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!

Picking strawberries and raspberries

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I like this time of year when I can quit my second job to support my kids strawberry and raspberry habits.  At $5-6 for a half pint at some times throughout the year can be a great cost savings to pick these for practically free year after year.

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My oldest was previously the biggest consumer but now out youngest (now 16 months) is taking in her share of the berries and has been enjoying the fresh local berries.  We actually can not go anywhere without providing her with her strawberry fix.  Not sure what we will do in a couple months when we stop producing.

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For my area still is a little early for raspberries but the conditions have been working out and have been enjoying these for the past couple weeks as well.  I did not actually plant these raspberries they snuck in under my neighbors fence which a little precautionary raspberry control I have let them thrive on my side of the fence as well.  I am actually considering to let them spread farther down my fence for even larger yields.

Trimming the raspberry bushes

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This weekend I decided to clean up the yard a bit and do some of my later in the season chores a little early.  One of these on the list was trimming my new (second year) raspberry bushes.  The first step was getting these bushes under control, if I had a larger space I probably would build a more stable construction for better airflow and make picking easier…but given my small space I simply took a couple nails and a couple of lengths of twine and loosely supported the stems to keep them from falling over into our lawn.  Finish by tying the twine around the nails and task number one is done.

 

The production of raspberries goes in a two year cycle.  The first year you get vegetative stalks (all green no flowers or berries) and the second year these previous vegetative stalks become flowering stalks and produce nice delicious berries.  During this time more vegetative stalks develop and the process repeats itself.  Once a flowering stalk completes delivering all of its berries it will turn brown and die off.  Taking care of these was my first task.  All this requires is finding the flowing stalks and cut them at their base, easy way to go is to cut anything brown and then pull them out (using gloves is advised)

This part was pretty easy since I only have a few flowering stalks the first year but you can see from the picture above I should get a decent crop of raspberries now the plant is becoming more established.

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Now I simply let the plants do their thing and when the leaves fall off I will trim them to a height of about 5 feet, next spring given them a healthy scoop of alfalfa pellets and wait for the bounty of sweetness to come in next summer.