Choosing and Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees
Size: Common available sizes of fruit trees are Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf and Standard.
Dwarf: Small trees for small spaces. Dwarf fruit trees can do well in an 8' diameter plot. They are easy to prune and harvest because they don't grow tall. The fruit is normal size, but the yield is less because of the smaller tree size. Dwarf trees are not as long-lived as the larger trees. Most dwarf trees begin bearing fruit in 3 to 5 years.
Semi-dwarf: Medium-sized trees which require an area of about 15' diameter. Semi-dwarfs can range in height from 10 to 16' and need annual pruning to keep the height down and the shape balanced. Very productive, this size tree will produce hundreds of fruit per season. Occassionally, trees will take a year off and produce little or no fruit, especially after a season of heavy production. Most fruit trees planted today are semi-dwarf, because they produce a large crop from a tree with manageable size for pruning and harvesting.
How to Grow Dwarf Fruit Trees in Containers
Dwarf fruit trees will grow either in the ground or in a container, but in a container has definite advantages. Containers are easier to relocate, making it easier to keep trees in a warm environment during the winter. Containers will also allow fruit trees to be in areas where space is limited, since even a small patio can hold at least one tree.
1 Choose a container large enough to hold the root ball of the tree and provide room for growth. Only use containers that have drainage holes. Pour 1 to 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the container. This will facilitate draining so that the roots are not left sitting in water.
2 Fill the container 3/4 full with loose potting soil. Place the roots of the tree on top of the soil and spread them gently. Fill the container the rest of the way with potting soil until the roots are completely covered. Do not bury any part of the tree trunk. Pat the soil down lightly
3 Add enough water to the soil to make it damp several inches down, but do not soak it to the point of being waterlogged. Monitor the soil for dryness and add water when the soil is dry to the touch.
4 Place the container in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day. The temperature needs to be warm for fruit production, so move the plant indoors during the winter months.
5 Feed your fruit tree with fertilizer formula that is high in nitrogen. Use the fertilizer according to package directions, taking caution not to overfeed.
Care of Fruit Trees in containers
Care of fruit trees begins with suitable light conditions. Most miniature fruit trees do best in full sunlight, but some may also do well in partial shade, depending on the type of dwarf fruit tree you have. Generally, container fruit trees should be placed where they will receive maximum sunlight.
They should also be watered only as needed, depending the species of fruit tree, the type and size of its container, and its surroundings. For most dwarf fruit trees, the soil surface should be allowed to dry out some before watering. Fertilizing, however, should be done more often, at least once every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
To Control Fruit Tree Growth in Pots.
Fruit trees in pots should be repotted every year or two after leaf fall. When your tree has reached it's mature size, it should be root pruned every other year and replaced back in it's pot with roughly 20% new soil. Root pruning for this purpose should remove at least the outer inch of roots. In years when the plant isn't being root pruned, you should mulch the soil well with organic material or add new compost to the top of the pot.
A single semi-dwarf apple tree, for example, can produce up to 500 apples in a season, with a productive life of 15 to 20 years. Several trees, with different harvest times, can bring fruit to your table 8 months of the year. Consider the benefits of planting your own fruit trees:
Regular pruning is sometimes necessary for proper care of fruit trees to maintain the shape of your miniature fruit tree. Most pruning is performed during dormancy, just before active growth begins in spring. However, summer pruning may be done to remove undesirable growth and maintain smaller tree size.
Several methods of pruning produce fruit trees of a more manageable size. These trees may be on regular root stock, but are more often on a dwarf rootstock chosen for a particular size. Espaliers, where the trees are flat on a set of wires on a building or between posts, or cordons, where single straight branches are interwoven to create fence patterns are the two most common types of controlled pruning.
Any variety can be espaliered or as a cordon which makes them useful for decorative fences or flat against the protection of a wall. Cherry trees, often difficult as dwarfs (a dwarf cherry may still be more than 20 feet tall) can be made shorter if pruned against the wall as an espaliered cherry and are easier to protect from bird damage.
Defend against Apple Maggots.
The apple maggot is the most destructive pest of apples grown in home orchards. This insect is a type of fly which pierces the skin of ripening fruit and lays eggs. In 5 - 10 days, the eggs hatch a maggot which burrows through the fruit. These pests can be managed by using sticky red sphere traps. Hang one trap for every 100 apples in a tree.
There are numerous insect pests which can affect the production of your fruit trees. Insect pest invasions are often cyclical, and may persist through one season but not appear the following year. It helps to keep an annual record of fruit tree performance so you can identify problems which persist longer than one season, as well as which trees are most susceptible to pest problems.