By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor
Apricots are not easy to grow compared to other fruits. They require dry, sunny summers to successfully bear fruit. However drought conditions may cause serious bud drop late in the growing season. Apricots can be grown under cover during colder season.
The chilling requirement for apricots is 350 to 900 hours below 45 degrees F (7 degrees C). They show flower very early in the year.
To produce good crops, apricot trees should be planted where they can get lots of sun. The location has to be sheltered and free from frost. If you live in a cool area, grow them against a sunny wall or in a greenhouse to protect flowers from low temperatures or even freezing.
Use a deep, slightly alkaline loam for your soil. Avoid using sandy and high alkaline soils. Avoid planting apricots in heavy soils, especially in cool or wet winter areas that may kill the plant.
Apricots are self-fertile, but need to be hand-pollinated in cooler areas.
Choosing a Variety
Recommended apricots are:
Early; Goldbar, Goldrich, Goldstrike, Harcot, Hamskerk, Shaha, Sundrop, Tomcot and Veecot.
Midseason; Alfred, Farmingdale, Goldcot, Harglow, Hargrand, Perfection, Puget Gold, Rival
Sun-Glo and Westcot.
Late; Blenheim, Farmingdale, Harlane, Harogem, Moorpark and Vivagold.
Plant apricots in late fall or very early in the winter before bud breaks. Ensure that there is enough distance between trees, for example, for a bush tree form there should be at least 15 to 22 feet (4.5 to 7 m), while for the fan tree form, at least 15 to 18 feet (4.5 to 5.5 m).
Apply manures and fertilizers when needed. As a guide, check for crop performance and any sign of leaf discoloration as this may indicate lack of nutrient. During hot or dry summers, water more frequently.
In early spring, mulch newly planted apricot trees. Check for pest and diseases. Apply a balanced fertilizer once the trees reach their flowering size; this would be at a rate of 3 to 4 oz. per square yard (105 to 140g per square meter) in early spring. Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen for this can produce soft, disease-prone growth.
In warm areas where heavy bearings are common, you may need to perform thinning to prevent biennial bearing. This is accomplished by removing badly placed fruitlets and then carrying out the main thinning after fruits have dropped naturally and the stones had started to form. Ensure when you thin that you leave each fruit on each trust and about 3 inches (7 cm) between fruits.
In cooler climates, branches die back, so remove all or cut back the affected branches.
Check for pests and diseases. Earwigs, bacterial canker, brown rot and gamosis can cause problems.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest the apricot fruits when they are fully ripe and come away easily from their stalks. Use the apricots immediately after picking since they do not store well. They can be frozen, canned or preserved and dried if needed.