Growing a productive fruit tree in a small patio area is possible with the right variety selection. New root stocks and grafting methods have produced a number of dwarf cultivars. Small shrubs such as blueberries also have their uses in the small garden. The best patio fruit trees and shrubs are naturally small, easily maintained, tolerant of container culture and bear fruit regularly.
Columnar apples have a form different from the average fruit tree. They grow perfectly straight, up to 7 feet tall, with very short side limbs. This growth habit makes them wonderful for small spaces. They can be grown in a large pot or planted 2 feet apart in the ground. Most columnar apple trees are midseason bearers, which means they will cross-pollinate with any other midseason variety.
Golden Sentinel has large yellow apples that usually ripen in early October. Fruits are sweet with a hint of tartness, and very crisp.
North Pole is very similar to the popular McIntosh in fruit color and flavor. Apples of this variety ripen slightly earlier than Golden Sentinel.
Scarlet Sentinel rarely has disease problems. It bears a heavy crop of pale green apples flushed with red. Apples are crisp and sweeter than Golden Sentinel.
Mini-dwarf apples are grafted onto root stocks that reduce size considerably. These trees will only grow 4 to 6 feet tall, with a canopy to match. They are easy to prune and maintain and will grow happily in a container. Almost any apple variety can be grafted onto mini-dwarf root stock, including popular types such as Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Pink Lady.
Blueberries make attractive and edible patio plants. Delicate green foliage and attractive white to pink flowers are followed by heavy crops of fruit. Soil should be well drained and made acidic with the addition of peat moss or bark mulch. Blueberries in pots have higher moisture needs than those planted in the ground.
Top Hat is short and dense, growing only 18 inches high. It bears heavily despite its small size. This plant can be used in containers or as a tidy border plant.
Polaris is another blueberry with a dense, shrubby form. Eventual size is 3 to 4 feet tall. It does very well in larger containers, such as whiskey barrels. Fruit production is so heavy the plant appears blue from a distance.
North Sky has the classic wild blueberry flavor. It will reach a final height of 16 to 18 inches, with a spread of around 3 feet.
El Dorado Dwarf Peach
El Dorado is a very small peach variety that only grows about 4 feet tall. Despite its small size, it produces large crops of fruit. Peaches are freestone, which means the pit is easily removed and this makes them easier to use in canning and preserving. Reddish fruits have sweet yellow flesh. The only drawback to this variety is its susceptibility to a disease called peach leaf curl. This fungal disease causes leaf shriveling and eventual defoliation, which can damage or even kill the tree. Peach leaf curl occurs primarily in areas with very wet, cold winters. In early fall when the leaves begin to drop, store the tree in a dry area such as a porch or garage. Keeping moisture off of the foliage in fall and early spring will eliminate leaf curl.