Soon-to-be owner of Dwarf Fruit Tree -) Questions

lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)March 5, 2014

Spring fever has made me decide that I really, really, want to get a fruit tree! Most likely apple, I can eat several a week - or day. ^.^ Although, I have heard that plums can handle less sun better?

Spring fever has also made me impatience so I want to pick up something this weekend - most likely from Home Depot maybe from Agway if they have any in yet.

I have a couple of 18 gallon containers, can I use those or would a smaller size be better? I think the Home Depot trees were in a 15 gal but I am not sure.

My 18 gal containers only have one drainage hole, do I need to add more? If so: how many, in what placement, and what size?

What potting mix should I use? Gritty-Mix?

...And any other advice?

Thanks for your time!

This post was edited by nightowls on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 8:48

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Jay Part Shade (Zone 10B, S21, Los Angeles)

Hey dude, sounds like fun! I have a dozen fruit trees in 15 gal fabric pots. I think 18 gal is a good size, I always add more drain holes in any of my traditional plastic or ceramic planters. I use the 5-1-1 mix for my trees -- the gritty is really heavy and I move my trees around a bunch for various reasons.

Also, be aware that many fruit trees need a pollinator and don't necessarily believe what the home depot tags tell you. Apples especially, there are some varieties of plums that are self-fruitful while figs, citrus, and others practically explode with fruit. so just keep an eye out. davewilson.com has all the info you'd ever need on the types of fruit trees and their requirements, especially chill-hours, flavor, pollinators, etc.

Additionally, go for the 5 gallon over the 15 -- Home Depot sometimes just sticks a 5 gal tree in a big pot and charges you another $50. Also, a 5 gal will probably give you fruit and do better in the long run than the 15.

FInal thought, don't worry too much about sun. As long as it gets a couple hours you're good. I have a Anna Apple that the previous home owners planted in a dark corner of the yard behind another tree that barely sees any sun and it's putting out flowers. I need to dig it up and move it, but it gives you an idea that the recommended 8 hours isn't critical.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 3:26PM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

I find another post saying that the gritty mix is about 8 lbs per gallon while the 5-1-1 is 6 lbs, do you find that to be accurate?

I think that there was only one container size at Home Depot. It could have been 5 gal ones, I was paying more attention to the trees and thoughts of spring :P
Would going from 5 gal to 18 gal be okay? I have read that doing a large pot-up isn't good.

I did notice the prices, they were around 40 - 60 dollars depending on the variety, does that seem reasonable or really overpriced? I did not pay attention to the fruit tree prices last year since my father keeps saying, "We don't get full sun, you would not get anything", my spring conclusion- the veggies and berry plants grow we get enough sun. :D If really overpriced, I might - small might - be able to wait until the local nurseries get into the swing of things.

I think there was something else I wanted to ask but I'm late
work :/

Thanks again for your time!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:17AM
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Jay Part Shade (Zone 10B, S21, Los Angeles)

No prob, glad to help!

The 5-1-1 mix definitely doesn't way 6lbs per gallon. Maybe if it's soaking wet, but my 15 gal pots aren't anywhere near 90 lbs. Maybe 50 but that seems high. Never worked with gritty, but from having other plants in a granite mix, even a five gal is almost too heavy to manage.

Going from 5 to 18 is fine, I've never had problems and the mix will wick water away from the old dirt, so many of the problems of potting up don't apply. I have figs and artichokes that came in 4" pots and six packs and they're great in the 15 gal. I do start seeds in smaller 1 gal containers or seed-starters then move up, but I haven't had any problems with watering big pots with small plants.

The home depots in SoCal have 5 gal trees for $23 and 15 gal for $50+. I find local nurseries are more expensive though the trees are usually higher quality or slightly older. Not sure where you live, but I'm betting you can track down some deals -- some places even discount trees to $10 or so. I refuse to pay more than $30 for a tree, unless it's a super exotic. And maybe look around for free tree give-a-ways -- in Los Angeles, a group gives away free fruit trees every weekend!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 10:19AM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

I live on the east cost (Long Island) and I've only seen those type of deals towards fall when most of the nurseries are shutting down for the winter. :-(

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:59PM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

Alright, I found a local nursery that focuses on fruit trees. According to their website, the prices are:
- 1 year size (mostly unbranched whips 3-4' tall) $14.50
- 2 year size (partly branched, 3-5' tall) $18.00
- 3 year size (well-branched, 4-6' tall) $21.50
- PREMIER SIZE (larger and of a higher grade than the 3-year size): $25.00 - $30.00

If I got the 3-year or premier, would there be a good chance that I could get some fruit this year - or at least next year?

Are there any dwarf varieties that do not grow well in a container?

How long (years) would the trees stay good in the 5-1-1 before I would have to refresh/repot it?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 10:40PM
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Jay Part Shade (Zone 10B, S21, Los Angeles)

Those are good prices. The 3 year ones should definitely give fruit, as long as they were pruned correctly. I'm growing large trees in pots and just prune them to keep them small. All dwarf trees that I know will do well in pots. I'm not sure about how long the 5-1-1 stays viable, but I think it's a couple years. If you're growing in regular pots, you'll want to replace the mix every time the tree gets root bound.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:03AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

"How long (years) would the trees stay good in the 5-1-1 before I would have to refresh/repot it?"

If you were growing an ornamental, than annual repots might be ideal for trees in the 5-1-1 mix. For fruits, where mild stress might help to encourage fruiting, then you can consider going longer. If you see a noticeable loss in vigor and the tree is clearly root bound (as Jay suggested), that's a clear sign that it's time to repot.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:39AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

In a container of sufficient size to allow for normal root-growth, a tree could easily go 2-years in the 5-1-1 mix. I grew a peach in a 10-gallon container of 5-1-1 for 2-years, then I planted in the ground. The root development was excellent.

Josh

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:54AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Here's a relevant quote from fruitnut, a potted fruit grower who posts mostly in the Fruit & Orchards forum (the thread is linked below):

"Here's the deal that people on the container forum don't ordinarily recognize, fruit trees give better quality fruit when growing at less than maximum vigor. Most of the container forum is about ornamentals and vegetables. For those crops high vigor is usually better. For fruit trees it decidedly is not."

One simple way to reduce vigor is to extend the time between root pruning/repotting. Fruitnut's success has had a big influence on how I approach growing fruits in containers. You'll see several photos of some of his trees in the linked thread, and I'm sure you'll agree that they're very impressive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Multiple Trees in One Container?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 12:03PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Here's something that a lot of folks don't understand, either.

Vigor is genetic. We're not reducing vigor by stressing a plant, we are reducing *vitality* - a measure of how healthy or how well a plant is growing.

Plants in containers will never be able to grow to their full genetic potential, and so maintaining vitality is very important. To improve fruit quality or sweetness, I would personally reduce the fruit-load on a plant in a container, or use calculated water-reduction around harvest. But I wouldn't want to compromise the vitality of the roots, which are the heart of the plant.

Josh

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:04PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Thanks for the clarification, Josh -- you make good points about both terminology and the importance of maintaining vitality. I'm straying well outside the realm of my own practical experience in this thread, but I've been an admirer of fruitnut's results for some time now, His methods are sometimes at odds with what I've learned here in the Container forum, yet it's hard to dispute his success as a grower of beautiful containerized fruit trees that produce top-quality fruit (he's always been good to provide photos and documentation to substantiate his claims). Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to suggest that anyone neglect root maintenance at the expense of a tree's long-term vitality (and I don't think fruitnut would either).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 3:35PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well said!

Josh

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 3:38PM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

Root maintenance is still something that I am learning but, by the time the fruit tree should need it, I should be more versed in it. Over the last couple years I have collected several berry plants, most of them in containers, and I'll be repotting some of them in the next couple of weeks.

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For the "pine bark fines" in the 5-1-1, what size should the bark particles be?

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I sent an email to the local fruit nursery that I found and they said that they'll snail-mail me a list of the varieties they have. :-/ I have no-clue why they couldn't just email me it.

I got drawn to Home Depot again this weekend. Is $50 a okay price for a 4-in-1 (Winesap, Spartan, McIntosh, & Yellow Delicious) grafted apple tree? They look really good...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 12:52AM
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charina(6b)

Is $50 a okay price for a 4-in-1 (Winesap, Spartan, McIntosh, & Yellow Delicious) grafted apple tree?
Do you have a costco membership? Or a friend who does? My local costco has multigraft trees like that for just over 1/4 the cost.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 12:24PM
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lunar_owl (7a / Long Island)(7a)

No Costco and no luck at BJs so I did get a multi from HD.

I made my mix last night, how does it look?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 9:05AM
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