How to grow a mini fruit orchard

What better way to start a summer’s day than stepping out of your back door and picking a delicious, tangy blueberry or fragrant strawberry?

Growing your own fruit and veg is always hugely satisfying, and to my mind, it’s even better when it’s easy and there’s no digging involved. 

Bring a bit of your allotment into the garden and grow some mini fruit on small patio in pots.

If you buy potted plants much later, you risk damaging the flowers or developing fruit and sacrificing your home-grown harvests.

If you want to save money, there are bargains to be had as bare-root plants are still just available from specialist nurseries and mail order.

Peach

The range of peaches an nectarines available today shows you the skill of the nurseryman and plant breeder.

Gone are the days when you need a huge greenhouse to cultivate them.

Now you can grow these fruits at home, on the tiniest patio, as long as it’s sheltered and sunny. Dwarf peaches really are tiny.

You can buy them as ready-grown pot plants just a couple of feet tall, ready to fruit away this year.

They’ve long, glossy leaves and attractive pink blossom early in the year so put them in the best container you can afford as you won’t want to hide them away!

As they flower so early, frost can damage flowers and reduce your crop. If a freeze is forecast during the flowering period, wrap the plants in fleece overnight.

Alternatively, keep your potted peach and nectarine trees in an unheated greenhouse from November until mid-May.

This can also help prevent peach leaf curl, a fungal disease that can harm both peaches and nectarines.

Early flowering means they can miss out on the services of bees, so it’s worth pollinating them by hand.

Wait for a sunny day and gently dab the centre of each flower with a soft paintbrush.

Try peach ‘Crimson Bonfire’ from www.pomonafruits.co.uk or nectarine ‘Nectarella’ from www.chrisbowers.co.uk.

Cherries

Cherries are so rewarding – not only do you get pretty, white blossom in the spring and lots of juicy fruit in the summer, but often they’ll give you good autumn colour, too.

There are various dwarf cherries available. If you’re unsure, look for the rootstock ‘Gisela’ or ‘Colt’.

Give them a sunny spot and a generous-size container (60cm/24in or more), and don’t forget to net them against greedy birds who love them as much as we do!

Put the net over as soon as the fruits start to change from green to red.

Many old cherry varieties need a pollination partner, so make sure when you buy your plant that it’s a self-fertile variety, such as ‘Celeste’, ‘Compact Stella’ or ‘Sunburst’.

It’s also worth noting that different varieties are different colours when they’re ripe – some will be yellow blushed with red, some almost scarlet, and some are near black, so don’t pick them under-ripe or they won’t taste as good!

Available from www. pomonafruits.co.uk and www.ashridgetrees.co.uk.

Mini rhubarb

Suitable for even the tiniest patio, this has to be seen to be believed.

Bred in Europe and sold under the name ‘Lilibarber’, this new, tiny rhubarb grows to just 30cm (12in) high!

Luckily it doesn’t stop producing new stalks in the summer, like most traditional varieties of rhubarb, so you can harvest from spring right through to autumn.

Don’t reach for the custard just yet though. 

The stalks are so tiny they need to be considered more of a garnish than a main ingredient.

Apparently they’re delicious simply dipped in sugar and eaten raw.

Available from www.lubera.co.uk.