Many people think growing dwarf fruit trees means small trees with small fruit, however you actually get a tree about half the size with full sized fruit. The great advantage of dwarf fruit trees, besides the huge variety available, is the opportunity of having your own miniature orchard. Planting dwarf fruit trees lets you have more variety in one space and saves you time pruning, with no need for a ladder at harvest time.
Almost any fruit variety you grow as full size is available as dwarf. Citrus, apples, peaches, nectarines, berries and avocado. Many are grafted onto dwarf rootstock, such as citrus and ‘Pinkabelle’ pink lady apple, both of which have been grafted onto “flying dragon” rootstock. Some dwarf fruit trees are naturally dwarf growing.
You can plant your dwarf fruit tree year round. Just make sure it gets full sun and is supported with a stake (for around one year). Cherry, plum and apple trees need another variety of the same fruit type (which bloom at the same time) to help pollinate the flower in order for it to create fruit. All other fruit trees pollenate themselves.
Dwarf fruit trees can be grown in the ground or in pots. For pots use a large pot at least the size of a half wine barrel with good quality premium potting mix. Ensure the pot drains well and when watering, thoroughly soak the soil. Keep your tree moist so there are no air pockets around the root system. If there are air pockets, your tree will dry out and die. Ensure you keep the fertiliser up using a food specific for fruit and citrus trees.
When planting in-ground, choose a position that receives all-day sun, is reasonably well sheltered from strong winds and has well drained soil. Improve your soil by digging in plenty of compost, and if you have clay soils consider mounding the soil up before planting. This will give water a chance to drain away rather than sitting on the clay around your tree’s roots and causing rot. Mulch with well-rotted manure and sugar cane. Ensure good deep watering during flowering, fruiting and summer.
As well as being useful as a food crop, fruit trees can also add beauty and fragrance to your garden. Citrus blossom fragrance in winter, the timeless beauty of flower blossoms from apples and peaches in spring and colourful autumn foliage are all reasons you should consider planting a dwarf fruit tree, or two.