I’ve always heard that apples don’t do well in containers and need to go into the ground relatively young, but I saw a comment here about raising them in pots for 2-3 years to protect them. Thoughts? I have at least a year, probably more before I can get my apple orchard planted so growing more benchgraft apples in pots now would help me a lot. Any tips on caring for them if I do keep them in containers for multiple years? Would I be aiming to keep them on the small side?
All of my trees (@ 60) are in pots of various sizes out of necessity on my sliver of property. However I see you are in Sonoma County which is a different climate to mine (near Seattle). Vast majority of mine are on dwarfing rootstock which might not suit you as the dwarfs dry out more rapidly. Our winters are pretty wet so no irrigation needed here. I move them about to capture sun and place drip irrigation that is adequate but not ideal as it is temporary and some get overwatered and some underwatered. Would putting them in a raised bed be possible there? Chasing nutrient needs is guesswork for me too as I have too many to moniter more closely. Next move they will be planted, finally. Good luck.
Keepin’ them moist will be the issue. Do that, and your growing in pots probably will work…if you up-size to larger pots before they get root bound.
Did it with various nursery stock before I tried it with fruit trees. (I still have a couple Cleveland Select pears in 10 gallon pots from 2001 that are alive.) And they have not been watered by me in those 18 years.
I don’t advocate neglect…but it happens when you’re out of town for weeks or months and nobody to water the stuff.
Water water water…i have a crabapple in a pot. It did just fine. It just naturally dwarfs the tree. The thing is that in warm/dry or any summer weather it needs to be watered…like just about everyday. Fed too. I’d also add soil every spring when dormant. You can root prune when dormant.
If you set it on soil …even woodchips or grass…it’ll start to root into the ground. I’ve had this happened with numerous potted trees. You’ll notice them putting on new lush growth and go to move them and they don’t budge.
DID had the wettest year on record last year…so that helped. But I watered once or twice all year…and lost 2 or 3 out of 70 or so apple trees in pots. (Had them in the shade,which made all the difference.) Many not be able to get away with watering so infrequent in 2019…but once a week should do it if you keep 'em in partial shade…and use the right mix for potting soil.
Now, if you really want to stretch the growth…use high nitrogen fertilizer and water daily!
I keep them in pots at least two years, water and protect from sun burn is most important, but I don’t have to think about the rabbits or the deer pruning them.
My trees all sit on concrete in sun all day so they cook. I don’t think i could overwater them in the summer. I do think that i could stand to fertilize more. I usually add soil to some pots every spring because the soil breaks down quickly (i think its the woodchips==which i try to compensate with N ferts) over the course of a summer.
Just a thought…if you could drape a light weight (25% to 50%) shade cloth over the group of potted plants…that would give them partial shading and make such a big difference. BB