Looking After Apricot Trees
Apricots come from regions which have hot summers and little rain; what rain does occur during the growing season is mostly very heavy, but of short duration. Theat the foot of a wall tends to be drier than that in the rest of the garden, which will suit the apricot well, but it will still need an occasional good watering, especially when the fruit is about the size of a marble. Lack of moisture at this time could mean that the natural fruit drop is heavier than usual and a poor crop results.
If dry weather follows after planting, supply the young tree with moisture. If it runs short at a time when it is so vulnerable, it is liable to die.
When you do water, give a good soaking with a sprinkler attachment to the hose, leaving it running so that it takes about two or three hours to water the whole border. Make sure that the tree always has reserves of moisture to call on in the soil; irregular supplies of water can result in poor fruit set, fruit drop and fruit split, as well as stone cracking.
Like the plum, the main need of apricots is for nitrogen, and since they also require lime, a good fertilizer to apply in late winter is nitro-chalk, at about 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd). Alternatively, you can give the trees sulphate of ammonia at the same rate, but in that case you should give them ground lime every four years or so, to maintain the pH at the correct value. In any case, it is a good idea to test the soil periodically for the pH value, to ensure that it is sufficiently alkaline, but not becoming extremely so, so that the trees suffer from lime-induced chlorosis.
If growth becomes over vigorous, it can be slowed down by the addition of potassium at the same time of year, using either sulphate of potash at 30 g per sq m (1 oz per sq yd), or bonfire ash, obtained from a fire composed chiefly of wood, at 1. In the late winter, add nitro-chalk at about 150 g per sq m (5 oz per sq yd). 2 2
All these fertilizers should be sprinkled evenly around the tree, remembering that the roots will spread at least as far underground as the branches extend above it.
In late spring a top-dressing of rotted, such as farm manure, spent mushroom , leafmould or garden compost, can be spread round the tree to cover the border, about 2.5 cm (l”) deep. This will maintain the soil structure, keep the down, and prevent the evaporation of moisture.
A further, though not essential, dressing of this kind can be given in autumn after the fruit has been picked, and any that remains in late winter should be forked carefully in before fertilizer is applied.
Care of the fruit
Provided frost has not been a problem, the apricot sets a good crop of fruit, and more often than not will need thinning. A natural fruit drop will occur and after this, when you have seen how much fruit remains, start thinning, if thought necessary. By this time the fruit should be about the size of a marble.
First remove those fruits that are growing into the wall and any that are misshapen or small, and then thin every pair or cluster of fruit so that only one remains. Finally remove sufficient to ensure that the remainder are spaced about 12.5 cm (5”) apart.
Some of the thinning can be done after the natural fruit drop, the remainder after the stoning has been completed. You will be able to determine this stage because, while stoning is occurring, the fruit ceases to swell. When it is complete, swelling starts again, and it is then that thinning can be finished.
As the fruits increase in size, it is helpful to the final colouring and ripening of the fruits if leaves and shoots which shade them from the sun are removed.
The earliest varieties become ripe in mid-summer, and picking from the later ones will continue through late summer, possibly into early autumn. Do not pick the fruit immediately they have reached their full colour and have stopped swelling. Although the flesh may be soft, they will be somewhat lacking in the typical sharp apricot flavour. It is better to wait a few days more to give the fruit time to develop to full maturity.
If the season is one which is particularly troubled with wasps, you can pick a little early, if you leave the fruit in the sun for a few hours and then bring them in for a day or two before eating.
Be careful when picking, as the stalk is easily torn away from the fruit.