Backyard berry gardens are a great way to grow a lot of fruit in a small space.

Growing Berries in Containers: How to Grow a Small-space Fruit Garden

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Few things are as satisfying to a gardener as picking a homegrown, sun-warmed berry right off the plant and tossing it straight into your waiting mouth. If you’ve never grown your own berries because you think you don’t have enough room — or you think it requires too much effort — boy, do we have some great news for you! Growing berries in containers is the easiest and most foolproof way to grow your own small-space fruit garden. Plus, it’s fun!

To show you just how easy it is to grow berries in pots, we’ve teamed up with THE source for backyard container berry plants, Bushel and Berry™, to bring you all the know-how you’ll need. And, to sweeten the deal, we’re also giving away some Bushel and Berry™ goodies AND a $50.00 USD Visa gift card you can take to your favorite garden center to buy some berry plants of your own (this contest closed as of 6/1/17).

Why grow berries in containers?

Berry plants are great candidates for container gardening, especially if you pay careful attention to which varieties you choose to grow. For gardeners with limited space or for apartment dwellers who grow on a balcony, porch, or patio, growing berries in containers affords a level of flexibility you won’t get when growing these plants in the ground. Containerized berry plants can easily be moved from one side of the deck to the other to maximize sunlight exposure throughout the day, so even if you have a semi-shady space, you can still grow plenty of fruits. Oh, and the pots can easily be moved to a new apartment when your lease runs out!

Growing berries in containers also means the plants are very accessible for harvesting; simply park the pot right outside the back door and you won’t even have to take your slippers off to pick a handful of berries for your cereal. Plus, you’ll have more control over watering and fertilizing.

As if all of these great reasons to grow berries in containers aren’t enough, the icing on the cake is that potted berry plants also make gorgeous decorative accents for your outdoor living space.

The best raspberries to grow in containers are short-statured selections like 'Raspberry Shortcake.'

Delicious, homegrown berries are within your grasp, if you grow them in a container fruit garden.

The best berries for growing in containers

Now that you know why you should grow berries in containers, it’s time to talk about the best plants for the job. The truth is that not all berry plant varieties perform well in containers. For example, many varieties of full-sized blueberry bushes can top out at five to six feet tall and you’d need a super-big container to make them happy. And the rambling roots and long, prickly vines of raspberries and blackberries are notorious for taking over the garden, making full-sized varieties of these two fruits very poor candidates for containers.

Grow berries in containers for a delicious harvest.

Growing a small-space fruit garden requires selecting varieties bred to thrive in containers, like these Peach Sorbet® blueberries.

Thankfully, plant breeders have been hard at work developing short-statured, container-friendly varieties of all three of these fruits. These particular cultivars are the ones you should seek out; they’ve quite literally been made for the job!

Here’s the skinny on some of these container favorites.

Blueberries:

The best blueberries for containers are those that reach a mature height of just one to three feet. Look for Bushel and Berry™ varieties at your local garden center that have been bred specifically for growing in containers, such as Pink Icing®, Blueberry Glaze®, Jelly Bean®, and Peach Sorbet®.

Another perk to using these container-friendly cultivars is that they’re all self-pollinating. “Regular” blueberries require pollen from one variety to pollinate another because they’re not self-fertile. In other words, to get berries on those bushes, you’d need two or more bushes of different varieties in order to get berries. With self-pollinating blueberries, on the other hand, all you need is one plant. They make growing berries in containers super easy.

Learn how to grow small fruits in containers and discover which are the best varieties for the job.

Compact blueberry varieties are the perfect fit for containers. And they’re beautiful, too! Photo courtesy of Bushel and Berry

Raspberries and blackberries:

Cane fruits, such as raspberries and blackberries, were once relegated to the “back 40” due to their tendency to take over the garden. Until a few years ago, these aggressive growers were practically impossible to grow in containers with any amount of success. But compact cultivars, like Raspberry Shortcake® raspberries and Baby Cakes® blackberries, have changed that.

Their dwarf stature and thornless canes make growing these cane fruits in pots not just possible, but also fun! The plants top out at about three feet tall and do not require staking. I have several Raspberry Shortcake® plants in one of my raised beds and the fruits are full-sized and delicious.

Learn how to grow blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in a small space fruit garden.

Growing blackberries in containers is easy – if you pick the right variety. Baby Cakes® is a short-statured variety that’s perfect for pots.

Strawberries:

Strawberries are one of the most prolific plants for a small-space fruit garden, and gardeners have been growing them in pots for generations. Whether they’re grown in hanging baskets, pocketed strawberry jars, or upcycled containers, you don’t really need to purchase a specific type of strawberry to have success. Most varieties will do just fine in containers.

But, if you want berries that all ripen together in early summer, pick a June-bearing type. Or, if you want a handful of berries every day all summer long, plant an ever-bearing (or day-neutral) strawberry variety instead. You can also grow tiny alpine strawberries in your pots. These fragrant little berries produce all summer long and have a delicious, subtly floral flavor.

Growing fruit in containers is fun and productive. It's easy to learn how.

Strawberries are an easy fruit to grow in containers. Just about any variety will do.

Growing berries in containers: The best route to success

After you’ve decided on which small fruits to grow in your container fruit garden, it’s time to get planting. Beyond variety selection, the biggest factors in successful container gardening are picking the right container and filling it with the right potting soil mix.

Container size:
When growing berries in containers, selecting the right pot size is essential. If your pot is too small, you risk affecting the health of your plants, and ultimately, reducing their growth and yield. Smaller pot sizes also require more watering and fertilizing to keep the plants fit and productive.

When choosing a pot, always opt for the largest container possible. Plan on needing a minimum soil volume of five to eight gallons per blueberry bush. For cane berries, eight or more gallons will support a nice colony of plants. And for strawberries, wide-rimmed containers allow for more plants per pot. Plan on three plants for every twelve inches of surface area.

Regardless of its size, there should also be a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

Growing berries in containers: How to pick the right varieties, plant them properly, and care for them.

You can save even more space by growing blueberries and strawberries together in the same container. Just make sure the pot holds enough potting mix to support them.

Potting soil mix:
As with all types of container gardening, growing berries in containers requires careful attention to building a good foundation for your plants. To keep your plants happy, fill the containers in your small-space fruit garden with a 50/50 mixture of high-quality potting soil and compost (either commercially produced or homemade). The potting soil ensures the pot is well-drained, keeps it lightweight, and if the potting soil has an added organic fertilizer, it helps feed the plants, too. The added compost aids in water retention, introduces beneficial soil microbes, and releases nutrients to the plants over time.

Caring for your container fruit garden

Watering is the most critical step in growing berries in containers. Unfortunately, it’s also often the most neglected. Without proper irrigation, containerized plants will suffer and yields will definitely be affected. The amount of water your pots need is dependent on the weather conditions, humidity, the type of container you used, and the maturity of the plants themselves. The easiest way to know when it’s time to water is to insert your finger into the soil. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. If it’s not, wait another day and check again. It’s really as simple as that. In the summertime, I water my container fruit garden on a daily basis, if we don’t get rain.

If you selected a high-quality potting soil that already has an organic fertilizer included, there’s no need to add supplemental fertilizer during the first year of growth. But, in subsequent years, an annual spring fertilizer addition is a good idea. For blueberries, top dress the soil with a 1/4 cup of an acid-specific organic granular fertilizer. For cane berries and strawberries, lightly scratch a 1/4 cup of a balanced, complete organic granular fertilizer into the top inch of soil every spring, being careful to keep the granules off of the foliage. Avoid using synthetic chemical fertilizers on edible plants.

Growing berries in pots involves the proper care, including fertilizing and watering.

Use an organic, granular, acid-specific fertilizer to feed containerized blueberries once per year.

What to do with potted fruit plants in the winter

If you live where temperatures regularly dip below freezing, when cold temperatures arrive, you’ll have to ensure the roots of your container fruit garden are protected from deep freezes.

There are a few different ways you can overwinter your plants when growing berries in containers.

  • Insulate the pots by surrounding them with a cylinder of chicken wire fencing that’s about a foot wider than the pot itself and filling the empty space between the pot and the fencing with fall leaves or straw. Remove the insulation in the spring, when the threat of prolonged cold weather has passed.
  • If you have a compost pile, sink the pots into it up to their rim. This protects the roots from freezing. Come spring, simply lift the pots out of the compost pile and move them back to the patio.
  • You can also overwinter the container berry plants in an unheated attached garage or cold cellar. I drag my potted blueberry bushes into the garage every winter; they get watered once, in early February, and that’s it. When early spring arrives, I put them back out on the porch.
  • If it doesn’t get too cold where you live, you can also try overwintering the plants by simply moving the pots to a protected area, right up against the house. Blueberries are especially hardy and often survive in containers down to -10° F.

As you can see, growing berries in containers is both fun and rewarding. With a little forethought, it won’t be long until you’re picking plump, juicy berries of your own!

A big thank you to Bushel and Berry™ for sponsoring this post and allowing us to share these great tips on growing berries in containers. Click here to find a Bushel and Berry™ retailer near you. 

CONTEST DETAILS:

**** Contest is now closed. Winner was selected at midnight on 6/1/17. Congratulations to our winner Deborah!! *****

  • Prize is a collection of Bushel and Berry™ goodies that includes a branded Nalgene water bottle, a Moleskin notebook and pen, AND a $50.00 USD Visa gift card you could use at your local garden center to purchase your own Bushel and Berry™ plants
  • The contest is open only to residents of the United States
  • The winner will be contacted via email soon after the contest is closed
  • Contest ends at midnight EST on June 1st, 2017
  • Prize will be mailed to the winner within 30 days of the contest’s end
  • Only one entry per person per email address
  • By entering, you agree to be added to our mailing list and the mailing list of Bushel and Berry™. Your email address will not be sold or used for any other purpose (no spam!) and you can unsubscribe at any time.

How to enter: Tell us your favorite way to eat berries in the comment section below

Bushel_and_Berry_Giveaway

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37 Responses to Growing Berries in Containers: How to Grow a Small-space Fruit Garden

  1. Linda Betts says:

    Fresh and warm, right off the plant and into my mouth!

  2. J Beasley says:

    My favorite way to eat berries is sneaking some straight off the vine while weeding around the plants.

  3. Gail pabst says:

    I eat my blueberries with pancakes and my raspberries in jam and strawberries just as strawberries all alone!

  4. linda wong garl says:

    Berries…anyway! Especially fresh out of the garden before the birds…though I’ve just recently decide to share with Mother Nature! It wasn’t an easy decision! But I am happy with it!!!

  5. Julie says:

    Do I have to have ONE way…my fav is in a blackberry pie but as I grow all three (strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry) I love that my grandkids come over & they love to pick them and eat them. I manage to have a decent enough crop to use them in my yogurt in the morn or to make a delicious blackberry margarita for patio sipping on the weekend. There is no wrong way to enjoy ’em.

  6. Deborah says:

    Raspberries right off the plant is my first favorite.

    Raspberries in cream with a bit of honey come in second at my house.

  7. Christy says:

    Nothing better than the taste of berries warmed by the sun, right off the plant.

  8. Gabby Swientisky says:

    I love raspberries and blackberries mixed with a little honey, yogurt, and chia seeds on top 🙂

  9. Crystal Chunn says:

    Blackberry pie is my all time favorite dessert.

  10. black raspberries in a sweet homemade jam on a cold wintery morn.

  11. Rose says:

    Can’t beat off the plant and into the mouth. But any berry is delicious with cottage cheese.

  12. Cindy Tony says:

    A small handful on cereal or yogurt, if they make it that far!

  13. Chrissy says:

    Love spiking a good wheat beer with some fresh raspberries 😉

  14. Megan Stewart says:

    Fav raspberries right off the vine but love blueberry pancakes

  15. Seth says:

    Strawberries rolled in sour cream and brown sugar! Amazing!!

  16. Sarah says:

    I love fresh raspberries in yogurt. They are sweet and mash up in the yogurt. Great for breakfast or a snack.

  17. Grace Hong says:

    Thank you for the overwintering advice! Very helpful for me here in St. Louis, where it does get colder in the winter.

    My favorite way to eat blueberries is on top of yogurt topped with crunchy homemade granola 🙂 Perfectly delicious!

  18. Brett says:

    My favorite berry treat is definitely blueberry and/or blackberry cobbler with French vanilla ice cream on top.

  19. Jeff says:

    Fresh strawberries on vanilla ice cream

  20. Rachael Sanders says:

    I love mine with angel good cake and whip cream!

  21. Tyneisha says:

    Thanks for the advice on which size container to use! I always choose the wrong one it seems. As far as eating berries, I am a big fan of the smoothie, although I definitely also enjoy just snacking on them by themselves while reading a good book!

  22. Richard Anderson says:

    I love camping and eating fresh fruit!

  23. Fresh off the plant, berry cobnler.

  24. Samantha Sheppard says:

    Fresh off the bush!

  25. Sharon Weyrauch says:

    Blue berries right off the plant or on pancakes. My nieces kids love to come over and pick my bushes clean.

  26. LAC says:

    With homemade whipped cream – yum!

  27. Jess says:

    Right off of the bush! Berries sold in most chain stores don’t hold a candle to fresh. I’m so lucky that I live in an area where fresh berries are abundant!

  28. Peggy riccio says:

    Favorite way to eat berries is with a little cream that you make yourself by whipping up heavy cream and then a little mint leaves for flavor or lavender flowers. We also make sugar mint syrup and drizzle over berries

  29. Justin says:

    Homegrown is the only way.

  30. Standing in the garden row with fresh-picked berries in my mouth and berry juice dripping down my chin!

  31. Alicia H says:

    love to eat my berries in smoothies with
    a little yogurt!

  32. Monique says:

    Just after picking 🙂

  33. Rindie says:

    Love to eat berries right off the vine, smoothies, and crisps.

  34. Berries as dessert! I have some raspberries for a lemon tart tonight.

  35. Jodi says:

    Blueberry cobbler rocks!!

  36. Renee L Beaulieu says:

    With plain yogurt, topped with toasted coconut and muesli. World’s best breakfast!

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