Small Trees That Will Give You a Big Harvest
You don’t need acres of land to start your own orchard. If your space is limited but you want to grow fresh fruit, there are plenty of varieties that will fit and will still give you a great annual harvest. Dwarf versions of fruit trees are great for a small yard or container growing, but you can also try vine-growing fruits like kiwi or passion fruit, or berry bushes. If you’re up for the pruning challenge, you can take just about any variety of fruit tree and keep it at a manageable size.
The options for dwarf fruit trees are nearly endless. Horticulturists have developed a lot of different varieties to be smaller in size, about eight feet tall at a maximum. Just watch out for the label semi-dwarf, as these trees will grow up to 12 or 15 feet in height. With dwarf trees you may be able to find space in your yard for more than one variety, and if you plan it right, you can choose varieties that ripen successively for a longer harvest season. Even if your space is seriously limited, just one little dwarf fruit tree can provide you with a bigger harvest than you ever imagined.
Dwarf trees are not any less hardy or strong than their larger cousins. They are simply trees that have been grafted onto a root stock that controls the growth. The fruit will also have the same quality as what you harvest from a larger tree, and any pruning you need to do to promote growth is the same. The only difference in how your dwarf trees grow is that they may need a little extra encouragement and staking to grow straight until fully established.
You can also take any fruit tree and grow it in a container, which will naturally cause it to limit its growth. When the roots hit the sides of the container, the tree will stop growing, although pruning also helps you keep the three both healthy and in check. Here are some ideas for varieties you may want to consider growing, either as dwarf trees in your yard or in containers on the patio or indoors:
- Red Columnar apple. This special little tree has been designed to grow in a column, as the name suggests. This makes it especially great for tight spaces. You can fit it into a small corner of your yard, but it also does really well in a container.
- Dwarf Fuji. The Fuji is the most popular supermarket apple, and for good reason. It is crisp and sweet, perfect for eating fresh, but also versatile enough to be used in baking and juicing. The dwarf variety is easy to grow and perfect for most backyards.
- Dwarf Cherries. Many different varieties of cherry can be grown as dwarf trees, and you can choose between tart and sweet. With cherries you get a big harvest, even with a small tree.
- Meyer Lemon. A Meyer lemon tree may not necessarily be a dwarf variety, but it is a naturally smaller fruit tree and is well-suited to container growing. Even in a colder climate, you can grow this little tree indoors and enjoy the sweet and tart fruit.
- Little Miss Figgy. This cute little fig tree is a dwarf, but it is an abundant producer. It also does well in containers, so you can grow it in a small corner of the yard or in a patio pot and it will thrive.
Multiple Varieties-in-One Trees
Another strategy for getting more fruit out of a small space is to try a grafted tree with multiple varieties, or even different types of fruit, all on the same tree. To create this type of tree, healthy branches from different varieties are grafted to a suitable root stock. The benefits of this kind of tree are that you get a variety of fruit in less space, you don’t need a second or third tree for pollination, and you get a continuous harvest as one variety after another ripens throughout the season.
Options include the 4-in-1 apple tree with Yellow Delicious, Gravenstein, Jonagold and Honeycrisp. The 5-in-1 cherry tree includes the Royal Ann, Black Tartarian, Bing, Lapins and Stella varieties all on one tree. For even more variety, the Fruit Cocktail tree will give you a harvest of apricots and two types of peaches. Also look for the 3-in-1 northern and southern blueberry bushes, with three varieties suitable for warmer and colder climates on each one.
Vines that bear edible fruit make for another great option for limited spaces. Some have the potential to grow big, but they are easy to control. If you have a small space, you can train a vine to climb up one surface of a fence or trellis and keep it from spreading further without much effort. Several different grape varieties, as well as passion fruit, are good choices. Kiwis also grow as a vine and are known to be heavy producers and low maintenance. You can get a lot of fruit out of a small section of kiwi vine.
Fruit bushes can provide abundant harvests in less space, especially if you look for container varieties. For example, the BrazelBerries varieties are specially grown to be small and to thrive in containers. They also do well as small hedges, almost like a boxwood hedge. There are several different varieties of BrazelBerries, including blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. For an extra harvest, try the Perpetua blueberry, which flowers and produces fruit in the summer and then again in the fall.
Pruning Large Trees Down to Size
If you have your heart set on a particular fruit variety that doesn’t come in a dwarf size, you can still grow it in a small space outdoors. It will require more maintenance, though, in order to keep it at a smaller size. Most often you will be told to prune your tree only in winter. This is the right time to prune to keep a tree healthy, but for size control, prune heavily in early summer. Cut away leafy branches in June to slow the growth of the tree.
You will also want to prune the tree back in the fall after you have picked the last fruit, and in the winter. Take it back by as much as one-third in the winter and do a late winter or early spring pruning as well. Keeping up with pruning your tree several times a year is what will keep it both small in size and healthy, while still making sure it produces a good harvest.
From container growing to trying dwarf varieties to pruning your big fruit trees vigorously, there are many strategies to take when planting a small orchard. Even if you only have room for one patio container, you have options and you can grow fresh fruit in your small space.