Potting Fruit for Fast Harvests

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Potting fruit

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.

Doreen G. Howard

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!

~ By  Doreen G. Howard

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

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Pink Lemonade Blueberries

Loved the article, just bought my 1st fruit plant, and SUPER EXCITED!!!

We got a Pink Lemonade blueberry plant, per your article if I am reading correctly, you can continue growth in pots instead of planting outside? (as long as you repot, and continue to increase pot size based on size increase of plant?)

Also I 've been reading on some plants best to have 2 of same type of plant for good growth, is this needed/ true for pink lemonade blueberries?

Any tips, greatly appreciated!!! (not sure if needed, but I live in WI) Thanks!! :)

The ‘Pink Lemonade’ is self

The ‘Pink Lemonade’ is self-pollinating but it is recommended that another rabbiteye cultivar (‘Tifblue’ or ‘Climax’ for example) be planted close by to ensure lots of berries.

Question about blueberries

Hi, I have a question, I have a beautiful blueberry plant in a container, in full bloom. My question is should I wait to plant it in my yard until after the berries come and go? Thanks!
Jan in N Fl.

Wait to plant the bush in the

Wait to plant the bush in the yard. Enjoy the berries and then plant it in the ground. Please see our bluberry page at http://www.almanac.com/plant/blueberries. For northern regions we recommend an early spring planting before the plants bloom.

 

Potted blueberries and Cherry's

If I were to pot some blueberries and a Cherry or two this spring, what do I do with them at seasons end? My garage is unheated as you stated yours is but I live in central Iowa. My garage can get very cold. If I store them somewhere when do I bring them back out again? Would I need to repot them with new potting soil? How many years could I expect to keep them this way?

You can store the containers

You can store the containers in your garage. You can wrap a blanket or two around the pots to insulated them a little bit. You will need to water the plants periodically over the winter, maybe two or three times. It is important to monitor soil moisture through the winter storage period. After a couple of years you may need to repot the plants in bigger pots with fresh soil.

Could you tell me what size

Could you tell me what size pot/tub would be appropriate for a Pink Lemonade Blueberry?

For blueberries, we'd start

For blueberries, we'd start out with one at least 12 inches wide by 18 inches deep.

I bought the Top Hat for a

I bought the Top Hat for a pot on my deck, but noticed after bringing it home that it suggested to have a second bush for pollinating. Is this necessary?

It also mentioned using saw dust further down in the pot....? why?

Thank you.

Hi Sharon, You don't need

Hi Sharon,
You don't need another bush, but yields will likely be higher if you have a different variety nearby. In addition to mulch, composted sawdust mixed into the soil is beneficial to the growth of the plant.

I personally love my

I personally love my blueberry bushes. I purchased them about six years ago from Online Plant Nursery. Waiting for them to produce fresh berries each year is like waiting on Christmas morning. Me and the kids anticipate them just waiting to pick the fresh berries so we can use them in fresh jam, jellies, pies or eat them fresh! If you love blueberries, go for planting a small crop of them!

I love reading all these

I love reading all these great articles regarding blueberries. I have a small fruit orchard behind my house and have roughly about 7 blueberry bushes. My kids wait for fresh blueberries similar to waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning! We freeze them, eat them fresh and can them. The possibilities are endless. I purchased mine from (Online Nursery Co) several years ago and they are still thriving well!

Doreen, I love reading your

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

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

Re: Pink Blueberries

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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