Apricot trees are one of the earlier producing fruit trees and, because they are self-pollinating, meaning they do not need more than one tree to bear fruit, they can be grown in a small yard. Pink or white flowers bloom in early spring, followed by fruit in May, with a standard size tree producing three to four bushels of fruit yearly. Apricot trees do not begin producing fruit until the third to fourth year after planting, but you can get started with a few relatively easy steps for growing your tree.
Plant your apricot tree in early spring after the chance of all frost has passed. Choose a location that will receive full sun daily.
Prepare the garden soil by breaking up the ground with a shovel or rake. Work in compost or peat moss to make a well-draining soil.
Dig a hole at least twice as big as the root ball and set the tree in the hole, gently spreading apart the roots. Fill the hole about halfway with soil, then add water and let it drain completely. Fill in the rest of the way with more soil and tamp down with your shovel.
Water your tree well after planting. Each week, water your tree deeply using a garden hose and letting the water slowly trickle out for about one hour. This ensures the roots get a deep watering. During the fruiting period, double the watering to two times weekly. No need to water during winter.
Fertilize your new tree after planting, using a high-nitrogen fertilizer (e.g. 10-5-5) which helps to develop healthy roots and vegetation. Do not fertilize again until after the first set of fruit. After the first set of fruit, use a balanced fertilizer that is equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and fertilize after fruiting is done and then again in the spring before flowering begins.
Keep a 4-foot area around the base of the tree free of grass and weeds. Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch underneath your tree to help control weeds and grass and retain moisture in the soil.
Prune any shoots and suckers that grow out of the branches and roots. Prune lightly in the first two years of growth since fruit is produced from second-year wood. As the tree grows only remove branches that are crossing or rubbing and those that are growing straight up in the center of the tree. Do not prune any other branches in the first two years. After the second year, prune in late summer after fruiting is over and prune into a vase shape with an open middle. This improves air flow through the branches and allows even sunlight exposure.
Thin the fruit once it starts producing or the size of the fruit will be greatly reduced. To thin, when the fruit reaches about 1 inch in diameter, remove all but three or four apricots per cluster. This allows the remaining fruit to grow larger.