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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Got Wind? Consider Windbreaks for Fruit Trees in Containers

Q. We are wanting to grow a couple of dwarf fruit trees in pots. We live on a hill quite a ways above the valley floor. Our backyard faces south with nothing to block the wind so it gets very strong especially in the spring. We want to place the pot in an area off the patio between our house and the neighbors. The sunlight would be somewhat filtered there part of the time. Our first question is what kind of potting mix to use. Also, how big should the pots be and what kind of trees would work the best? 
Wind damage to ornamental plum
A. Sounds like you've got several questions wrapped into one. This could be a fairly involved response. I don't want to make this decision for you but you should be aware of all the factors involved that I can think of.
Persimmon leaf wind damage
Wind is not good when growing anything. I would strongly suggest you consider constructing a windbreak on your property to protect the patio area and any gardening that you're doing. I'm sure it's a beautiful setting but open areas with a beautiful view have its drawbacks when it comes to growing things.
Wind damage to plum leaves
Wind picks up speed as it moves between two homes. This is called wind channeling. Think of how a slow-moving, wide stream increases in speed as the stream narrows. The same thing is true about wind. Not a good location for a patio or fruit trees unless there is a windbreak.

Container mixes are light in weight because containers are usually meant to be moved otherwise you would plant the trees in the ground. Light weight soil mixes are good for containers if the containers are meant to be moved. If you use a heavier soil mix that will hold water, don't expect to move the containers. This is the trade-off when selecting lightweight soil mixes.

If the containers are too small and you select trees that get large, they will blow over in a wind. If you select smaller containers, then select fruit trees that mature smaller in size. I would use containers that hold at least about ½ cubic yard of soil. This would be about 800 to 900 pounds of soil mix, maybe 600 pounds of potting soil.

A combination of wind and freezing temperatures can be a big problem for citrus. I would stay away from citrus in Las Vegas unless your neighbors have success with it.

This is what I would do if I were you. See if you can find an acceptable compromise between building a windbreak and still protecting your view. If this is not possible, be prepared that growing vegetables, fruit trees and even ornamental plants will be a bit of a challenge in that location. It’s not impossible to have both, but you need a talented landscape designer or landscape architect to help you figure that out. You will need at least six hours of full sunlight or maybe about ten hours of indirect light for flowering or fruiting trees in containers.

Moving on with your idea, select smaller sized fruit trees suitable for containers that are not citrus but are able to handle the wind. Some fruit trees you might consider are the miniatures. These are not semi dwarf or standard trees on dwarfing rootstock. These are genetic dwarf trees. There are too many to list but they are out there. They are usually not the best fruit that you can grow but they’re okay.The line of Bonanza peach is one example.

Another option is to select a full-sized fruit tree that is smaller at maturity. This might include pomegranates or persimmon for instance. They can withstand the cold. Pomegranate also withstands the wind better than most fruit trees. Persimmon will hold on to the fruit in windy locations but it gets a lot of leaf wind damage.

Select a soil mix rather than a planter mix. Soil mixes are usually heavier and hold more water after an irrigation. Places like Viragrow in North Las Vegas handle high-quality soil mixes.

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