Expert Tips for Growing Apricots

Primus armeniaca (fam. Rosaceae)

Hardy deciduous tree with a useful life of 35-50 years.

Planting to harvesting time: 2-3 years for budded trees; 4—7 years for seedlings.

Size: 6 x 3.6 m (20 x 12’) as a bush; 2.4-3.6 x 4.5 m (8-12 x 15’) as a fan.

Yield: about 20 kg (44 lb) for a fan or mature, semi-dwarf tree.

This luxurious and orange-fleshed fruit is almost as luscious as the peach, and some connoisseurs prefer its slightly tangy flavour and juicy sweetness to that of its near relative. Apricots grow on small and ornamental trees, and are therefore a very good choice for the gardener, especially if shelter from early spring frosts can be provided for the white or pale pink flowers.

There are two other species of prunus which provide apricot-like fruits: the Japanese apricot, P. mume, is one of them. It has small and not very well flavoured fruit, and is grown much more for its attractive appearance, since it produces single, pink, almond-scented flowers in profusion in spring. The other species is P. x dasycarpa, the black apricot, grown for a similar reason, since the shoots are purple, and a cloud of white flowers is produced in early spring. The fruits are black with a purple bloom, about 4 cm (1-1/2”) wide, with the typical apricot flavour, but are seldom produced in Britain.

The apricot was probably introduced to Britain some time during the sixteenth century, but it took perhaps another two hundred years for it to become a popular and widely-grown fruit.

Apricots are grown in large quantities commercially in the warmer climates, such as those of the Pacific coast, Mediterranean seaboard, and in Australia. However, there is no reason why they should not do as well in a temperate climate as the peach does, and produce satisfactory crops in most seasons.

Choosing the apricot tree

Apricot trees, as with other top fruits, usually consist of a scion budded onto a rootstock which influences the vigour and final height of the tree. One of the best root-stocks is St Julien A, which results in a smallish and fertile tree; the Common Mussel produces a medium height tree; and the Brompton stock a large and vigorous tree. All these are plum root-stocks.

You can grow apricots from the stones, but as these are ‘seedlings’, their cropping potential will vary, and they will come into fruit some years after budded trees.

When you buy an apricot from a nursery, choose a two or three year old scion, and ask for it to be budded on to a dwarfing stock. Tell the nursery the shape which you want to grow, and they will supply a specimen accordingly, whose training has already been started. Apricots can be trained as spur-pruned cordons, but since apricot crops tend to be rather small, because the trees fruit better if not too tightly pruned, this form should only be used where space is very limited.

If you would like to try growing an apricot from seed, bury the stones from fully ripe and well formed fruit in the open ground in a sheltered place as soon as they have been detached from the tree. Mark the spot and, in late winter, take up the stones and chip the hard shell of each. Then replant them 5 cm (2”) deep and 20 cm (8”) apart in sandy compost, in a frame in a warm sunny place or in a 23 cm (9”) pot in the greenhouse. The stones should germinate in the spring. In the following spring, lift the seedlings, trim back the taproot a little and plant them in their permanent positions.

Suitable site and soil for Growing Apricots

The apricot, like the peach, is a fruit that needs warmth in summer to do really well, though, also like the peach, it must have cool winters in order to rest and become completely dormant. It is not much grown in Britain because it has a reputation for being difficult and unreliable. This is probably because it is slightly finicky as to soil, as well as needing more warmth than is generally provided by a temperate climate.

It can be grown as a bush tree in the open, and in a formal shape, usually a fan, trained fiat against a wall. In order to be more certain of obtaining a crop, it is probably better, except in the most sheltered and warmest gardens, to grow it as a fan, ideally using a wall which faces south or west. The earlier varieties can be planted against a west wall, the later ones will do better with more sun, where the wall faces south. In the north of Britain the apricot will really only fruit well if grown with the protection of a cool greenhouse.

Whatever site you choose for it, the apricot should not be planted in a frost pocket, or where it is exposed to wind, even if the prevailing wind is a southwest one. Shelter is required, both to ensure that any pollinating insects which are about at that time when the flowers open, are not discouraged, and to give the fruit every chance to ripen fully.

Having given your tree the best possible site, you should ensure that the soil in which it is to spend its life is as near perfectly suited to its needs as can be managed, especially as the apricot is rather temperamental about its root environment. If your garden soil naturally consists of a deep, preferably 90 cm (3’), slightly alkaline loam over a base of limestone, then you should be able to obtain consistently good crops of fruit from healthy and vigorous trees.

Well drained soils containing a lot of sand or chalk will tend to be too dry and short of plant food, but can be improved before planting by giving extra quantities of bulky organic matter, and by giving heavier mulches of the same material during the tree’s life. Greater quantities of plant food will also be needed.

Badly drained, heavy soils, especially those with a clay subsoil, should not be planted to apricots, unless you are determined to grow them. In that case, conditions can be somewhat ameliorated by digging out the soil to a depth of 60 cm (2’) and mixing rubble or broken brick into the bottom of the hole, then returning the soil liberally laced with a light loam, coarse sand, peat or grit. Since the tree’s roots will spread considerably, it is a good idea to treat an area at least 2.4 m x 74 cm (8 x 2-1/2’) in size.

Soil preparation

The average soil, which shows no very marked characteristics of good or bad drainage, should be prepared some weeks in advance of planting, by digging to a depth of at least two spits, forking up the bottom of the hole, and returning the soil, mixed with rotted organic matter such as garden compost, farm manure, leafmould or similar material, at the rate of a 10-12 L (2-2 gal) bucket per sq m (sq yd). The apricot likes a slightly limey soil, so add lime to bring the pH up to a little over neutral (7.0 +), but do this some weeks after mixing in the organic matter.

A few days before planting, bonemeal can be added at 120 g per sq m (4 oz per sq yd). Sprinkle it evenly over the surface where the tree is to be planted and rake or water it in.

01. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Expert Tips for Growing Apricots

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