Choosing Fruit Trees for Small Gardens

Thinking about growing your own fruit trees? No matter how little space you have, there’s almost always room for at least one fruit tree.

The taste and satisfaction of picking homegrown fruit is one of life's pleasures!

The taste and satisfaction of picking homegrown fruit is one of life’s pleasures!

5 Tips for Fruit Trees in Small Gardens

I grow a LOT of fruit trees in a small space. Some in containers, others in the garden. It’s highly productive and I grow kilos of fruit every year. Some fruit trees are young and on their way to producing. Others are putting food on the table regularly!

Here, I grow a lot of tropical fruit trees like bananas, papaya, mango, mulberries, citrus and peaches. It takes time to get to know each fruit and how much space they require to be productive.

It can be overwhelming if you’re just starting out growing fruit trees, so I hope these tips help you avoid expensive mistakes.

1. Only Grow Fruit you LOVE to Eat

Fruit trees are like a long-term investment – in time, space and money. I think of my fruit trees like V.I.P.’s in the garden. Very Important Plants! They get the best position and special treatment, so why bother growing fruit you aren’t that fond of?

How do you choose, if you love LOTS of fruits? Which fruit do you spend the most money on? Which fruit do you eat the most of? Consider adding these fruits to your wish list.

These are a good starting point for researching varieties that may be suitable to grow in your area.

My husband always wanted a peach tree, so I found a tropical peach that produces plump fruits every year in a large pot.

My husband always wanted a peach tree, so I found a tropical peach that produces plump fruits every year in a large pot.

2. Choose Fruit to suit your Sun, Space and Climate

Sunlight

If you only have limited sunlight, your choices in fruit will be more limited than if you have 6-8 hours of sunlight/day. The majority of fruit trees need at least some sun to produce a healthy fruit harvest, and most prefer full sun. However, there are some fruits that will grow in partial shade too, so don’t despair!

Vertical Space

Remember to consider your vertical space as a potential area to grow fruit. Some fruits can be espaliered (trained to grow vertically on a frame).

Espaliered fruit trees trained to grow in a narrow space against brick wall

Espaliered fruit trees growing in a narrow space against a brick wall

Apples, pears, apricots and plums are a few fruit trees suitable for espaliering up trellises, fences and even unused vertical space along walls.

Lawn vs Fruit Trees

If you spend a lot of time mowing, watering and maintaining grass, how much return you get for your efforts? If you have children or pets that really need the space, you can probably justify your lawn. However, if you have limited space for fruit trees, consider swapping grass for groceries. You could grow kilos of fruit every year in the same space! Lawn or lemons? Mmm … I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Climate

There are so many fruit tree varieties to choose from, but one of the most important factors is your unique climate. Contact local nurseries, speak with neighbours, visit community gardens or farmers in your area to find out what grows well.

Whilst most apples thrive in cold climates here in Australia, in the subtropics where I live, we can thankfully grow tropical apple varieties! It might take a little effort to research suitable fruit tree varieties in your area, but this can make the difference to your long-term fruit tree success.

You can also create a suitable microclimate for the fruit tree you want to grow e.g. by providing shelter or planting against brick walls to benefit from reflected heat.

Lemon tree in portable container garden indoors in winter in a warm sunny microclimate with reflected heat through glass doors

Lemon tree in portable container garden indoors in winter in a warm sunny microclimate with reflected heat through glass doors

3. Dwarf Fruit Trees

Most fruit trees typically reach a mature height of at least 4.5m (15ft) if not pruned. In a small garden, most of us wouldn’t have room for more than a few trees this size. If you want to grow several varieties, you’d quickly fill the space or have to spend a LOT of time pruning.

So what’s your solution? Dwarf fruit trees! These are grafted onto roots from a related species – a shorter, more compact fruit tree ‘cousin’!  So dwarf fruit trees grow in less space and to a lower height than if they grew on their own roots.

Compact dwarf fruit trees offer you a number of benefits:

  • They don’t need much pruning;
  • Often fruit in under two years;
  • The fruit are the same size as regular fruit trees;
  • Multi-grafted fruit trees grow several different fruits on the one tree, saving space;
  • Are more suitable for balconies, containers and espaliering in narrow spaces;
  • Are easier to net (to protect against birds and animals); and
  • Are much easier to access for harvesting – no ladders!
Grafted dwarf fruit tree varieties in pots suitable for small gardens

Grafted dwarf fruit tree varieties in pots suitable for small gardens

Some dwarf rootstock offer you other advantages, like being resistant to disease; suited to wet or dry soils; strong vigorous growth; or ability to withstand winds.

4. Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

You may be thinking of growing a fruit tree in a container, rather than a garden due to space limitations or because you are renting. If so, there are other things to consider such as:

  • The size of the pot will limit the growth of your fruit tree.
  • You will need to re-pot into a larger container as the tree grows, probably at least every 18 months – 2 years.
  • The shape of container should make it easy to remove your tree.  Grow bags and fabric Smart Pots are a couple of solutions. Only choose pots that have straight sides or taper in towards the bottom for easy removal.
  • Many pots (especially unfired clay) and potting mix dry out quickly. So consider a low-maintenance drip watering system like EasiOyYa to keep moisture up to your potted fruit tree.


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5. Fruit Tree Pollination

Many fruit trees need pollinators such as bees, beneficial insects or bats to fertilize flowers and ‘set’ fruit. Other fruit tree varieties need more than one tree to cross-pollinate. If you want a variety of different fruits in a small space, this can present a challenge. No pollination = no fruit!

An abundant harvest from the mandarin tree

An abundant harvest from the mandarin tree

In a small garden space, one of the easiest solutions is to purchase fruit trees that are ‘self-fertile’ or ‘self-pollinating’.  Some fruit trees that are usually self-fertile are citrus, figs, peaches, apricots and nectarines. You may also find some multi-grafted trees such as citrus (lemon, orange and mandarin on the one tree) are also self-fertile.

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2017. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

3 Tips on Growing Peas and Beans

Do you love the crisp sweet crunch of young peas and beans? These easy-to-grow crops are perfect for all gardeners in small urban spaces. In pots, plots or garden beds!

3 Tips for Growing Peas & Beans

How do you get the highest yield from your peas and beans, especially if you have limited space?

These are tips I use to grow healthy pea and bean plants that produce an abundant harvest. I hope they help you too.

3 Tips for Growing Abundant Peas and Beans

1. Healthy Soil and Fertilising

  • Peas and beans both prefer well drained, moist soils, with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH 6.0-7.5.
  • You can make your own potting mix like I do, or improve your soil with compost and worm castings if you have them. I also add minerals and mulch. Click here for tips on preparing your soil for planting.
  • Every couple of weeks apply a liquid fertiliser such as seaweed, fish emulsion or diluted worm casting concentrate to boost growth.
Sugar Snap Pea Seedlings - save time by planting seedlings if you have a short season.

Apply seaweed when planting seedlings to avoid transplant shock.

2. Get your Timing Right

  • Choose varieties suited to your season and climate. I’m lucky to be able to grow beans all year round in my subtropical climate. I just choose my varieties carefully for the season – climbing snake beans over summer; dwarf and runner beans for the rest of the year. So timing is important when selecting your seeds or seedling varieties – learn what will grow when.
  • Peas are another story. Sadly, I can only grow these through the cooler months, unless I raise seeds as microgreens. This is one way to extend your season to grow pea shoots for longer. A brilliant way to benefit from the extra nutrients too.
Quick growing pea shoot microgreens

Quick growing pea shoot microgreens

  • Sow early morning or late afternoon if in a warm/hot climate to avoid heat stress for seedlings.
  • Plant in the new moon phase for faster seed germination and strong growth. This is also the best time to apply liquid fertilizers as you’ll see much quicker results. Root development and leaf growth comes before flowers and pods, so use this timing to your advantage!

3. Succession and Companion Planting

  • Succession Planting – To get a continuous supply of peas and beans, you need to succession plant or “sow little, and often.” Every couple of weeks I sow more peas or beans, so I stagger the planting – and the harvest.
French climbing beans growing up a bamboo trellis

French climbing beans growing up a bamboo trellis

  • When choosing your peas or beans, dwarf or bush varieties will usually produce flowers and pods quicker than climbing peas or runner/pole beans. If you sow some dwarf seeds/seedlings first, you’ll enjoy a fast harvest, while the climbing varieties take longer to produce flowers and pods. While climbers are slow out of the starting gates, they’ll go the distance and produce a harvest over a longer period!
  • Companion planting – To improve pollination of pea and bean crops, there’s a simple principle you can apply. Plant flowers nearby. To attract pollinators, lease out some of your precious garden ‘real estate’ to flower ‘tenants’. They will ‘pay’ you in more peas and beans! As the bees visit the flowers for a free feed, they’ll also stop by and pollinate these crops. Win-win!
Bee pollinating a green bean flower

Bee pollinating a green bean flower

How to Grow Guides

For tutorials with lots of inspiring vertical structures and tips, see my growing guides:

Easy Guide to Growing Perfect Peas – An easy step by step guide with everything you need to know to grow, maintain and harvest peas + delicious recipe ideas.

Jack and the Beanstalk Theme Garden – Tutorial tips for growing beans and a themed garden for children.

If you like this article, please share the love!

Happy gardening until next month.  Anne

Easy Guide to Growing Basil

How to Plant, Grow, Use and Harvest Basil

Easy Guide to Growing Basil - How to Grow Basil + Planting, Using & Harvesting Tips

Why Grow Basil?

As a gardener and cook, I couldn’t bear to have a garden without Basil. This fragrant herb is not only grown for its flavour but also its many health benefits. I use it in our kitchen as much for its delicious taste as I do for its medicinal properties. Interested in growing basil? Try it in a pot, garden or on your kitchen bench as sprouts or microgreens. Every year, I allocate ‘prime real estate’ space to basil in pots, as well as around my garden. Read on for how you can use this versatile herb.

 

Basil Varieties – Which Basil should you Grow?

Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). Like its mint ‘cousins’, basil comes in a large range of aromatic varieties, with flavours to please even the fussiest taste buds. Annual varieties will last you a season and then provide you with free seeds. Perennial cultivars last much longer and are even better value. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sweet Basil and Genovese are two of the most popular basil choices for pesto as they have mild sweet flavours.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Seeds

Have you tried raising seeds but they failed to germinate successfully? It may be due to one of these five common causes.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Seeds

Raising Seeds: 5 Common Mistakes You can Avoid

  1. Choosing Unsafe Food Seeds

  • Did you know the majority of seeds (non-certified organic and some heirloom and open-pollinated brands) are sprayed with fungicides? This chemical process is used to stop rodents and insects from eating the seeds during storage. GMO (genetically modified) seeds are also creeping into our food system. Read the packets carefully when buying your seeds. Look for wording like “Certified Organic” and “Non-GMO”.

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Why a Garden Journal is Your Most Valuable Tool

Why Should You Bother Keeping a Garden Journal?

Because if you want to minimize mistakes and maximize successes and enJOYment in your garden, being observant and recording what you see is essential. Even a few brief notes in a Garden Journal can make a massive difference.

Why a Garden Journal is Your Most Valuable Tool - Want to minimize mistakes and maximize successes in your garden? Discover how keeping a Garden Journal can help you take a shortcut to becoming an expert gardener in your own garden. Keeping a simple record of what you observe is vital + SO easy. Dig in!

Most of us think we’ll remember what we’ve seen or done in our garden. But, time is a funny thing. It’s so easy to forget with the busyness of life, what we saw or did, and when that occurred. Where did last year go? In a flash!

Have you ever noticed holey leaf damage on a plant? Have greedy insects beaten you to it? It can be disheartening and frustrating to feel you can’t do anything about it.

  • But what if you knew that at a certain time each year, grasshopper eggs were going hatch?
  • What if you kept a record so you could put preventative controls in place to avoid that damage?
  • Would that be valuable?
  • Wouldn’t you feel a sense of satisfaction knowing what to expect and what actions to take when?

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How to Prevent and Fix Leggy Seedlings

After seeds germinate, do your leggy seedlings look weak and straggly like this?

 

Leggy seedling stems are long and thin, but there are few or very tiny leaves.

Leggy seedling stems are long and thin, but there are few or very tiny leaves.

What Causes Leggy Seedlings?

‘Leggy’ seedlings typically have stretched skinny stems and look fragile. They may be bending forward rather than growing up straight with a strong stem.

If your newly germinated seedlings look like this, it may be due to one of three common causes: (more…)

9 Secrets for a Low Maintenance Easy Garden

Do you feel your garden is hard work? Too much digging, weeding, watering and fertilising? For minimal results?

The principles for doing less work, with greater rewards are simple. These are just a few of my secrets for creating an easy garden. Dig in!

 

9 Secrets for a Low-Maintenance Easy Garden - Tips include Good Design; No-dig Gardens; Choosing Plants Wisely; Mulch + more. Dig in!

 

Easy Garden Ideas

 

1. Good Design

  • One of the secrets to less work in your garden is thoughtful planning. You may feel overwhelmed if you aim for perfection. I spend time applying Permaculture principles to ‘design out’ potential problems. You can refine and add to your plan later.
  • Begin one project at a time. A simple DIY edible planter is a good place to start. Once you gain confidence, you can create the next element in your garden.
  • Locate your edible containers and food gardens close to your kitchen for easy access.

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9 Foods You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps

Are you growing an edible garden? One easy way to save money is to grow some of your plants for free. How? From leftover food scraps that are often thrown away!

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps | The Micro Gardener

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

 

You may already be composting your kitchen ‘waste’. That’s a great way to build a healthy soil. However, it may save you money to be selective before throwing everything into your compost system. There are many plant parts that can help you propagate new plants. For minimal effort and no cost.

 

Why Should You Only Regrow Organic Food?

  • First, a word of warning! For health reasons, I suggest you select organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Too expensive? So is the cost of poor health! I think safe food is one of the best investments we can make.
  • Sadly, non-organic produce is grown using chemicals. Not just one spray either. It’s commonly a cocktail of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and other -icides. These are applied during the growth cycle and even after harvesting. These are often systemic chemicals. That means you can’t wash them off the skin. The chemicals are absorbed internally into the plant tissues through soil and water. Root crops like potatoes are especially vulnerable. Other crops are genetically modified or imported and radiated.

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4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 2

Do you want an abundant harvest? If so, you can improve pollination by making your garden more attractive to pollinators.

4-Steps-to-Improve-Pollination-and-Your-Harvests-Part-2-wm-e1429593747707

There are easy things you can do to get lots more food on the table.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed pollination problems in depth and the FIRST STEP you can take: Eliminate ALL chemicals from your garden.

What other ways can you improve pollination and your harvests? Read on for 3 more practical steps you can take to work with nature for mutually beneficial outcomes:

  1. Learn to hand pollinate your crops
  2. Provide insect hotels for pollinators
  3. Plant bee-friendly flowers

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4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 1

Are you ever disappointed with your harvests? Do you ever notice flowers and baby fruits forming only to drop, wither and die? If so, don’t despair! There ARE solutions to help improve pollination and ensure you have an abundant harvest.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature to grow your food.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you.

 

You may be happy with your current edible yields, but it’s very likely you can improve your harvest even further. One of the secrets is about give-and-take relationships in your garden.

I work with nature to get the most from my Kitchen Garden. You may have a different climate and growing season, but the principles for a productive garden are basically the same wherever you live. I hope these tips will help boost your harvest.

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