I plan on buying land in the next 3 to 5 years and immediately planting a small orchard. I want to get a head start because I don't want to wait 5 to 10 years after that for fruit. I might decide on additional items, but right now I'm planning on apples, pears, pomegranates, figs, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches and persimmons. I'm renting right now in a spot that I have plenty of space for potted trees. I was planning on planting things on their own roots (i.e. from seeds or cuttings, although I might graft new varieties onto the trees later). I know I could buy bare roots fairly inexpensively, but I've put a lot of work into finding varieties that aren't going to be available as sizeable barerooted plants.
My question is this: can I get a head start on my orchard by planting the trees in pots now, so they can be growing while I find land? If so, how many years could they stay in the pots? Are any of the above species likely to be permanently stunted by spending their first years in a pot (I'll likely be buying land in the Northern California mountains with shallow, rocky soil)? How big should my pots be? Any other advice or alternative ideas?
Thanks so much for everyone's expertise and input!
For trees you can start them out in 5 gal. containers with the knowledge that you will be replanting into larger containers just before they get root bound (about 3 years from seed, about 1 year from bare root stem type).
Starting fruit trees from seeds, you can leave them in that first potting for about 3 years, then they will need to be moved into larger and larger pots year by year, this is why most well developed fruit trees are burlap balled instead of being in plastic containers.
Hope that helps you out.
I did about 50 this past spring. Will see how they survive the winter. What I did is use heavy duty landscape fabric and sewed my own grow bags to save money and possibly air prune the roots. An arborist friend suggested that the bags should be almost twice as wide as they are tall. (most root spread horizontally rather than vertically). She thought it a good strategy to get many starts going at minimal cost.
Mine ended up a little wider that tall because I couldn't prevent the bottoms from falling when moving them around. I also used a chicken wire wrap on some to provide structural support. Seeds are cheap so I'm going to start a bunch of vines and berry's this winter. A heads up that most seeds will require months of cold stratification; if you want to go that route you need to get your orders in pronto. I did add fungi inoculate when potting them.
I'm planting in the ground, mostly to get the size containment effect, but also like the idea that I could shift trees if I want to modify the site design down the track. A friend of mine in the Coromandel has around 50 trees in bags, sitting on top of the ground with wood chips mounded around and over them, because his soil is miserable clay with poor drainage. So far the results have been excellent, and he should even get avocados soon (trees planted in the ground sulk and die within a couple of years in his location in spite of ideal climate).
I am doing the same. I've collected apple, pear, peach, plum seeds and put them in root pouches around mid winter, they mostly germinated in spring and now growing.
I will move them into individual root pouches later and graft. Root pouch does not allow root bounding and best option to grow tree seedlings. I have 39L pouches.
Feeding and watering are the two key points for pouches. Do not neglect them.
I've got fig, and various berry cuttings also taking off in root pouches.
It is also a good practice for learning how to graft. Most of my 2 year old grafts are growing well.