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Container Fruit

How to Care for Blueberries in Pots

Blueberries thrive in low-pH or acidic soils. Many home gardens may not have soils acidic enough for blueberries. It is easier to provide the right soil pH when plants are grown in pots. Dwarf varieties like Top Hat are good choices for container fruit gardens. Top Hat forms a globe-shaped bush up to 2 x 2 feet, and prefers well-drained, loose soil with a pH of 4.0-4.5. Two ways to make an acidic soilless medium: 1) Mix well 1 part sphagnum peat moss and 1 part shredded pine bark. Or 2) Mix well 2 parts coir (shredded coconut husk used as potting mix), 2 parts sphagnum peat moss, and 1 part perlite.

Select containers with good drainage holes. Un-pot the blueberry plant and loosen the root ball before planting. Dig a hole in the middle of the pot, and set the plant at the same level as it was in the original pot. Fill in the hole around the plant, and tamp soil down to get rid of air pockets. Water thoroughly. Keep the pot where there is at least 6 hours full sun, with some afternoon shade.

Blueberries do not like wet feet; be sure to keep soil consistently moist, not soggy and wet. Mulch the surface with 2 inches pine bark or chipped hardwood bark to conserve moisture. Once plants start new growth, feed preferably with slow-release acid fertilizers. Make sure to follow rates on the fertilizer label. Supplement with fast-acting acid-based feed when the plants are in active growth, from spring to summer.

Prune off only dead or diseased wood as needed. Protect plants from extreme weather during the first years, when roots are getting established. Grow more than one variety to improve pollination, yield and berry size. Apply netting to protect berries from birds.

Overwintering: Containers are not well insulated from the cold of winter. Protect potted plants to prevent root damage, by burying containers in the ground in late fall. The best site is one with good drainage, protected from cold winter winds and where snow tends to collect. Mulch with 4-8 inches of straw or cover bushes with burlap. Unbury the containers in early spring.


How to Care for Strawberries in Pots

Strawberries are shallow-rooted, small plants that easily fit in containers. When grown in pots, the soft berries stay clean off the ground, and are more easily visible for picking. All types of strawberries can be grown in containers.

Strawberries sold as potted plants are good starting plants for containers. The pot should be around 18” across, to allow space for runners. Lift the plants from the shipped pots and loosen the root ball carefully.

Select containers with good drainage holes. Fill the pot 2/3 with loose, loamy potting mix, with a pH of 5.3 - 6.5. Water until the water drains out of the bottom holes. Dig a hole in the middle of the pot, and set the plant at the same level as it was in the original pot. Fill in the hole around the plant, and tamp soil down to get rid of air pockets . It is important to plant strawberries to the correct depth - too low in the ground and the central crown may rot; too high and the roots may dry out . Water thoroughly. Keep the pot where there is at least 6-8 hours full sun, with some afternoon shade.

Move or rotate the pot so that all sides get enough sunlight. Water regularly, especially during hot, dry weather, and as plants grow more vigorously. Protect berries from birds by draping netting over the plants. Pick berries as soon as they ripen. Clean off diseased, dead or rotten foliage and berries to keep plants healthy. Provide a time-release or liquid feed as needed. When roots start appearing through the bottom holes, repot and propagate the runners. Plants often keep productive for 3-4 years.

Overwintering: Allow plants to go dormant in winter for good berry production. Roots may freeze if containers are left outdoors through the winter. Move containers into your cold garage or any other protected space sheltered from severe freezing winds. Or apply mulch around the container to buffer plants from extreme weather.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • The next time you change the aquarium water be sure to save the old water for the garden. Although not as potent as fish emulsion, aquarium water is certainly a worthwhile soil amendment and can be used to water and feed outdoor plants. (The aroma may not be welcome indoors if the water is used on houseplants.) If your compost pile needs a jolt, pour the enriched water over the pile for a quick dose of natural fertilizer.