Growing Fruit In Small Spaces

Small Fruit Varieties to Fit Any Garden


By Kim Toscano

You don’t need a huge garden to grow fresh fruit. Try growing one of these small fruit varieties.

It is easier than ever to grow fresh produce in your own backyard with small fruit varieties perfect for containers, kitchen gardens, or mingling among ornamental plantings. The abundance of improved ornamental fruit varieties in recent years has been stunning. Plant breeders are working hard to fuse the edible qualities of our favorite fruits with ornamental characteristics and improved disease-resistance. The results are low maintenance small fruit plants that fit any sized garden.

Small Fruit Varieties for Containers

Gardeners with limited space or poor soils often grow small fruits in containers. In fact, with my alkaline soils, growing blueberries in a container is easier than growing them in the garden. Blueberries need an acidic peat-based soil, which is easy to maintain in the confined space of a patio pot. Bushel and Berry® offers several varieties, including Peach Sorbet® and Pink Icing® Blueberries, with unique foliage colors and a compact size perfect for pots.

Also from Bushel and Berry®, the thornless Raspberry Shortcake® is a compact raspberry that requires no staking or trellising. It grows in a tidy mound reaching two to three feet and produces loads of sweet berries in summer.

Another small fruit line bred with the patio garden in mind is the Berries Galore® series of strawberries. With large-flowered pink- and rose-colored varieties, plants are ornamental and produce sweet berries over a long season.

For fig lovers, Little Ruby™ and ‘Little Miss Figgy’ are good selections for containers or small garden beds. These dwarf varieties grow 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. Gardeners in colder climates will need to bring containers indoors over the winter.

When growing fruits in containers, be sure to use large pots and increase pot size from year to year as plants grow. Pay close attention to water needs, as containers dry out faster than ground soil.

Small Fruit Varieties with Ornamental Flair

Many small fruit plants are as beautiful as they are productive. Blueberries come to mind. With bell-shaped flowers in spring and vibrant shades of red and orange foliage in autumn, blueberries make beautiful hedges. The foliage of Bountiful Blue™ has an incredible blue sheen that holds through the heat of summer and turns a brilliant maroon in fall.

With gorgeous deeply lobed foliage, figs make a lovely focal point in the garden. A variety of cultivars have been selected for cold hardiness, allowing gardeners to grow figs in places we never dreamed. ‘Chicago’, Brown Turkey’, and ‘Ramsey’ are among the hardiest fig varieties.

In the world of strawberries, we see new flower colors, larger blossoms and compact plant forms making plants ever more appealing as groundcovers or spilling out of containers. ‘Tristan’ is a fruitful variety with large, magenta-pink blooms and dark green foliage. Fruits develop on long hanging stems perfect for hanging baskets.

Small Fruit Varieties for Mixed Beds and Borders

Edible plants have long been grown in isolated locations such as herb gardens, vegetable gardens, or orchards. These plants can easily be integrated into ornamental planting beds to maximize the productivity of our landscapes. This practice is particularly useful where garden space is limited.

Think about the ornamental features of edibles when incorporating them into mixed beds or container plantings. Take advantage of structural elements such as the long flowing limbs of Prime-Ark® ‘Freedom’ Thornelss Blackberry or plant ‘Carolina Belle’ peach tree as a focal point. Large edible shrubs like elderberries can be used to create a backdrop for smaller plants.

Serviceberry (also called shadbush, Juneberry and saskatoon) is a native fruit that makes a wonderful addition to the landscape. Often grown as an ornamental for its smooth bark, white spring flowers, and colorful fall foliage, most serviceberries grow as large shrubs or small trees. A compact variety called ‘Regent’ produces abundant fruit on a shrub that matures to 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, making it an ideal candidate for planting beds. Another exciting new variety, ‘Standing Ovation’ grows as a narrow, columnar tree. Both produce an abundance of delicious, deep purple berries.

Whether your garden is in a collection of pots on an apartment porch, a small urban lot, or a roomy suburban landscape, there is a small fruit variety perfect for your little corner of the world.