Patio Apples, Pears & Plums

Imagine a late summer afternoon on the patio, enjoying a fresh, crisp apple that you’ve just picked from the plant in the corner…..
Sounds too good to be true?? Well it needn’t be if you have patio fruit trees at your fingertips!!

Garden-sized Fruit

Difficulty                 Easy
Grow in                    Containers
Why bother?          Interesting patio plant producing healthy, chemical-free fruit

In today’s modern gardens there’s not always room for an orchard, so growers have developed fruit trees suitable for patios – smaller, more compact trees that won’t outgrow the garden!
This is possible because of the way many fruit trees are grown.  Fruit trees are often a combination of two parts; the bottom part (called the root-stock) which is chosen because it influences the eventual height of the tree, and the top part that is chosen for the variety (type) of fruit.  The grower physically joins the two parts together so that they will grow together as one tree.  This join is called a ‘graft’ and as you might imagine, ‘grafting’ is a very skilled job!
For example,  the patio Cox’s Pippin apple tree will be on a rootstock that means it will grow to 1.5 metres high but with a different rootstock the Cox’s Pippin can grow up to 4 metres high.  The eventual height depends on the rootstock, but the tree will always produce the same wonderfully aromatic, favourite Cox’s Pippin apples.

What else do I need?

The pot or container should be sufficiently large to allow root growth and provide stability – you’ll need at least a 12″ pot, but generally speaking, the bigger the pot the better, because it gives the roots more room, is more stable and won’t dry out so quickly.
A saucer or tray for underneath the pot is highly recommended. Not only does that help retain the water, it will protect the patio.
A ‘heavy’ compost such as John Innes No 3 is specifically designed for mature, woody plants and will retain moisture better than general multi-purpose composts.
Feed – During spring and summer, use a balanced feed such as Growmore – this is a base fertiliser and will replace the nutrients the tree is taking from the compost. Once the fruit begins to swell, switch to a high potash feed – Tomorite or similar is ideal.
Water –The biggest challenge with growing fruit on the patio is ensuring that the tree doesn’t dry out. Think of it as a large, very thirsty pot plant that is almost (but not totally!) impossible to water too much during spring and summer, and you won’t go too far wrong!
Putting a layer of mulch on the top of the pot can help retain moisture

 

Caring for your patio tree

Water, feed and care for your patio trees well, and you’ll be surprised how much fruit will actually develop – in fact, you may even choose to reduce the number of fruits if you feel that the tree is under too much strain.

Patio trees need to be pruned. Don’t worry too much about the technicalities of pruning – just concentrate on the fact that you’re nurturing the tree to help it achieve its potential. If any broken, damaged or diseased branches appear at any stage, cut them off asap with sharp secateurs – like us, trees recover from a sharp, clean cut much quicker and better than if the cut is raggedy! Once the fruit buds begin to develop, think about how much fruit the tree can carry. It may be necessary to cut back the branches and reduce the number of developing fruits so that the tree is not overloaded.

After a few years, it may be necessary to thin out (prune) the woody roots to encourage new, fibrous roots – the fibrous roots work much more effectively for the tree than the old woody roots. When you’re pruning the woody roots – in autumn or early spring whilst the tree is still dormant – it’s a good idea to carefully tease out some of the old compost so that you can re-pot the tree in new compost. Be careful with your watering after you’ve pruned the roots and re-potted into new compost – the new roots take a little while to settle into the new compost and become established again.

Your shopping list:

Patio Fruit Tree
Saucer – or you may already have a tray that would do
Pot – you could use the one it comes in, or choose a new one that suits your patio
Compost – John Innes No 3 (recommended)
Base fertiliser – Growmore
High Potash Feed – Tomorite