $           8.64
Strawberries  $           8.13
Peach  $           7.90
Apple (Standard)  $           6.64
Apple (Semi-Dwarf)  $           6.40
Raspberries  $           6.23
Apricot  $           3.54
Plum  $           3.18
Blackberries  $           3.05
Pear (Standard)  $           2.90
Fig  $           2.66
Almond  $           2.56
Apple (Dwarf)  $           2.35
Walnut  $           2.28
Pear (Dwarf)  $           2.10
Cherry (Sour)  $           1.13
Cherry (Sweet)  $           0.84

As always the common sense principles apply:

  • Grow what you like to eat
  • Cost is only one factor to consider, you can’t beat real fresh produce

Blackberry Picking Tip: Hands free berry picking

Blackberries

I love to pick blackberries, they grow literally like weeds in my area and very easy to find a trail with more berries than I ever could pick.  The fresh air is nice I am always looking for new ways to pick berries in less time.  This tip from my brother-in-law will be sure to help step your berry picking up a notch.

Simply take an old milk carton and cut a hole in the top.

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Then take your belt and loop it through the handle and now you have both hands free to pick those berries even faster.  Of course this would work for anything else that could be beneficial to have both hands free.

I also cut a small notch lower than the top and used the same container to rinse the berries are allow easy separation of stems, leaves and/or insects that decided to join my bucket during my rapid picking.

As always if you have a gardening tip you would like to share please feel free to let us know using the Contact link.