Fruit is basically nature’s version of candy. Even though they are loaded with sugar, they are natural, unrefined sugar that doesn’t get stored as fat and instead provides us with energy throughout the day. They also provide us with various vitamins and other nutrients that are essential for a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Although we love to eat fruit, many people are worrying about excessively consuming it. This is mainly due to the fact that most major fruit suppliers spray their produce with harmful pesticides. Although you can buy organic produce that uses less pesticides, or sometimes no pesticides at all, these tend to cost a lot more than their chemical-sprayed alternatives.
The best (and cheapest) way to enjoy fruit that you know for a fact is NOT covered in pesticides is by growing your own. This is why I’m going to show you how to grow an apple tree (a staple in the fruit food group) in a container that you can keep on your balcony or in your backyard!
Choosing Small Trees
For the purpose of this project, you’re going to want to choose the smallest apple trees available. Don’t trust any apple tree that is labelled “dwarf”, as this is not a standard measurement used for apple tree growing and the tree will likely not be suitable for growing in a container.
Apple tree sizes are determined by their rootstock, the smallest size is labelled as G65, and can grow anywhere between 4 and 7 feet. Other small varieties include M9, Bud.9, G.11, G.16 and G.41. Whether you are purchasing your trees online or from a nursery, always make sure to identify its size with these labels.
Planting Your Tree
You can plant an apple tree during any time of the year where you can find healthy trees ready for purchase. The optimal time to do this is during early-spring or fall, as you will be able to find the most variety of apple trees during this time.
Buy potting soil that is coarse and “fast-draining”, and choose a container that is around 10-15 gallons in size. If you feel that are going to need to transport your apple tree during the winter, fix some wheels to the bottom of your pot or place it on a trolley or any other easily movable platform for convenient transportation.
If you purchased a bare root tree, trim the roots so that they can easily fit inside the pot without wrapping around it. If you bought a tree from a nursery and it is wrapped, loosen up the roots and untangle them and go through the same process to fit them inside the pot.
Fill the bottom of your pot up with soil and place the tree inside so that the bulging point near the bottom of the trunk (otherwise known as the graft) is level with the top of the pot. Fill the pot up with more soil until it is about tow inches below the top of it.
After planting, prune the branches of the tree so they are about two-thirds their original size (meaning that you are removing one third of the branch). Then water the tree thoroughly, making sure that it reaches the bottom of the pot.
Maintaining Your Tree
Watering a tree in a container is a lot tougher than in-ground plants, mainly because they dry out faster and also provide a larger risk of drowning the tree. If you purchased a bare root tree, then you will not need to water it for several weeks after the first watering. The soil needs to be just barely moist, if there is too much water than it will cause the tree to rot.
Once your tree begins to come out of dormancy, only water it when the soil is completely dry, which should be every five days or so. If it is unusually hot or sunny outside, check your tree regularly to make sure that it is not drying up too quickly.
During the end of summer and beginning of fall (around mid-September) start watering your tree less frequently. Only give it enough water so that the soil is slightly moist. This prepares the tree for its period of dormancy during the winter.
Opt for using an organic fertilizer, and follow the instructions provided for it. Make sure to reduce the amount of fertilizer you are using during September, at the same time as you are reducing the water.
Other than making sure your tree has enough sun, the only other thing you need to worry about are fruit-eating insects that may harm the integrity of your tree. For some natural insect repellent ideas, click here.