How I Grow More Fruit in Less Space

You don't need a lot of square footage to have a big fruit harvest.

strawberry plant in a pot

Zlatimir Stojanovic / Getty Images

If you have a small garden, you may be wondering how to grow more fruit in less space. As a garden designer, I often have clients who wish to grow as much food as possible in the limited space available. Here are some of the ways I recommend growing more fruit in less space.

Dwarf Fruit Trees

First of all, it is important to understand that fruit trees can be grown in even the smallest of gardens. Fruit trees can even be grown in containers. But it is important to choose a tree or trees grown on rootstock that is suitable for the space. For small spaces, I recommend choosing trees on a semi-dwarfing or dwarfing rootstock. You could even consider cultivars with more than one type or a variety of fruit on the same tree. 

Training Fruit Trees

Another important thing to remember is fruit trees can be trained into different shapes and forms and pruned to keep them in check. In small gardens, for example, it can be a good idea to espalier or pleach fruit trees against a wall or fence. I also advise growing cordon fruit trees—trees that are trained to grow in columnar form, with one central trunk and very short fruiting spurs. 

A pear fruit tree trained in the espalier way grown against a brick wall.
A pear tree trained in the espalier way grown against a wall. noel bennett / Getty Images

Increasing Yield From Fruit Trees

However large or small your fruit trees may be, and whatever form they take, it is also important to take steps to make sure the fruit trees in your garden are as productive as possible. Here are a few tips to help you make sure you get as much fruit as possible from the fruit trees in your garden:

  • Choose cultivars appropriate for your climate zone, microclimate, and soil.
  • Make sure those trees that require them to have suitable pollination partners.
  • If planting multiple fruit trees, aim for as much biodiversity as possible. 
  • Position your fruit trees in the right places. Most fruit trees will fruit best in full sun. But some will also be suited to more shaded spots (cooking apples, crab apples, and elder, for example). 
  • Be sure to think about water and watering needs from the outset. Take steps to alter the landscape for maximal water retention and/or set up sustainable irrigation systems where required. 
  • Consider adding mycorrhizal fungi when planting fruit trees, which can be beneficial in some areas.
  • Create guilds of beneficial companion plants around your fruit trees for best results. Make sure you include plants to attract pollinators, and to repel, confuse or distract pest species as well as those which improve environmental conditions or add fertility. Better yet, consider creating a fully-fledged forest garden scheme, which cannot only increase fruit yields but also deliver a wide range of other yields as well. 

Cane Fruits

Remember, growing fruit in your garden is not just about growing top fruits. Cane fruits such as raspberries and blackberries and many hybrid berries can also be very useful to maximize fruit production in your garden. Cane fruits can be ideal for vertical growing, and so can be a good choice for those who are limited on space. They can be trained on walls, fences, or other support structures. You can even grow a few raspberries up bamboo canes or branches in a wigwam shape in a large container. Cane fruits can be great for making the most of marginal spaces. 

Berry Bushes

Farmer's hands collecting ripe blackcurrant from the bush
Blackcurrants can be planted below fruit trees and can work well in a layered planting scheme. sasapanchenko / Getty Images

From the usual Ribes species (currants and gooseberries) to more usual berry-bearing bushes, there are plenty of berry bushes that can be grown below and around fruit trees to help you grow more edible yield in your space. 

Berry bushes can also be incorporated into marginal and edge spaces – to line paths, or to make edible hedgerows around the sides of a garden. Many berry bushes will provide more berries when grown in full sun. But there are also some which are wonderful for a more shaded spot. Gooseberries, blackcurrants, and redcurrants all do pretty well in dappled shade below fruit trees in my forest garden. Mahonia, Barberry, Aronia melanocarpa, and several others are even more shade tolerant. So all of these, and many more can work well in a layered planting scheme to maximize yield in the space. 

Many fruit bushes can also be grown relatively easily in containers. 

Fruiting Ground Cover

Even below trees and berry bushes, there are other fruits to consider. For example, alpine or woodland strawberries can be great choices. Ground cover raspberries (Rubus tricolor etc.) can also be very useful for a forest garden or other more shaded spot. Bearberries are another example of fruiting plants that can also spread to create good ground cover in shade around other plants in a layered planting scheme. 

Strawberries (both woodland and garden types) can also be grown vertically rather than being allowed to spread out over the ground. You can consider growing them in vertical strawberry towers or other planters, or even in a vertical garden or hanging containers, to make the most of your space.