Living in a van is an adventure all on its own. Whether you do it full-time or are a weekend warrior, van life is exciting! While you’re adventuring, you may wonder how to grow fruits in your van so you have access to fresh produce wherever you are.
To grow fruits in a van, they need to be small and easy to take care of. It also requires a dash of creativity and some patience. The best and easiest fruits that meet these requirements include strawberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, grapes, and raspberries.
Growing fruit in your van takes a bit of work, but the payoff is worth it. Read on to discover the easiest fruits to grow in your van and how to grow them!
Can You Grow Fruits In A Van?
Living in a van comes with plenty of its own challenges. Besides figuring out your setup and finding a place to park your home each night, you also have to get creative with your meals.
The limited space inside of a van means most van lifers do not have amenities like a microwave, toaster, or a large fridge/freezer. For this reason, they make a lot of meals with fresh ingredients.
Growing fruit in your van is not only fresh, but it can also cut down on your grocery bill and eliminate the clutter that comes from store packaging. With limited space comes the need for limited garbage.
You live in a moving vehicle. Is it even possible to grow fruits in a van?
Absolutely! With a little care and a lot of creativity, you can grow fruits right inside your van, giving you access to fresh fruit no matter where you are in the world.
But don’t expect a few seeds thrown in a pot by the window will produce any fruits. There are certain steps you have to take to ensure your fruits will grow indoors.
With a little creativity, a little trial and error, and a little patience, you’ll be enjoying fresh fruit in no time!
How To Grow Fruits In A Van
Most fruit trees are just too big to grow in a van. Even the dwarf varieties of citrus or apple trees grow to around 10 feet.
This is not ideal for a van.
Instead, we’re going to be looking at perennial plants and brambles in dwarf varieties. These plants still produce the same fruits as their full-sized cousins, but the plants themselves are smaller and fruit yields are smaller.
But before we go over the actual fruits and how to take care of them, let’s discuss where to put them and what to grow them in.
Choose A Good Location For Your Van life Fruits
Growing a plant inside a stationary home is easy peasy. You just set the plant near the window and boom, you’re done. Van life isn’t so simple.
You’ll need to consider the motion of the van at some point. Your fruit plant needs to be secure, so it doesn’t topple over while you’re driving.
Space is another concern. Vans will give you somewhere around 60-70 square feet of space. Add in your bed, cabinets, and kitchenette and that number drops significantly.
While dwarf varieties don’t need much space, they still need some space.
Your fruits will need plenty of sun to grow to their full potential, so you’ll want to choose a location that gets at least a little sun while you’re driving. When stationary, you can always place your fruit plant outside to soak up the sun and maybe even a little fresh rain.
Most fruits prefer full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. However, with fruits, the more sun, the better. Even up to 10 hours per day for some plants.
What about inside your van? Where can you hope to put your fruit plants where they’ll get enough sun AND not fall over while in motion?
Some potential locations for your fruit plant inside your van include:
- Hang Your Fruit Plants: Fruit plants aren’t typically meant to hang, but humans aren’t typically meant to live in a van, either. Let’s break some rules! Consider hanging your fruit plant from the bottom of your cabinet storage space near a window.
- Use Suction Cups: Suction cups with hooks like HangerSpace Suction Cup Hooks are a creative and clever way to hang your fruit plants on your window.
- Use magnets: Magnets are a van lifer’s friend. We use them to keep our cabinets and drawers shut while driving, our kitchen utensils in place, and our keys from being lost. You can also use them to keep your plants in place! Lovimag’s Neodymium Disc Countersunk Hole Magnets are perfect to keep your plant stuck to a specific location.
Simply affix the magnet somewhere in your van (preferably within reach of sunlight) and stick the other magnet onto your potted fruit plant.
- In A Cabinet: Placing your plants in a cabinet isn’t ideal if you’ll be traveling for longer than an hour or two. However, if it’s a quick trip, you can place your fruit plant in your cabinet and use blankets, clothing, or other material to pack around it, so it stays put while you’re driving.
When choosing a location, make it so that you can move, adjust, and remove the plant from that location.
You’ll need to place your fruit plant outside to water it since you don’t want to fill up your gray tank unnecessarily. You’ll also want to be able to move the fruit plant outside to give it the necessary sun when you have your van parked.
Choose A Non-Rigid Pot For Your Fruit Plants
Anyone interested in traveling in a van knows you can’t have breakable things in your van. Forget about ceramic dishes and cups and replace them with rubber or durable plastic.
The same can be said for your fruit plant pots. You don’t want something breakable that will shatter into a million pieces if it accidentally falls over.
Hard plastic is certainly an option for your fruit planters, but the thing about hard plastic is that, well, it’s hard! Immovable! In a van, you’re better off going with a planter that can mold to different shapes and sizes.
Gardzen’s Aeration Fabric Pots with Handles are an excellent choice! This product comes in plenty of different sizes to fit your specific fruit plant’s needs, ranging from 1 gallon all the way to 25-gallon bags.
For most fruits, a 5-gallon container is a good size.
Having a moldable, foldable, non-breaking pot gives you options you won’t have with a rigid planter. Fabric containers are also reusable, so you can once again cut down on trash and clutter.
Give Your Fruit Plants Enough Sunlight
While it is possible to keep your fruit plants alive by setting them near a window, your plants will not be very happy and they will most likely not produce fruit. For fruit, you need real, unfiltered sunlight.
The good thing about van life is you can stop whenever you want, wherever you want. While you stop, you can set your fruit plant outside to give it much-needed sunlight.
Consider setting your fruit plant container on the roof of your van or on a foldable table in the sun. Some fruit plants, especially brambles, can even withstand partial shade.
However, there are always going to be times when you have to travel for hours at a time, maybe even days at a time, to get to your destination.
During these times, make sure your plant is close to the window so it can absorb as much sunlight as possible. You can also invest in light fixtures to supplement the sunlight and keep your plants happy and healthy.
GHodec’s Grow Light for Indoor Plants provides the three essential colors plants need to photosynthesize – red, blue, and white. It also comes with a clamp instead of a stand, so the lights stay in place, even when you’re in motion.
Studies such as the one from the Journal of Horticultural Science have shown using LED lights with at least red and blue light increases fruit yields.
As a bonus for van lifers, these grow lights have an input of just 5 volts (2.4 amps) which is equivalent to a phone charger!
Keep The Temperature Above Freezing
Van lifers are rarely traveling to the coldest, most retched environments out there. Most are living life in warm, balmy climates where, at most, you need a flannel tied around the waist for the evening chill.
However, it’s important to note that most fruit plants require temperatures well above freezing to survive.
The good thing is that most van lifers have insulated their vehicles to keep the temperature relatively stable. But it’s something to keep in mind if you want to have fruit plants that produce fruit!
Use The Right Potting Soil For Your Fruit Plants
As you’ll find out below, none of the fruits we listed have crazy soil requirements. You will not need a PH meter to plant any of these fruits.
Still, you can’t just dig some dirt out of the campground, throw it in a pot, and expect your fruits to bloom.
Use quality, organic potting soil for your fruit plants. Organic soil is better if you plan to eat your fruits (which we assume you do!).
However, this doesn’t mean you have to spend a bunch of money on fruit-specific potting soil. Most fruits will do just fine in your run-of-the-mill organic potting soil.
6 Easy Fruits To Grow Inside Your Van
When growing fruits in your van, berries are the way to go! Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries… these are suitable to grow in a van.
The fruits we have on our list are there for a few reasons:
- Self-fertile: this means you only need one plant to produce fruits.
- Space: You need fruits that are small, compact, and can withstand pruning
- Easy: Van life isn’t about stressing over your plants. You need a fruit plant that’s easy to take care of and requires low maintenance.
As much as we’d love to give you tips on growing apples, citrus, and avocados, these fruit trees are just too big and too complicated for a van. Instead, we went with small, simple, tasty berries.
Grow Strawberries In Your Van
Strawberries are one of the simpler fruits to grow in a pot and are very versatile in terms of food. Throw them in a smoothie, smother them in whipped cream, or just eat them plain!
There are three main varieties of strawberry:
Each has different fruit-bearing times and quantities, but for van life, either everbearing or day-neutral strawberries are preferred. They produce smaller fruits and take up less space.
An important thing to note about strawberries (and many fruits in general) is they cannot be planted from seed. You must acquire either a transplant or a bare-root crown which can find at local nurseries.
Keep a close watch on your plant for pests such as aphids and whiteflies. These can be hard to spot because of their small size.
Light: Strawberries require at least 6 hours of sun per day.
Water: According to the University of Minnesota, strawberry plants should get the equivalent of 1 inch of rainwater per week. They recommend a good soaking once per week.
Soil: Use an indoor/outdoor potting soil mix. Strawberries aren’t picky about the soil but require enough nitrogen to flourish.
Harvesting: Once your strawberry plant flowers, it takes up to four weeks for the fruit to ripen enough to pick. Pick strawberries when they are a deep red, even if they are small.
Grow Blackberries In Your Van
Blackberries are part of the caneberry family and are closely related to raspberries. They can be used in a variety of dishes such as glazings, jams, desserts, breakfast toppings, and eaten plain.
According to Oregon State University, the best type of blackberry to grow in a container is everbearing blackberries. Semi-erect blackberries are a little too rambunctious to be planted in a container.
One thing to note about blackberry plants is the branches on which the fruit grows will die back each year. Don’t worry, this does not mean the plant is dead! The roots and crown will remain alive and produce new fruit-bearing branches.
You can purchase potted blackberry plants and transfer them to your fabric containers. Blackberry plants cannot be grown from seed.
For full-grown blackberry plants, it’s recommended to use a 20-gallon container. However, for van life, you’ll want to grab a dwarf variety of blackberry such as baby cakes.
The dwarf variety of blackberries typically grows 2-3 feet tall and produces the same delicious-tasting blackberries as their full-grown counterparts.
Light: Like most fruits, blackberries LOVE the sun. Give your blackberry plant at least 6 hours of sun. The more, the better.
Water: When just starting, keep your blackberry plant’s container wet but without standing water. Once the plant establishes itself, it will need about 1 inch of water per week.
Soil: Blackberry plants prefer well-drained soils, but they are tolerant of wet conditions as well. It’s recommended to use a mixture of perlite such as The Valley Garden’s Organic Perlite for All Plants, and potting soil.
Harvesting: Pick your blackberries when they have transformed from a shiny black to a dull black. Shiny blackberries will be tart and acidic, so don’t pick too early!
Grow Currants & Gooseberries In Your Van
Gooseberries are similar in size and shape to grapes but have a sour kick to them you won’t find in grapes. Currants are similar in size but are made of clusters of pea-sized fruits.
Gooseberries and currants are on the bigger side for a van (they can grow up to 6 feet) but we put them on our list because they can withstand heavy pruning.
Like blackberries and strawberries, currants and gooseberries are self-fertile, which is another plus for van life because you will only need one plant to produce fruits.
You can get potted plants from your local nursery or order them online as a bare root. It’s recommended to use a pot that’s about a foot deep and a foot wide.
There are three main types of currants:
- Red – more acidic/sour
- Pink – sweeter
- White – sweeter
There are also black currants, but some varieties are not self-fertile and would require two plants, which isn’t ideal in a van.
Gooseberries are translucent and can appear green, pink, or red.
Unfortunately, it can take currants and gooseberries up to 3 years to produce fruit. However, some will produce fruit in their first year in optimal conditions. Keep your plants pruned to a reasonable size for van life, as these babies will take off if left unchecked!
Light: According to the University of Minnesota, currants and gooseberries can grow in full sun or partial shade. The more sun, the more fruits!
Water: Keep the soil moist to the touch.
Soil: Currants and gooseberries will grow in normal potting soil, but will produce more fruit if they have the help of fertilizer. Fertilizer spikes like Jobe’s Organics Tree Spikes for Fruit and Nuts work well to keep your currant and gooseberry plants happy.
Harvesting: Depending on the variety of currant plant, harvest berries when their color is full. You can also taste-test currants and gooseberries to see if they are ripe as you can eat directly them from the plant. If they are very sour, they are not ripe yet.
Grow Grapes In Your Van
This one may come as a surprise. After all, aren’t grapes vine-growers that spread all over the place?
Well, yeah, but it doesn’t mean you can’t grow a small vine in a container! You can get grapes as a bare root in the winter or grab them in pots in the spring and summer from your local nursery.
Just be aware that grapes will not produce in their first year. They may produce their second year but could take 3 or 4 years to produce. If you’re into van life for the long haul, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you need fruit fast, grapes are not the best choice.
It’s recommended to use a 15-gallon container for grapes, but you can start smaller and move your way up as your vine grows. For grapes, you will need a trellis to train the vines.
A small trellis, like UWIOFF’s Indoor Small Trellis will work great in your van as it’s only 10.2 inches high and 6.1 inches wide.
Light: As with all the fruits on our list so far, grapes prefer full sun conditions, at least 6 hours per day.
Water: According to the University of Arizona, grapes should be watered deeply but infrequently. Water the top 3-4 inches of soil but allow it to dry completely before watering again.
Soil: Choose a soil mixture that drains well. Grapes dislike being saturated in water.
Harvesting: Pick your grapes when they are plump and easy to pull from the cluster. You can feel the grape with your hands – if it is very hard, it is under-ripe. If it is soft and shriveled, it is overripe.
Raspberries Grow Great Vans
Raspberries are closely related to blackberries. But unlike blackberries, raspberries are hollow in the middle and have a sweet, tart taste.
Like most fruits on our list so far, raspberries are sold as either a bare root plant or in a pot that you can pick up from a local nursery. Or maybe not so local if you’re traveling in a van!
As for the container, full-sized raspberries need a little bigger size than strawberries or blackberries. It’s recommended to use a container 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. But again, for van life, try to find a dwarf variety such as BrazelBerries or Raspberry Shortcake.
Some dwarf varieties come with the bonus of being thornless! According to Oregon State University, black and purple variety raspberries do the best as a single plant in a container.
If you decide to go with a full-grown variety, you will need to trellis the plant to keep the canes from drooping. Dwarf varieties do not need trellises.
Start your raspberries out in a 5-gallon container and transplant them if needed, or prune them to remain small. It’s recommended to use a fertilizer when starting out raspberry plants. Any all-purpose organic fertilizer will do, but slow-releasing fertilizers are best.
Note: Always read the directions on fertilizers. You will only have a single plant, maybe two, so you will need to reduce the amount of fertilizers or water it down appropriately.
Light: The more sun, the better, but at least 6 hours per day.
Water: Raspberries should not be over-watered, as they are susceptible to root rot. However, since raspberries are mostly made of water, the plant still needs an adequate amount. It’s recommended to water the soil until it is thoroughly wet without standing water.
Soil: Use a potting mix that drains well. An organic potting mix like Perfect Plant’s Organic Potting Mix for All Plant Types is a good choice. This particular potting mix blends perlite as well, which is good for drainage.
Harvesting: Pick your raspberries when their color is full and they can be removed easily from the plant. If the berry is still hanging on for dear life, it’s not quite ripe.
That’s All For Now!
Growing fruits in your van may sound like a tedious and difficult journey, but it’s easier than you think and can provide you with fresh fruits no matter where you are!
Overall, the 6 easiest fruits to grow in a van include:
As long as you provide adequate conditions, your fruits are bound to produce. If you’re looking for fast-producing fruits, go with blackberries or raspberries. If you’re willing to wait, try to grow grapes, currants, gooseberries, or strawberries.
You can read more about the best plants you can grow in a van here!
Dara, S. K. (2016, July 20). Managing Strawberry Pests with Chemical Pesticides and Non-Chemical Alternatives. International Journal of Fruit Science, 16(1), 129-141.
Donadio, L. C., Lederman, I. E., Roberto, S. R., & Stucchi, E. S. (2019). Dwarfing-canopy and rootstock cultivars for fruit trees. Propagation, 41(3).
Piovene, C., Orsini, F., Bosi, S., Sanoubar, R., Bregola, V., Dinelli, G., & Gianquinto, G. (2015, September 22). Optimal red:blue ratio in led lighting for nutraceutical indoor horticulture. Horticultural Science, 193, 202-208.
Worthington, M. L., & Clark, J. R. (2020). Development of blackberry cultivars with novel plant architecture. Acta Hortic., 1277, 159-164.
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