Potting Fruit for Fast Harvests

January 6, 2012

My blueberry shrubs produce prodigiously, but I need more for freezing. That's why I'll be planting shrubs like this Blue Crop in containers.

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
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New Year’s Day, I used the last of the blueberries I froze in July and August from the four shrubs in my garden to make a blueberry-wild plum wine reduction to go over grilled duck breasts. 

I need more shrubs!  About a third of the berries are eaten (mostly by me) in the garden while picking.  Another third is used fresh for tarts and fruit salads.  The remainder is frozen for later use.  Obviously, my frozen stash didn’t carry through the winter.  I’m running out of ground, so I’m going to containers.

Why?  Blueberries, cherries, figs and other small fruit shrubs produce faster in big tubs and pots, especially varieties like Top Hat blueberry, which was bred by the University of Michigan for small spaces and containers. 

They’re easier to protect from birds and other critters, more disease resistant and easy to harvest. Potted berries can be picked when ripe by placing their container on a bed sheet or tarp and shaking the pot. 

What could be simpler? 

Top Hat is perfect on patios and decks, where it offers three-season interest.  Gorgeous white bell flowers blanket plants in the spring, blue berries form during the summer and coppery fall foliage persists until the snow falls.  Photo courtesty of Spring Hill Nursery.

Pink blueberries

In the last three years, I’ve received two pink blueberry varieties to test in my garden.  One, Pink Lemonade has been in the ground for three summers and hasn’t bore fruit.  A second shrub was planted in a large tub and flowered last spring!  I expect to harvest my first pink blueberry this year.  Because pink blueberries contain genetics from rabbit eye blueberries (a standard in the hot South), these pink berries can be planted in nearly every climate. 

The same breeder also sent Pink Champagne, another pink variety last June.  It, too, is in a large container.  All the potted plants have grown vigorously and are larger than the one in the ground! I’m excited about sampling these new berries that is full of antioxidants and supposed to be sweeter than blue blueberries.

Pink Lemonade blueberries are loaded with the same antioxidants and vitamins as their blue cousins.  Photo courtesty of Garden Media Group.

Sweet cherries for a pot

Spring Hill Nursery gave me a Carmine Jewel seedling last March to try.  It was in a 2-inch pot, and I immediately potted up to a 6-inch one and kept it indoors until nights were above 25F.  Then, the shrub went into a large tub.  The plant is almost 4-feet tall now and wintering in my unheated garage. 

I'm sure these cherries won't make it in the house, because I'll eat them in the garden!  Photo courtesty of Spring Hill Nursery.

Carmine Jewel is self-fruitful and can be picked before it’s fully ripe to use as one would a sour cherry, for pies, etc.  It’s a cold-hardy sour cherry, but it has super-high sugar content when allowed to turn deep red and soften.  You get two types of cherries in one shrub.

Do you grow berries? What do you think about potting fruit? Please share your comment below!

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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

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Comments

Doreen, I love reading your

By Ives from MSU

Doreen,

I love reading your articles! Coming from Michigan and being a sparty alumni I do know the Top Hat variety is from Michigan State and not U of M. You may check with any nursery. MSU did of course used to be Michigan Agriculture College, and remains to be a top agriculture research university. Go green!

Pink Blueberries

By Ebey Island

Where is a good place to order some? Does it usually fruit the first year or second?

Re: Pink Blueberries

By Doreen G. Howard

A number of mail order catalogs are featuring Pink Lemonade blueberries.  Spring Hill, Burpee's and Shumway's come to mind.  You can also use a search engine to find retailers who sell them.  They will fruit the second year in a container and the third year in the ground.  The first year, plants are establishing roots systems, growing branches and creating fruit buds for the next season.

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