By Susan Albert
How about some juicy strawberries, tart limes, smooth figs, or nutritious blueberries? They’re as convenient as your own backyard, and these fruits are ideal in containers.
- For strawberries choose June-bearing varieties, which produce one crop; ever-bearing, which produce two crops; or day-neutrals, which produce berries until frost. In most of Oklahoma you can plant in early spring, but in the southeastern third of Oklahoma and in Texas, it’s best to plant strawberries in the fall.
- Help prevent disease by keeping the fruit off the soil, by mulching, for example. Fertilize June-bearers after harvesting them in July, and ever-bearers and day-neutrals in late summer. (Pictured are strawberry blossoms and berries beginning to form.
- Choose a wide pot for strawberries, which spread. To encourage the plants to form more crowns, remove the runners as they appear.
- Blueberry shrubs are popular, partly because they double as great ornamentals, with colorful fall foliage. In northeastern Oklahoma choose a highbush variety, and a rabbiteye variety in southeastern Oklahoma and Texas.
- Also, blueberry plants require acidic soil, so amendments may be necessary. When planting mix about one part peat moss to two parts potting soil.
- Pictured is a Southern Highbush (Vaccinium x ‘Sunshine Blue’), a low-chill selection for warmer climates. It can bear fruit with as little as 150 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees during the winter. The semidwarf shrub grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Considered self-fruiting, it yields best when planted near another blueberry variety that blooms at the same time. The luscious fruit follows white spring flowers.
- Blueberries require regular watering, particularly when it’s hot and dry, and well-drained soil. In extremely hot areas the plant appreciates some afternoon shelter. Hardy from Zones 5–10, it’s ideal for Texas and Oklahoma gardens.
- Fig trees might seem too tropical for year-round cultivating. But 'Brown Turkey' (Ficus carica) boasts several applications, including container culture. Since it’s hardy in Zones 7–9, which include a large part of the South Central region, gardeners can choose whether to plant it in the ground or a large container.
- The elongated, brownish-maroon fruit is smooth, sweet, and excellent for fresh eating, baking, and jams. The 10x15-ft small tree bears fruit all summer. Site your fig tree in full sun, and water regularly. If you move the tree from the pot to the ground after a couple of years, the fig takes less water. Light pruning in winter keeps your fig in tip-top shape.
- Dwarf Key lime trees (Citrus aurantiifolia) in large containers make excellent additions to your patio. Their average size is 5–8 feet tall and wide, but typically they are shorter when container-grown, so they are easy to manage.
- Key limes need full sun to thrive and cannot tolerate temperatures below 32°F. So be sure to bring them inside for the winter if your area experiences frost. The green fruits are ready for harvest in fall through early winter. White, fragrant flowers precede the fruit, which has the characteristic lime flavor.