Name: dwarf apple tree, dwarf peach tree, dwarf nectarine tree, dwarf cherry tree, dwarf pear tree, dwarf fruit tree.
Height: typically 2–3m, at least half the size of full-sized trees.
Plant type: deciduous.
Climate: prefer cold and warm temperate climates, but will also grow well inland and in areas with frost.
Soil: free-draining soil improved with organic matter such as compost or well-aged manure.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds.
Flowering and fruiting: depends on the variety, but most flower in spring and crop in summer and early autumn.
Feeding: apply a balanced, controlled release fertiliser specifically developed for fruiting trees throughout the growing season. Apply blood and bone in spring and dolomite in autumn.
Watering: water regularly during establishment and while trees are flowering and fruiting.
Contrary to popular belief, a dwarf fruit tree does not produce miniature fruit; it is simply a smaller, or rather a dwarf version of regular fruit tree varieties. Grafted onto dwarf rootstock, this changes the overall height and width of the tree, allowing you to grow a greater variety of trees in a smaller space. With all the same attributes as a regular fruit tree, including fruit size and harvest, a dwarf fruit tree offers the added benefits of easier harvest (because you don’t need a ladder) and a faster time to maturity (because it takes less time to grow to full height), which also means a quicker harvest—dwarf fruit trees start to produce fruit in only two years instead of four or five.
A dwarf fruit tree is primarily grown for its harvest, but they can make useful landscaping trees, too. Plant as a deciduous hedge, windbreak or privacy screen, or use a shade tree near northerly windows to create shade in summer while allowing light through in winter.
Your dwarf fruit tree can be grown in a large pot or half wine barrel, but for maximum harvest, plant directly into a well-prepared soil enriched with compost and aged manure.
Most dwarf apple, pear and stone fruit trees require a pollinating partner to fruit. Always plant more than one tree for maximum harvest.
Water your dwarf fruit tree regularly during spring and summer. The tree will become dormant in autumn, and will not require supplementary water until awakening in spring. You will need to water more regularly for the first year, until the roots establish and spread. In warmer areas, trees may not become fully dormant. Water when dry.
Fertilise in spring and again in summer using a controlled-release fertiliser for fruiting plants. Apply blood and bone or dynamic lifer in autumn to give your tree an added boost before winter dormancy.
Dwarf fruit trees do not require the same level of pruning as large fruit trees—just prune lightly at the end of summer to remove dead or over-crowded branches. Always wipe secateurs or loppers with methylated spirits between plants to reduce the likelihood of spreading infections from one tree to another.
Avocado: also available as dwarf trees for small gardens.
Lime: an attractive feature tree in a pot or garden bed bearing tangy fruit for drinks and curries.
Feijoa: a wonderful fruiting plant that makes a great evergreen hedge.
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