Growing fruit trees in pots is a fantastic solution if you want to produce fruit for your family, but you may not be in your forever home, or don't have the acreage for a full orchard. Learn the tips for success including which fruit trees grow best in pots, which containers are best, plus tips to make sure your trees grow and produce fruit for years to come.
In today's episode, we're talking about growing your own mini fruit garden, specifically growing fruit trees in containers, which types of trees grow best in containers, which containers are best to use, and tips to make sure you have success and longevity of these trees when growing them in containers.
I have a lot of experience on how to grow fruit trees, when to plant fruit trees in an orchard, how to care for fruit trees in the fall and winter, how to treat fruit trees organically, utilizing fruit tree guilds, and even how many berry bushes and fruit trees you need to plant per person, but I don't have experience growing fruit trees in containers, especially types that don't grow natively in my area.
But I also know many people who would like to grow fruit trees, but maybe they're not in their forever home, maybe they're renting, or perhaps they don't have the exact climate to grow the right variety of trees.
I'm so excited to have Christy from Gardenerd on the Pioneering Today Podcast (episode #313) because she's going to talk about how you can grow fruit trees in pots to be able to take advantage of micro-climates, what you need to know if you have really cold winters or extreme temperatures, picking the right size container, and she has some fabulous tips to help keep the fruit for ourselves and not let the critters get it first!
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Benefits of Growing Fruit Trees in Containers
- You can move them to take advantage of sunny spots and micro-climates.
- You can move them if you're not in your forever home, or possibly renting.
- You can grow varieties that wouldn't normally grow in your climate.
Selecting the Right Fruit Tree to Grow in Pots
The important thing to research is rootstock. For those not familiar with this, the rootstock is the base of a grafted tree and it's determined by the species that grafting onto it. It also determines the size of the tree at maturity.
Sizes of Trees
There are four sizes of trees that you can choose from standard, semi-dwarf, dwarf, and miniature.
- Standard-sized trees are going to grow to an average 15-30 feet tall.
- Semi-dwarf will grow to about 50-75% of the standard size.
- Dwarf will be about 30-50% of the standard.
- Miniature will be even smaller than that.
When buying a tree, Christy recommends choosing the smallest size possible. If you're growing fruit for yourself or your family, it's ideal to keep the tree pruned to the size that you can easily reach and manage all the fruit.
If you can't reach the fruit at the top of the tree without significant effort, it's likely that fruit will get eaten by the birds, the squirrels, or other critters before you can get to it.
Best Size Tree to Buy
Miniature varieties of trees are harder to find, it's likely that semi-dwarf or dwarf are the sizes you'll find at your local nurseries and the size Christy recommends buying.
What to Know About Rootstock
Rootstock is the part of the tree that's underground and has a well-developed root system. It's often the rootstock that another tree (or the bud from another tree) is grafted to.
Rootstock is often selected for either its disease resistance or soil-born issue resistance such as root-rot, anthracnose, or other pathogens that are living in the soil.
If you're planning on using soil from your yard, it's important to know what pathogens or diseases live in your soil to make sure you're buying a fruit tree that has the right resistances.
Can I Plant Standard-Size Fruit Trees in Pots?
I was curious if you could get a standard-sized fruit tree and just keep it pruned back to keep it a smaller size so that it would be just fine in a pot.
Christy's recommendation is that you can actually manipulate a tree to keep to a smaller size as long as you start it from a young age. Don't try and take a fully mature tree and prune it down to a smaller size as you could do significant damage to the tree.
Best Pot Size for Fruit Trees
Something to consider about fruit trees is that their roots like to grow out as far as the dripline, but in a pot, they're unable to do this, so what happens is the roots circle around each other (or air prune depending on the container) and can sometimes get rootbound.
Christy recommends starting with a container that's at least 20-inches in diameter and at least 24 inches in height.
Best Type of Pot for Fruit Trees
Ultimately it's an aesthetic and budgetary choice for the type of pot you want for your fruit tree. But Christy definitely recommends getting it out of the black nursery pots they come in as soon as possible because black attracts heat and this can negatively affect the roots if left in too long.
Here are the pros and cons of the different materials for pots…
Plastics are less expensive but do become brittle over time from sun exposure. Replacing a mature fruit tree, even if it is dwarf or semi-dwarf is no easy task. The benefits of plastic pots are that they're lighter and easier to move, they're less porous so the plant dries out more slowly, and they're cheap.
Ceramic un-glazed pots are more porous so they'll dry out more quickly. They're much more aesthetically pleasing and they age well over time.
Ceramic glazed pots will retain moisture well, they're also aesthetically pleasing and age well over time.
Stone pots are more expensive, however, if you're in a place where you have heavy wind, the pots will hold the trees in place. But it's important for your stone pots that you're not planning to move the trees around much as they're much more difficult to move.
Put Pots on a Saucer or Patio
Because fruit trees like to naturally spread their roots out, it's important to place your pots either elevated off the ground, on a patio or other solid surface, or in trays so the roots don't grow through the holes and into the ground.
To see what happens when this happens, and how to save it, check out Christy's YouTube video where she saved a pot-bound tree.
Bottom line, you will either have to sacrifice your pot or the tree in order to save it, so learn from Christy's mistake and place it on a saucer, or elevated from the ground where the roots will be air pruned.
How to Care for Trees in Pots
Over time, there will be some care and maintenance the tree will need in order to keep it growing and producing well.
Every few years, removing the tree from the pot, adding in new soil, and giving the roots a trim will help keep the tree happy and healthy.
Christy says, if proper care is given, the tree can remain happy and healthy for its lifetime. But you can also transplant the trees into the ground if you'd like.
Tips for Balconies & Small Patios
For those who live in a home or apartment with small balconies or patios, there are some tips Christy has for growing trees in a small space. The two methods she discusses in-depth in her book, Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden, are espalier and multi-fruit trees.
Espalier is growing a fruit tree (or ornamental shrub) whose branches are trained to grow flat against a wall or other two-dimensional spaces. If you only have a small strip of dirt or a pot on the side of a patio against a wall, you can plant a fruit tree and the roots will grow around the wall (or in the pot), then the wall itself will act as a trellis.
This is a great way to utilize a small space but still grow your own food.
Multi-fruit trees are another great option if you want to grow multiple varieties of fruit but only have space for one tree.
A multi-fruit tree is where many different varieties of the same species are grafted onto one trunk. You can grow a multi-stone fruit tree that will have two branches each of plum, nectarine, peach, and apricot, and this tree can occupy the space of one tree with the benefit of four or five different fruits.
The trick with these multi-fruit trees is that one variety will tend to want to take over and it's usually the one facing south. This is where pruning will come into play to help keep the aggressive branch held back until the others catch up. It's much easier to prune back the assertive branch than to get the others to catch up.
Fruit Trees in Winter
What do you do with fruit trees if you live in an area where the weather gets very cold in winter? Christy says she recommends talking to a local nursery to see what they do with their fruit trees during the winter.
Sometimes people will bring their fruit trees indoors in the winter, or maybe into a garage or other protected area. Other times people will wrap their trees with straw or blankets, but you'll want to be sure whatever method you use is ideal for the tree and your area.
Tips to Keep Critters Away
It's just a fact that when growing food we're going to have to take measures to keep critters away. I'm talking deer, birds, squirrels, bugs, and other unwanted pests.
There are many methods to keeping pests at bay, but the first line of defense is to know which pests are getting to your fruit, then you can choose the right method of protection.
In my area our biggest concern are deer. There are a lot of misnomers around about what keeps deer away from trees: human hair, nets, flashing ribbons, CDs, etc. What I've found is that these things work for a week or two, then the deer tend not to care about them.
If deer, squirrels, or birds are getting to your fruit trees you can wrap deer netting around the exterior of your fruit tree to keep them from stripping the branches.
Some birds and tricky squirrels will be able to find their way through this netting, but for deer, this is the best line of defense.
Some people like to drape the netting over the top of the trees to keep birds out. If you're concerned about the netting damaging young trees, put some stakes into the pot with tennis balls on top, then drape the netting over the stakes to keep it from touching the tree.
Tangle Foot/Tree Guards
There are other methods such as a tree guard that can help protect the base of the tree from deer chewing on the bark. Then to keep the squirrels from climbing up the tree guard you can add some tangle foot.
There are various sprays out there that are known to keep pests away, but they tend to have varying reviews and, if you live in an area with rain, you may need to reapply often.
In Christy's area, she has very assertive rats that don't mind any of the sprays, so they use traps to capture the rats and keep them from getting to their fruit.
Want to Learn More?
You can learn more and follow Christy over at Gardenerd.com where you can take a look at her blog, shop, podcast, and more. Give her a follow on Facebook and Instagram, and check out her helpful YouTube videos on her channel here.
Christy welcome to the pioneering today podcast. I'm really excited to chat with you today.
Thank you so much, Melissa. I'm happy to be here. Yeah.
Well, this is an area we were chatting right before we started to record. And then I'm like, okay, we got to say this from we're actually recording. Um, that I, I have a lot of experience. I was explaining to Christie. I have a lot of experience with growing fruit trees and orchards and Berry bushes, but I don't have any experience growing them in containers. And so I'm really excited for her to talk to us about that along with some other stuff, if you're like, well, I still want to grow fruit trees and not necessarily just in containers, it's going to pertain to that. But we also are really going to talk about that because I know a lot of you have been contacting me and saying that you are not in your forever homestead yet. Some of you are renting or some of you know, you're looking at property and you want to move soon, but you want to get a jumpstart on some of your fruit and your perennials.
And especially with fruit trees and being able to grow those in containers, uh, definitely allows you to do that. And then you can take them with you, but even with growing either in the ground or in containers, um, there's a lot of things with fruit that I feel like feels a little bit, uh, not really mystical is the right word, but people are, have a lot of questions that it's a little bit more complicated than just going and picking out a garden plant to put in like your annual vegetable garden, like a tomato or describing a packet of seeds and growing, you know, carrots or something like that with the fruit trees. So Christie let's kind of start at the beginning, so to speak. And what is it that people need to know about selecting the right fruit tree?
Well, from the very beginning, if you're going to be growing in a container, the end, even if you're not, if you're going to be growing in the ground, the important thing to look for or do your research about is root stock. And for those who are not familiar with rootstock, rootstock is, uh, the base of a grafted tree. And rootstock is usually determined by the species that's being grafted onto it. It has to be compatible and it also determines the size of the tree at maturity. So standard sized trees are going to grow to be, you know, anywhere from depending on the type of tree you're growing from, you know, 15 to 20 to 30 feet tall, a semi dwarf will grow to about 75% of that. Or, you know, between 50 to 75%, a dwarf will be somewhere between 30 and 50% and a miniature will be even smaller than that, which they're kind of hard to find, but you can sometimes find those, those, uh, out there.
And the other thing about rootstock that's important is that most of the time they are selected for either disease resistance or, uh, soil-borne issue resistance like root rot or anthrax or other pathogens that are living in soil. So if you are not, if you are planting in the ground, do you want to select a variety that is going to work in the soil that you have, or no, no. What diseases your soil has find out what diseases and drainage issues that you have and then choose the smallest size tree you can. And I know that sounds weird, but that is what I recommend for small space gardeners. Uh, and the reason is that when you, you know, most of us are choosing trees because we imagine them big, or maybe we grew up in houses that had big giant trees. But if you remember, like how, who got the tree, the fruit who got the tree fruit at the top, did you get the fruit at the top? Or did the squirrels get the fruit at the top? Right? Or
The birds? Oh, the birds are my plague. Yeah. Right.
So the birds, the raccoons, the squirrels, the rats, whatever you name it, um, having a large tree that you can't harvest is in my mind, it's like, what's the point? Okay. Yes. It might provide some shade for you and that's great, uh, and habitat for other lives on the planet, which is also great. But if you're growing fruit for yourself, the idea is to have a small tree, keep it pruned, and we can talk about, I'm sure we're going to dive into that in a bit, keep it pruned to the size that you can reach. And then, uh, the trees rootstock we'll keep it to a decent size. So it won't overwhelm your yard, your small space. Uh, so that's one of the, that's really the place to start. And then yeah, we can go, we'll go down this rabbit hole with more quick. Yeah.
I actually, I do have a couple of questions because, um, one, I have not, I did not actually realize there was a tree category, I guess, variety smaller than dwarf. So you mentioned miniature. So, and I know you said that those can be hard to find, but for someone who's listening, I know they're going to have the same question I do. Like I haven't seen those at our local nurseries. Have you found them online? Is there like specific online nurseries where you've seen miniature or do you have any tips for finding miniature fruit trees? If someone is like, I need the tiniest possible and that's going to be a miniature.
Yeah. You know, the only real example I've seen of, of miniature out in my world is there's a, there's a particular type of pomegranate that is a miniature and it's meant to be grown in a pot. And it, it it's really tiny and it makes little tiny pomegranates, or actually it makes full pomegranates, but they're, it's a, like a little Bush and it's, you know, that kind of thing. So you, you w most people at the nurseries will find semi dwarf as the smallest or dwarf as the smallest variety. So semi dwarf is the bigger dwarf is the smaller, and if you can get that and that's, that's the direction I would go for those people. Yeah, yeah. Especially
With in containers or small spaces. I absolutely agree. In fact, we have lots of acreage, but I knew I wanted multiple trees and lots of them and fitting them in one specific section of our property. So almost all of mine are semi doors, not all, but a good portion of mine are actually semi dwarf instead of standard. Which brings me to my next question though. Cause we were talking about rootstock and why rootstock is selected for various reasons as you just outlined for us. But if you say you like, oh, I already bought a standard and it was small, you know, it was like a whip or it was just a, one-year old, you know, bare root stock for example. And I potted it in this big pot, but it is a standard. Can you just with pruning practices, keep that as a small tree or is it still best to go with the rootstock of an actual sidewalk or dwarf or can your pruning practices keep it whatever size you need beet or is it a combination of both?
Well, it is a combination of both. Um, anything that isn't pruned is going to do, what nature intended and, uh, you know, also the idea behind pruning is not to wreck the tree. You don't want to butcher a tree. And so with a standard it's going to have, you know, nature intends for it to grow to 15 to 20 feet taller more. But with pruning, especially as a young tree with, you know, a whip like you mentioned, or, or a bare root, you're going to be able to manipulate that tree a bit more. And it won't, it won't suffer as much. If you were trying to cut back an already established standard tree to the S to the height that you desire, you're really having to butcher the tree in order to do that. So from a young age, you can manipulate a tree a lot better. I think so. So it is a little bit of both, um, in containers. It's also about the root system and, you know, roots and trees, they go out and down or especially out as far as the drip line. And when it, in a container, of course they can't do that. So they're going to circle or air prune depending on what kind of container you've put them in. And so the, the more appropriate size you can get of a tree for a container, the happier it will be.
And that makes perfect sense. So I love that you actually brought up air pruning because we just had an, a previous episode where we're talking about grow bags and why they can be really beneficial as a container because of the air pruning factor and stopping, you know, the circling of, of routes. So, um, listeners are, are familiar with that, but in regards to containers for fruit trees, um, do you have best, I mean, obviously pick, I feel like as a large of container as possible, the tree is going to do better, but as far as depth versus width, or as we just mentioned grow bag, you know, versus a different type of material, is your container, do you kind of have some best practices or things to consider when people are going that route?
Yeah. I usually recommend starting with a 20 inch diameter and height up to 24 inch diameter and height, like the best that's going to be the best thing for fruit trees. Almost always whiskey barrels, you know, half whiskey barrels are great too, cause they're nice and wide and they're pretty deep as well. Um, and depending on the variety, for example, citrus trees actually don't mind being a little compacted into a, into a container. Um, whereas others are going to really try and grow out the root, um, grow their roots down through the drainage hole, which has happened to me. And I've written about it in the book. Um, put your stuff on a sauce or, or on a cement patio or someplace where if you're putting it on soil elevate it so that it doesn't this other roots don't grow through the drainage hole. Cause that's a fun rescue attempt later on in life. Let me tell you,
Okay. I love that. I love that you've shared that tip because sometimes there's things until you've done it and you have no idea that it's even, that it's even going to happen. It's something that you need to be worn or thinking about ahead of time. So I love, I love getting to talk to folks who have had lots of your life experience. It could be like, Hey, this is one thing you really need to pay attention to because that's not something that's often talked about really, when you talk about growing fruit trees and containers, um, is that aspect, but yeah, that would not be very much fun. Did the tree survive? I have to ask now.
Yeah. So, so one of the things I did a YouTube video about it, actually, if you search Gardener's YouTube channel for how to save a pot bound tree, uh, you'll find it, it was an apple tree and the basically you have to sacrifice either the tree or the pot in most cases, because the roots that grow through sometimes they may be just feeder roots and it's not a big deal if you cut them off, but I have killed a tree that way by cutting off a tree, the roots in order to save the pot. And in my case, it was a terracotta pot that I didn't care too much about. So I broke the pot, released the absolutely anaerobic garbage smelling root ball from its, from its prison. And it was awful and let it dry down a little, you know, for maybe half an hour while I dug the hole and then, uh, put it in the ground and it's full of little baby apples right now.
Um, so it's doing its thing a couple of years later and it's survived and it's thriving in its new home in the ground. Um, yeah, so I had it on, on the ground in the soil. I mean, I had it in a pot that was sitting on soil with no saucer or elevation underneath it. So it drove, it drove itself straight through the drainage hole. And then of course that blocked any drainage and it just filled up with water and became sad and it dropped off the sleeves and I thought I was going to lose it, but it's fine. Yeah.
Oh, I love a happy ending. So I'm glad to hear, I'm glad to hear that it made it, which actually, so that was a terracotta pot, which kind of leads me to the next thing. We talked about size, um, for fruit trees and having them elevated. But as far as the actual pot material, are there some that are more preferred than others?
I think it's more of an aesthetic and, and a budgetary choice that people make. So, you know, I try to stay away from, you know, get the pot, get the plants out of the black nursery pot as soon as you can because black absorbs heat. And, uh, that's really gonna fry the roots if you're in a really hot place that gets a really high temperatures for an extended period of time. Uh, but in terms of the difference between plastic ceramic wood, um, terracotta stone, those kinds of things, it's plastics are less expensive, but they do become brittle over time. And I do have a tree in a big giant plastic pot and it is, it has a gaping hole in the side of it from where the root ball has pressed its way through and it's split open and I'm just like, God, I really need to transplant this.
Um, but it's also grown through the drainage hole and is anchored in the ground. It's doing really well despite its circumstances. Um, so, you know, and then so plastic is brittle but cheap. Um, it photo degrades over time. It also is not poorest. So it holds water a little bit better when you get into the ceramic, you know, unglazed pots, those are more poorest and they will dry out more quickly, but they're, they're a little more aesthetically pleasing and they age well over time. And then the glazed pots are usually more expensive. They hold water better, uh, because they're, they're sealed on the outside and then stone is really heavy. So if you, if you are growing in a place with high winds and you have a swimming pool do by the heavier more expensive pots, because they will hold that tree in, you know, in place during a windstorm, instead of what my parents did, where they had ficus trees in plastic pots around the pool, and they'd always end up in the pool always every summer and be in the pool. So it happened
That happens. Okay. Those are really good tips to know, um, and really for longevity of a tree. So say you're like, okay, I'm starting these in, in containers, but I think we're, you know, within a year or two, our hope is that we'll be moving to someplace bigger or a different spot. So we want to take these trees with us. So, you know, the assumption is they're just going to be in pots for maybe a year or two, but then, you know, life can throw a surprises or plans change or whatever. So I guess what I'm getting at with here and where I'm going is is can you grow a tree in a pot basically like forever or for the lifespan of the tree, you know, like say 10 years or so. Um, and I know like you may, as the tree grows, um, you may need to pot up depending upon how small it was when you got it and the size that you put it on. But I mean, will a tree be successful if it has to stay in a container for its lifespan,
I've seen some pretty mature trees in 24 inch boxes, you know, big, really large containers. Um, it does, it does happen. You may have to report it. Sometimes you have to take the tree out, add some fresh soil on the bottom, trim the roots a little bit and put it back in. Um, generally speaking, the trees I've grown have wanted to be in soil after awhile. Excuse me.
There it is. That frog jumped out, jumped out.
Uh, um, let's see, generally speaking, uh, but I know with good care and proper above ground pruning, you will be able to keep a tree fairly happy in a container for the life of the, of the tree. Yeah.
Okay. So for those who are growing in really small spaces like balconies or small patios, or maybe just like a little nook type porch area that gets, you know, sunlight, um, do you have any, you know, really good tricks for those really small spaces?
Sure. W w two of the things we explore in grow your own mini fruit garden is the idea of multi fruit trees and a [inaudible] techniques. And [inaudible], I'll start with, cause that's basically growing some tree in a two dimensional space. So up against a wall, uh, in a small, you know, if you only have a little one foot strip of soil along your building, you can stick it in there. And the roots will develop below concrete or whatever is in the way. Uh, and the wall is going to serve as the trellis for this tree that you can train in both directions. And it won't stick out too much into the space that you, you know, your, your, your space that you occupy. Um, and you can do this with, uh, uh, stone fruits. You can do it with Palm fruits. So apples, pears, quince, you can do it with pretty much anything.
Citrus is a little trickier because citrus really is a Bush type of tree and it wants to grow in all directions, but with all the other types of fruit trees, you can pretty much do that. And then the other thing, and the other thing and the other, the other, um, um, what am I saying? Yeah. The other technique that I spoke about was multi fruit trees. And that is where many different varieties of the same of the same species are grafted a single trunk. So you can have a multi fruit, stone, fruit tree that has two branches, each have plum nectarine, peach and apricots, and that can occupy the space of one tree, but you're getting four different or five different, you know, fruits from it. Um, the trick about multi fruits is that one species, one variety will tend to take over. And it's usually the one that's facing south. So it is up to us to use what I call the iron fist of pruning to keep that aggressive, uh, branch held back until the others catch up. Cause it's, it's much easier to prune back the assertive branches than to encourage the others to grow. So that is the trick.
Okay. That is a really great tip because I actually have, it's really funny. I actually have one multi fruit, apple tree and it's now, oh my goodness. I think it's like, it's in the ground, but it's like, oh, how old is that thing now? Like 12 or 13 years. Um, yeah. And, and I've really noticed that that though, and it is the Southern side that is so funny. Um, but it's really, that's the predominant apple that I get off of. It, there's a, there's two other branches that are a different apple variety type and they do produce, but not anywhere near the amount that the other one has. And I just thought, I'm like, well, maybe that was the root stock and they just grafted the other branches on and that's why it is. But, but now that you say that I'm like, oh, it's, it is the Southern exposure side.
So perhaps that's the reason why too. I thought that was very interesting. Um, but I have a question for containers and that's specifically because I live in a more Northern and a cool climate and I get a lot of people are asking if you live in a, in a climate and you're growing in containers, especially with perennials and something like the fruit tree. Now I know fruit trees, especially in regards to chill hours, need some of that cold weather and they need to go into dormancy in order to be able to produce fruit. But do you have to be more careful and aware of freezing damage when they are above grounded in, in the pot? And what kind of would those temperatures, would you say, like, this is what you need to be aware of or to think about. Do you need to wrap them or are they usually find, unless you hit like a certain temperature? How does that work?
Yeah. And it's different for, uh, depending on where you live. Cause there are all these microclimates even in your own backyard, you've got a different micro-climate on one side VR than you do in the other. And it's, uh, I've talked to a number of people I've spoken with someone who lives in Canada and his approach is different from someone who lives in Ohio. Um, you know, some people bring their potted trees in to the garage over winter, uh, do not, uh, you know, an area of climate controlled garage or they'll bring it onto a sun porch where it's still cold, but not, but still sunny. Um, others leave them out where they are and they wrap them. It kind of. And so I usually recommend that people talk to their local nurseries to find out what works in there and their area for that specific thing. Um, I think what happens for a lot of things, oh, the, well, let me back up because the thing that's really important for Northern climates is rather than, uh, the opposite problem that I have. So I don't get enough chill hours where I live to grow many of the things that you would grow very easily where you live, I'm in Southern California, in Los Angeles and we get, I'm also coastal. So we get maybe 300 chill hours a year. Oh yeah, yeah. So you're probably getting upwards of eight to 1200 chill
Hours. Yeah. So you are
Apple territory, you know, uh, all of the, um, the Palm fruits are going to grow really well, where you live. And so what, what happens with people who live in Northern climates? I find that they tend to want to grow some of the, some of the lower chill things like subtropical and tropical plants, if they can, and what you have to make sure is that your choices of the varieties that you want to grow require, or I should say are in alignment with the chill hours that you get. Because if you, if you buy a tree that needs fewer chill hours than you get, there's a risk that it will bloom out of season or too early, and then another frost will come and cause damage. So that's how you can prevent damage in that way. And then in terms of protecting, I think I, you know, I like to have people refer to their local sources to figure out the best solutions for where you live, because a lot of people can just put straw or blankets around their trees and they'll be fine through the winter. Others, others need to bring it in depending on where you live.
Yeah. Yeah. And as you said, even variety dependent, like, um, it's really funny because like an hour south of me, um, we have people who can successfully grow citrus in pots. And of course they're moving it into some type of protected environment during, during the winter usually. Um, but like, like you said, like a, uh, a garage or somewhere, not like in the house or a heated greenhouse, but we just being one hour more Northern and up in the foothills of the mountains, we are just too cold. And so I can't even grow like the Northern bread type citrus plants that will, that are supposed to grow up here or trees, excuse me, not plants. Um, and so I can't, and so, yeah, you're right. Just knowing, knowing those microclimates is so key. And though it's not a fruit tree, I do grow my strawberries and containers and I will bring them up against the side of the house during the winter months, which is a Southern exposure, you know, against the side of the house.
So it's like a little pocket that stays warmer and because there's strawberries, I can move those containers if it's a large tree and it's not a container on wheels that gets a little bit trickier. Um, and I don't have to cover it or do anything like that. You know, I can just move it up against the house. But, um, and so I just wanted to say, like, if you're thinking, looking at your yard and you're like, oh, I am more Northern. Um, and so the winter months I'm worried about protecting it and trying to keep it a little bit more warmer, usually a Southern exposure. And especially if it's up against a building that can reflect a little bit of heat, even if you're not getting a ton of daylight or direct sunlight, uh, can often be a really good spot to move plants, to help them over winter like that.
Right. And you mentioned your strawberries, the same is true for things like blueberries that are in pots. And if you're growing blackberries and raspberries and pots, those also can be moved indoors or blanketed, or, you know, a lot of people put straw around them and they survive nicely outdoors on their own.
Yeah. Awesome. So this is a question that I get asked so often, and I think it's one of the hardest things about gardening or could be one of the most frustrating things is you get all the care right. Done. You've you like, I've cared for this. I picked the right varieties for my environment, like all of these things. And then critters come in and steal the harvest. Like the day it's ready. You're like waiting for it to reach perfection of rightness. And then you go out to pick it and you're like, oh, there's like hardly anything left or sometimes it's completely stripped. So do you have any good tips for keeping creditors from taking a harvest before you get your share?
Yeah, it's a real problem. Isn't it? That whole wildlife issue like, oh man. So I have, you know, I have anecdotal experience with my own stuff and what other people have done that I've interviewed for the book and you know, other people in my circle. So what I, what I, I recommend most of the time is physical barriers of some kind. And I know this is another thing that if you have a big tree that you can't reach, you, it's really hard to do this, but on smaller, on smaller trees, it's very easy to either, uh, wrap clusters of fruit in bird netting and just, you know, tuck it in and put a zip tie around it so that only you can get it when you want it. Um, my brother uses leftover clamshells from, you know, berries that you buy in the market or fruits that come, you know, in clamshells when you, when you buy them at grocery stores, um, he snaps those around his fruit and they survive.
They do well in there. Um, I have been practicing this ritual of buying. I buy maggot barriers, which are specifically, they look like pantyhose footies that you stretch over your apples to prevent codling moth and, um, an apple maggot for specifically for that. But I've been putting them on my tomatoes and my apples as well. Uh, and the rats don't seem to take those as often. So I get about 50% more, uh, of fruit from my or harvest, you know, than, than I do from unprotected, uh, plants. You know, if you have a very small tree and you want to drape the entire thing with bird netting, you can do that. You can put sticks around it with tennis balls on top of the stakes to drape things over the top so that the netting doesn't touch the leaves themselves. Um, others will use things like, uh, what's that called tangle foot around the base of the tree, or they'll put, um, uh, what's it called, uh, tree guards, you know, that prevent them from climbing up.
And the tree guards are mostly for D you know, preventing deer from chewing on the bark of the tree and that kind of thing, but they can sometimes, uh, can be used to apply something to that, like, uh, like petroleum jelly or something really slippery so that they can't climb up, uh, the tree guard. Um, that's usually, I mean, but they're going to jump from tree to tree. So if you have your trees closer than say, eight feet apart, or 15 feet apart, then they might just, they'll just find a way. And it's a challenge. So I also encourage people to pick their fruit, you know, check every day, pick every, every day and pick at the end of the day, cause then it's had the data ripen and then bring it in and put it on the counter. And some, some fruits will ripen after they're picked some will not, but they will soften. So pick them as close to ripeness as you can, and they'll still be good to enjoy. Um, yeah, I think that's, that's pretty much what I can think of, unless you want to build a whole greenhouse around your fruit trees. Yeah,
No, I'm, I'm with you. Um, I have found barrier methods to just be the most effective, you know, I've tried like putting humid hair around your, like my, I cut my son and my husband's hair. And so I'll take that and, you know, and, and tried putting that around the, the, especially for deer, I should say, uh, for the deer, because our deal loves to come and nibble, especially on the new growth, because it's a higher in nutrients for them and it's more tender. Right. And so, yeah, and oh, they drive me crazy. They're not good pruners. They're, they're horrible produce because they're, so they just strip it and they may go it. But, um, yeah, I've tried the human hair, you know, we've tried like flashing ribbon and shiny ribbon and CDs and all different types of things. And some of them will work in the short term.
I feel like, like they would maybe work for a week or two, but then pretty soon they just don't care about them anymore. And so yeah, I'm with you, I've, we've really found that netting, a barrier method of netting has really been truly the only thing that, that really works for us. Long-term I met my blueberry bushes. I've just had the whole blueberry Bush, and then I'll just lift the netting up underneath as I'm picking and, and we'll net the, the, the fruit trees to keep the deer off. And that though, I D I hadn't thought so, we don't, haven't had to deal with rats much in the vegetable garden, but the nylons on those little nylon type footies that you were talking about, um, that's a great idea for some of the larger fruit like that to keep, to keep them free. So that was a great tip.
Yeah. And I think the, the, um, the maggot barriers are, you know, they, they're sold in a box of like 400, so they last, and you can reuse them from season to season. So it's kind of a nice trick. Um, I've also tried sprays, you know, with the predator urine or the cinnamon cloves sprays, and yeah, they, you know, they get mixed reviews. They're not great for some, it depends on your rats. We have really assertive rats and squirrels in my neighborhood. And so we do trap rats, uh, and, and that's something that people don't like to deal with or hear about. Cause it's supposed to be this kind of romanticized notion of growing your own food and having nothing, wanting to share it with you, but that's the truth. So we do set traps and, um, we keep a balance in the population that way.
Yeah, no, I, we actually deal, well, we didn't have rats previously that we were aware of, but they, um, we had a couple of rats under our home. No signs of them, like in, in the house or anywhere else. So we didn't know we had them until we experienced water leak. And then we got under the house and they had chewed through, um, uh, like eight different pipes For a water source, like little tiny. And so All the underneath of my house was completely soaked like installation. Thankfully we caught it in time that it didn't damage the sub floor. Like, we're very, very fortunate in that aspect, but we had to replace all of the pipes, all of the installation, like it was a whole ordeal. And so now we have traps out like everywhere, everywhere, and I will be honest, they are not live traps. I am not keeping no wrecks alive. Like, yeah, like, bless your heart. If you are that soul, like, thank you. But I am not keeping the rats around. So I I'm with you there. Yes, they are. Um,
Right. Well, well, the, the important thing to remember, and I had somebody explain this to me, to me in a way that made sense is that, you know, prey, animals like rats, they, they are, um, food for larger animals and prey animals cycle through the reproduction cycle, much, much faster than predator animals. Do, you know, it'll take a year, predator, animals will reproduce once a year. Rats can produce three, four times a season. So that is what the, that's what I talk about when I say balance that we have to keep balanced. We're not trying to exterminate the species entirely. We're just trying to maintain a balance so that the predators get some, and we get our produce. You know what I mean?
Yes, no. I mean, I'm in complete agreement. Um, I even kill the slugs in my garden and I get people to get mad at me over that. And I'm like, we have 15 acres and so many sites in the Pacific Northwest. I am, I am in Noah and I don't, I only kill the ones in my vegetable garden eating my plants. I leave the rest alone. But yeah. So yeah, so I, with you there, but, uh, this has been great. There's so many tips here. Um, thank you so much. So for those who are listening, they're like, okay, I, I want to learn more. I want to do more of this, um, and find out more of the wonderful information that you share on gardening. Um, where's the best place for them to connect with you.
So if they can remember the word garden nerd, G a R D E N E R D. That is the place. That's the starting point. So I've website. I have a podcast, I have a YouTube channel, I've got a blog. And, uh, and then I've got three books presently, uh, available on all from that website. And of course you can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook under garden nerd, one, Facebook where dirt garden, or.com and, uh, you'll find links to all the social media on gardeners.com.
Awesome. And I'm assuming your podcast is Gardiner as well. Is that the name of your podcast? It's
Called the garden nerd tip of the week podcast.
Oh, I love that because that's so funny. I, I feel like serious gardeners are like passionate gardeners. Like we are such nerds about gardening. So I love that is the name of it because I totally geek out about all kinds of gardening stuff. And when I find another gardener, you know, you can just sit and talk for literally hours, like swapping, you know, stories and tips and like, oh, and anyways, so I really adore it. That, that's your name?
Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, it used to be a two minute tip of the week that I did every week for 10 years. And then I changed formats to this kind of interview format and I save, we save a great tip for the end of the podcast. So there you go.
Awesome. I love it. Well, I'm a podcast junkie, so I always loved finding, finding new podcasts. So thank you so much for coming on Christie. I really enjoyed it and I know listeners are going to get such a great depth of information here on growing their fruit trees and containers.
Thank you. It was ha I was, uh, uh, lovely ruin the sign off. Oh, you're right. Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
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