An early ripening stone fruit with a puckish taste that grows sweeter when it's cooked, the apricot is popular in both sweet and savory cooking. Use apricots for jams and pies or baked with lamb or other meats. Apricots ripen in early summer. They need annual pruning to remove dead or damaged wood and promote air circulation, which keeps the tree healthy. Apricot trees begin bearing in their third or fourth year and can continue to produce for 20 to 30 years, notes the National Gardening Association.
Choose three to four strong upward growing shoots the spring after planting. They should be spaced around the tree, not clustered to one side. These will be your scaffold or fruit-bearing limbs.
Cut off all other branches to a height of 4 to 6 inches using lopping shears. Remove suckers that grow along the trunk.
Let the tree grow for two months. Then trim back the scaffold limbs to a length of 2 to 3 feet to promote branching.
Allow the tree to grow uninterrupted through the season. Wait until late spring of the following year to prune again.
Trim suckers growing from the trunk during the second year. Clip back all branches that compete with the scaffold limbs. Remove vertical shoots growing off your scaffold limbs. Prune away branches that crisscross other branches. Repeat this pruning annually.
Remove dead or damaged wood as you find it. Once your apricot tree starts fruiting, delay pruning until late spring or early summer once you've harvested your fruit.
Scatter 1 cup of balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 around the base of your apricot tree in April of the first year. Water the ground to work it into the soil.
Fertilize with 1 cup of 21-0-0 in May, June and July of the first year, applying the fertilizer in the same manner.
Give the tree 2 cups of balanced fertilizer in March of the second year.
Fertilize the tree with 2 cups of 21-0-0 in April, May, June and July of the second year.
Offer the tree the following fertilizer program once it begins to bear fruit: 2 cups of 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter in February; 2 to 6 cups of 21-0-0 in May (more if shoot growth is slow, less if it isn't); 1 1/2 cups of 21-0-0 in August if the tree looks healthy but doesn't have new growth; 3 cups of 21-0-0 in August if the tree has yellowed leaves and no growth; no fertilizer in August if the tree is thriving. Repeat this annually.
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Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.