About this Fruit Tree
Apricots are small, fuzzy stone fruits that are delicious eaten fresh or dried. Apricot trees are similar to peach trees when it comes to an unpredictable harvest in our region. Unseasonably warm weather followed by a late frost can kill apricot blossoms and disappoint apricot-loving gardeners. However, apricot trees are also fast-growing, long-lasting and sturdy shade trees for the landscape.
How to Grow Apricots
Apricot trees are self-pollinating. Unlike apple trees, gardeners need to plant only one apricot tree and it will typically pollinate itself. However, planting two different varieties does increase the amount of pollination. Semi-dwarf apricot trees will grow to about 15’ wide by 15’ tall.
Apricots need 6-8 hours of sun each day during the growing season, especially when flowering. Find a planting site that offers some protection from frost, such as a side hill where cold air will sink away from trees. Another option is to plant trees on the north side of the property close to the house or other building for protection. Avoid south and west exposures which can contribute to the thaw and freeze cycle.
Select a sunny spot in the landscape, but avoid planting apricot trees in the lawn. Fruit trees need to be situated so they don’t have to compete with other plants for water, oxygen and soil nutrients.
Prepare the soil so it’s well-drained to encourage healthy roots. It’s especially important to amend clay soils that drain poorly and keep soil soggy. For this type of soil, amend deeply (12 inches or more) with an organic amendment, like compost or well-aged manure. For sandy or loamy soils mix about 1/3 compost with 2/3 native soil for good drainage.
Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole that’s shallow, but wide, and also amend the backfill before the tree is planted. Make sure the hole is no deeper than the root ball. Planting too deep slows root growth.
To prevent problems in the future, give your tree the best start possible. Keep in mind these planting tips to reduce transplant shock and to encourage root growth:
- Plant the tree at least a foot away from the lawn area.
- Set the root ball on undisturbed soil 1-2 inches above the soil grade. Give roots plenty of oxygen and make sure there is no backfill over the root ball.
- Make sure the crown of the tree (where the tree trunk meets the tree roots) is above the soil line.
- Fill in around the root ball with the soil removed from the planting hole.
- Mulch over the root ball (keep mulch away from the trunk) and around the tree to maintain soil moisture and help eliminate weeds.
- Water newly planted trees deeply, but infrequently.
- Apricot trees can benefit from being staked for the first two years after planting.
Fruit trees take time to grow and newly planted trees might not yield much fruit. The yield of fruit crops on older trees may also vary from year to year.
Be patient and continue to care for trees through the year, which may include watering during dry winters. Water once or twice over the winter when the temperatures are above 40 degrees and there is no snow cover. Water early in the day so it soaks in before freezing overnight.
Check the soil around a newly planted apricot tree frequently and water as needed. The root ball could dry quickly and prevent root growth. Water slowly and deeply.
Apricot trees have few fertilizer requirements, but they may need a boost of nitrogen if they are planted in sandy soils, aren’t showing fast growth or the leaves are stunted. For established trees, apply a complete fertilizer (low in nitrogen) to encourage flowering and fruiting.
When apricots begin growing, encourage a small crop with larger fruit by thinning so apricots are several inches apart on each branch.
Apricots are a fruit tree that needs some careful training to help improve production. The trees do best if pruned for an open center. Prune after the harvest.
After the ground is frozen in fall, a thick layer of wood chip mulch may help delay an early bloom in spring.
Special Considerations for Growing Apricot Trees
- Apricots are susceptible to some of the same problems as peaches and nectarines.
- Peach tree borer is the insect pest that attacks most often. Spraying with permethrin or other insecticide provides some help. Apply twice each season, at the beginning of July and before the middle of August. Follow all label instructions carefully and spray only the trunk (not the fruit or leaves).
- To protect apricots from birds, cover the fruits with netting before the fruits begin to ripen.
Pick apricots when they are at their peak of perfection with a golden-peachy color and a slight softness and give when lightly squeezed.
Materials for Apricot Tree Success
- Spade or shovel
- High-quality compost or well-aged manure
- Soaker hose or other method for deep watering
- Complete fertilizer
- Tree stakes
- Netting to protect fruit
- Tree clippers and pruners