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Grow a veritable fruit salad in containers on your patio


Wow! Last week’s column brought more calls and letters than any before!

I am thrilled to know that so many of Tucson’s gardeners are so plant savvy! Yes blueberries have a number of nutritional qualities that have brought them darn close to “wonder food” status. And as so many pointed out – yes they are expensive to get in the stores. So this is great that we can now grow blueberries and actually set fruit (lots of it) in our low chill area.

As I was posing plants for the photo, I started thinking that a wonderful combination would be a blueberry bush with strawberry plants as ground cover in a large pot. Not only would you get two kinds of berries out of one pot, but the strawberries will act as a great shade producer to keep the roots of the blueberries cool. In addition to that, because strawberries grow in a manner that produces many plantlets on runners, eventually, the entire outside of the pot could be clothed in strawberry plants, extending the area for production of that fruit.

There are so many edible plants that can be grown in a container. Blackberries or raspberries have small root systems and could happily live in a container. They are deciduous, so they wouldn’t be gorgeous all year long, but it could certainly be successful!

Grapes are another deciduous fruit that could live in a large container. They make woody, sizable canes that require support, so they would need to be grown by a wall or fence for some type of trellising. There are strong metal trellises, many beautifully ornamental, that are made to be used in pots. Be aware that grape vines can become very heavy, so trellises need to be attached securely, and good pruning practices followed in the winter months.

There are many dwarf fruit trees that will live happily in a container their whole life. The citrus category has many small trees – kumquats, limequats and limes are naturally smaller trees. Mandarin oranges or tangerines offer many options and the fact that most citrus is grafted gives us the option of using plants on a dwarf or semi dwarf rootstock to ensure they will stay small. The trees with smaller fruits make the most sense, as trees need heavy branches to hold the heavier fruits.

It is quite possible to grow a dwarf grapefruit in a pot, but the amount of fruit one could obtain might not be satisfactory. In the stone fruits, peaches and nectarines have had the most effort made in hybridizing genetic dwarf cultivars for pot culture. There is a luscious dwarf fig called the Black Jack fig, very much like Black Mission but on a much smaller tree.

Could you have an entire garden of Eden in pots on your patio? Very possibly! One of the most important factors in keeping trees that will live their entire life in a pot happy is to make sure they don’t want for water or fertilizer. Obviously, their roots can’t go looking for it, so that is your job! Happy Eating!

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.


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